Aviation industry will not hit net-zero target on current trajectory, warns Emirates’ president
The aviation industry will miss its net-zero target unless it boosts research around sustainable practices, the president of the UAE flag carrier Emirates has warned.
In 2021, the International Air Transport Association passed a resolution committing airlines to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2050.
Yet the head of Emirates — one of the largest airlines in the world — believes the biggest impediment for the sector to reduce its environmental impact is the fuel being used.
Speaking as he announced Emirates had committed $200 million to fund research and development projects focused on reducing the impact of fossil fuels in the commercial aviation sector, Tim Clarke said: “We looked long and hard at the reality we face in commercial aircraft and engine technology, fuel supply chain, and our industry’s regulatory and eco-system requirements.
He added: “It’s clear that with the current pathways available to airlines in terms of emissions reduction, our industry won’t be able to hit net zero targets in the prescribed timeline.”
The designated fund of $200 million will be disbursed over three years, and Emirates will identify partnerships with organizations working on fuel and energy technologies.
According to the IATA, the production of sustainable aviation fuel is estimated to meet just 2 percent of the sector’s needs by 2025.
SAF is produced in tiny quantities from feedstocks such as cooking oils and animal waste and costs two to five times more than traditional jet fuels.
Clarke further noted that Emirates aims to “contribute meaningfully to practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of commercial aviation.”
He pointed out that the $200 million is earmarked exclusively for research and development and will not be used for operating expenses, including the purchase of SAF.
Reaffirming the airline’s commitment toward sustainability, Clarke added that Emirates would continue embracing environmentally responsible practices in all its operations until other fuel solutions are found.
“Until viable solutions can be found, Emirates will continue to implement environmentally responsible practices throughout our business, including uplifting SAF where feasible, ensuring efficient fleet operations, and inducting modern aircraft into our fleet,” he said.
Earlier in January, Emirates successfully completed the first 100 percent SAF-powered demonstration flight in partnership with Boeing and General Electric.
In April, Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s head of cargo, said that governments need to incentivize the production of SAF to create a “clear tipping point” for the sector’s net zero ambitions.
“SAF is being produced. And every single drop is being used. The problem is that the quantities are small. The solution is government policy incentives,” said Sullivan.
He added: “Through incentivizing production, we could see 30 billion liters of SAF available by 2030. That will still be far from where we need to be. But it would be a clear tipping point toward our net zero ambition of ample SAF quantities at affordable prices.”