Air Canada announced on 15MAR21, that it is committing to achieving net zero emissions across all of its global operations by 2050. $50 Million will be invested in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), carbon reductions and removals, and the airline has set itself interim greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) net reduction targets for its air and ground operations, that it needs to reach by 2030.
“Economic growth and sustainability are equally important, and we have a strong track record for both. Despite the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain deeply committed to
long-term sustainability. Climate change is critical, and we believe we can and must do more to address this for the future of our environment,” said Michael Rousseau, President and Chief
Executive Officer at Air Canada.
“This is why we are further embedding climate considerations into our strategic decision-making, and undertaking a very ambitious plan that is meaningful, will support Canada’s leadership position on climate change, advance de-carbonization in the airline industry while keeping fares affordable for customers.”
2030 targets are absolute milestones to achieving 2050 ambition
Two core targets the airline has set itself for 2030 are a 20% GHG reduction from flight operations and 30% GHG reduction from ground handling operations, both in comparison to 2019 values. It is implementing a number of measures to achieve these targets. They include operating one of the most modern and efficient airlines fleets in the world, including B787 Dreamliners, A220s, and B737-Max, which, on average, use 20% less fuel, and emit 20% less CO2 and 50% less nitrogen oxides. Carbon-intensive ground equipment will be phased out and replaced with electric vehicles and other clean options. In addition to exploring other innovative methods such as hydrogen and hybrid operational technologies, the airline has pledged to invest $50 Million in Sustainable Aviation Fuels and other low carbon aviation fuel (LCAF) development.
Good conditions for success both on a country level…
Canada has excellent prerequisites for successful sustainability and adequate SAF supply. On the one hand, it is one of the countries which already resolved to participating in the UN’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) when it began in OCT16. (CORSIA is based on voluntary membership from 2021 to 2026. It will become mandatory for most countries from 2027, onwards. Air Canada is also involved in exploring carbon negative emission technologies, emission reduction and removal strategies in line with CORSIA compliance.) On the other hand, Canada is home to the “Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN)”: a non-profit organization created in 2009 with funding from the Business-Led Network of Centers of Excellence (BL-NCE) of the federal government and Canadian aerospace industry. Its mission is to aid and develop Canada’s competitiveness in the aerospace industry by reducing the environmental footprint of the next generation of aircraft, engines and avionics systems developed in the country.
GARDN’s focus has also turned to SAF in the past few years. Last year, 2019-2020, it collaborated on 19 SAF-related projects totaling $20 million in value. This included a study assessing the implementation of integrated SAF supply chains to distribute SAF to airlines at Vancouver (YVR) and surrounding airports via “BioPort” demand centers. In an effort to establish a production facility network,
GARDN pledged last year to lead a pan-Canadian Sustainable Aviation Fuels initiative. The aim is to support the supply of domestically produced SAF in every airport in Canada, thus accelerating the production and use of sustainable aviation fuel.
… as well as an airline level
Air Canada can look back on numerous sustainability initiatives. Not only has it improved its fuel efficiency by 43% since 1990, but it has also already carried out 8 biofuel flights in working with the Government of Canada to improve the development of SAF and support a Canadian-based sustainable aviation fuel industry. It is the principal airline on Canada’s Biojet Supply Chain Initiative (CBSCI), which looks into solving supply logistic barriers that arise when aviation biofuels are introduced at major Canadian airports and is a contributor to the Civil Aviation Alternate Fuel Contrail and Emissions Research project (CAAFCER), which tests the environmental benefits of biofuel use on contrail formation.
Through measures such as using technologically advanced livery paint, single engine taxiing, implementing lightweight crew luggage, introducing iPads for pilots instead of heavy paper manuals, and over 100 similar projects, the airline has already been able to reduce the aircraft weight and optimize fuel consumption. These initiatives amounted to a GHG reduction of over 135,000 tons from 2016 to 2019, complementing its long-standing customer carbon neutral purchase option program which has achieved over 60,000 tC02e of emissions offset since it began in 2007. While net zero emissions by 2050 is an ambitious target, Air Canada has the innovative drive to make it a reality.
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