Airlines face challenges in meeting CO2 objectives as innovation lags

Air transport has committed to drastically reducing its CO2 emission, under pressure to reduce its environmental footprint. But the road will be very long before the sector can respect its commitments.

Aviation accounts for between 2 percent and 3 percent of global CO2 emissions, the main greenhouse gas, as per the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations agency. Although hit hard by the pandemic, global air traffic is expected to reach ten billion passengers in 2050, which is more than double its 2019 level. The increase in emissions, if nothing is done until then, will be devastating.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) brings the vast majority of airlines, as well as the aviation industry, to have committed to reducing net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.

At least forty-two nations, including those of the European Union, the United Kingdom as well as the United States, called in the “Toulouse Declaration” in the month of February for the country all over the world to endorse this goal at the next ICAO Assembly at the end of September.

The impact of condensation trails left by aircraft on global warming, on the other hand, is not the subject of any reduction commitment at this stage. It is still poorly evaluated. It seems “at least as important” as CO2 emissions, as per the study by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The sector is counting on technological and infrastructure improvement (new materials, more frugal engines, better management of the air traffic system) to help It reach its target.

A joint venture between GE and Safran and the engine manufacturer CFM is working with its Rise project on the technologies of a future engine available in 2035, which could reduce fuel consumption by over 20 percent.

As per the European aviation sector, all these technological improvements will make it possible to achieve almost half of the expected target. However, IATA believes that they will only provide up to 14 percent of the required effort.

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