“Decarbonizing Air Cargo” was TIACA’s second Sustainability webinar in its TIACA4Cargo webinar series, held on 17SEP20, and this time dealing with Number 13 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: Climate Action. Again moderated by Celine Hourcade, it featured a good industry cross-section panel with Michael Schneider, representing IATA, Karlijn Arts from SkyNRG talking about Sustainable Aviation Fuel, Dr. Nina Eggert speaking on behalf of FIATA, Roger Spiel from the European Shippers’ Council (ESC), and Agnieszka Kwolek, South Pole, a globally active consultancy helping sectors and organizations to implement climate-friendly projects and change.
“Air Cargo is a very special animal,” Celine Hourcade opened the discussion, illustrating what was already evident by the panel representation: that when it comes to the air cargo sector, which was mainly out of the passenger aviation-focused public eye until the pandemic, it is a combination not simply of decarbonizing aviation (though it is the main part), but also decarbonizing logistics, and thus a hugely fragmented topic. All players along the logistics chain have their part in deciding, influencing, and implementing sustainable change.
Work together to reduce inefficiencies
Nina Eggert from FIATA confirmed the forwarders’ end-to-end view of the supply chain, stating the wish for “collaboration along the chain” in looking “to reduce inefficiencies and optimize the supply chain” and pointed to the importance of interoperability and inter-modality topics, with the latter especially relevant for air cargo in the air, sea, road focus. Only with everyone working together, can the whole supply chain be decarbonized. She also underlined the importance of collaboration with IATA and TIACA, “who can serve as platforms of best practices where we can learn from each other.”
Ocean or Air? The voice of the shipper
Speaking on behalf of shippers, Roger Spoel, concurred that “collaboration between all parties within the cargo sector” is important, pointing to “lots of good developments” already happening, for instance in “the perishable sectors, where shippers, airlines, forwarders, and ground handlers are talking about packaging products and how that can be used to increase load factors on airplanes.” However, he underlined that sustainability is a key shipper focus, but “a shipper doesn't look at Air Cargo and think how can that be more sustainable? They look at their supply chains and how these can be made more sustainable” and explained that some shippers look at shifting from air to ocean for sustainability reasons.
Another influencing factor was the price of the transport, and that “the more sustainable options are always a bit more pricey. So that poses a challenge,” though more “multinationals especially are really stepping forward in making a judgement based on their carbon footprint and focusing less on the effects on pricing.”
Practical measures that go a long way to “improving sustainability, but it is a big challenge and air cargo still has a long way to go, but a challenge is always good.”
Old freighters not contributing so much to the carbon reduction goal
Reiterating IATA’s goals and especially on the fuel efficiency, Michael Schneider stated that “we actually passed the goal of 1.5% and are tracking at 2%”, thanks to newer aircraft models, but pointed out that this is mainly passenger based, since “cargo operators largely operate much older fleets” with an average aircraft age of 32 years. When it comes to CORSIA, new and more efficient technologies are key in successful decarbonization. CORSIA is a mid-term “complimentary” measure to bridge the gap until the required future technologies are available and should not be seen “as a way out” of focusing on long-term sustainability. He presented the developments in aviation, showing much more fuel-efficient blended wing projects, plus hybrid and electric aircraft, even hydrogen aircraft discussions, though how many of these are relevant for air cargo remains to be seen.
Offsetting as a last resort
Agnieszka Kwolek described South Pole’s work with the aviation and shipping industry in helping them to meet their environmental targets, being the largest project developer on the ground in carbon credit generating projects – some 700 worldwide. “The carbon compensation that comes from those projects is an easy and affordable starting point and can act as a bridge solution as the sector scales up.” She outlined the approach in meeting the CORSIA requirements: companies going above the 2019/20 average emissions baseline, need to reduce their emission levels “either by operational improvements, sustainable aviation fuels, or by offsetting.”
Offsetting is always the last resort, though until sustainable aviation fuels are really in place, and given that current aircraft will continue to fly for another 30 years, offsetting is the best way in the interim.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel - SAF
“We are moving away from ‘is it possible’ to ‘how we can scale this up?” Michael Schneider stressed the advancements already made in SAF and the 250,000 flights that have already tested SAF. Karlijn Arts from SkyNRG pointed out the “new normal” opportunity for more sustainable operations in future. COVID-19, of course means that off-take of SAF is low at the moment given the very few flights happening, but the upscaling takes many years and the crisis is not preventing planning for SAF facilities and production. SAF can be made out of practically anything, and there are a number of projects in place, however currently only one commercially available technology at the moment. Nevertheless, the potentials of SAF go far beyond simply CO2 emission reductions. The first dedicated SAF plant in Europe is being built in the Netherlands.
Many more measures
Ground Handling can do much, and a lot is already being implemented: removing diesel vehicles at airports, installing solar panels on warehouses, sharing more data for greater efficiencies and – with a common understanding on what a carbon footprint is – performance KPIs can be compared. Roger Spoel reeled off a number of feasible measures. Nina Eggert called for the incentivization for sustainable measures, rather than the taxation penalization measures some authorities are considering.
Go for more green!
Education, communication, and explanation will go a long way to promoting the already general positive shift towards sustainability. All panel members agreed that the outlook towards a more carbon neutral future looks promising. The COVID-19 crisis may even have helped raise consumer awareness regarding whether it really is necessary to buy goods that have to travel across the world to get to you. Many government bailouts are linked to sustainable measures in aviation, so this will also help drive the topic. TIACA reiterated the request for players to come together in defining joint goals and measures which it looks to support.
The future looks green(er).
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