Responding to CFG’s recent article, “Aviation’s climate lies” (view: https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2023/03/19/aviation-s-climate-lies/ ) published 19MAR23, TIACA offers another perspective.
Whilst recognizing the sizeable challenge ahead, the benefits for the industry and the global community make it a challenge worth tackling.
Though TIACA was comfortable with the “Aviation’s climate lies” headline, the article certainly highlighted some of the key challenges associated with achieving the net zero target by 2050, holds TIACA’s Glyn Hughes in his reaction to our critical report.
Let’s start with the target. The ICAO Long Term Aspirational Goal adopted at the 41st assembly in 2022, does not attribute specific obligations or commitments in the form of emissions reduction goals to individual States. Instead, it recognizes that each State's special circumstances and respective capabilities (e.g., the level of development, maturity of aviation markets, sustainable growth of its international aviation, just transition, and national priorities of air transport development) will inform the ability of each State to contribute to the LTAG within its own national timeframe.
SAF remains the main hope for CO2 reduction
The airline industry, however, has gone even further by adopting a four-pillar strategy that will lead to the net zero objective being achieved. CargoForwarder Global’s article quite rightly highlights that aviation usage will grow over the following decades, but the net zero target will remain the objective. Of the four pillars, the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) features most significantly with an estimated 65% of the goal being achieved through its use.
But production trails demand
However, in 2022, the global production capability was about 250-300 million liters, with current development programs and assured investments means, that production capability should rise to produce 5 billion liters by 2025, and with extensions should be able to produce 30 billion liters by 2030. However, the 2050 target will require about 450 billion liters, so there is much, much more that needs to be done. But positive action is being taken. For example, Neste, the world’s largest producer of SAF, has invested in expanding its production capability in Singapore, which will become the world’s largest facility in 2023.
The refinery process to produce SAF is more costly than traditional jet kerosene and, in some cases, this pushes the cost up 2x or even more. Many more production centers are needed to achieve economies of scale and increase the availability across the global network.
New net zero technologies are needed
This is where governments need to step up, and the European Commission recently launched the EC Net Zero Industry Act, which seeks to establish an eco-system to support development of new net zero technologies. It will support research and development, and make access to funds to support new technology production easier. This should also help aviation and other industries achieve their goals.
Hydrogen solutions need different infrastructure
The above-cited article suggested that cargo may shift from planes to ships as a result of climate concerns, but let’s not overlook the fact that the maritime sector is facing exactly the same challenges in its drive to a net zero 2050 target.
As to alternative propulsion systems, the article quite accurately illustrates the limitations of the two most commonly spoken about alternatives. Power to weight ratio, and battery density would indicate that until a significant escalation of technology is achieved, then small aircraft short range application is maybe the best to be expected.
Hydrogen, whilst the greenest of the propulsion systems, requires an entirely new infrastructure, including near-Kelvin storage to maintain it in liquid form, and aircraft design alternations to equip. This technology will possibly feature more prominently beyond 2035 with new aircraft design. Green hydrogen may have a greater application on the ground with airport GSE, as production, storage, and usage will then be localized rather than network reliant.
The mission is tough but must be accomplished
As to TIACA; our role is to support the industry and raise awareness to governments about the valuable contribution made by the air cargo sector to national economies, in an effort to drive home the need for greater investment in the vital supply chains, air and ocean, which connect their manufacturers with global consumer markets.
So, the question we have to ask ourselves, is: do we just say, “the task is too tough so let’s just give up now”, or do we say, “the task is tough, but it must get done as the planet needs a robust global supply chain network to support the global community”? If we all agree the latter, then we must all be prepared to do more; governments, industry, users, producers, and associations.
The author is Director General of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA)
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