The future of travel will come in many colours, as long as it is green – Asia Pacific airlines make 2050 net zero emissions commitment

Airlines across Asia have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, while those in the Pacific are being held back by new waves of infection. However, together, through the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), the trade association for scheduled international airlines based across the Asia-Pacific region have made a renewed sustainability promise. The new commitment aims to deliver a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, a much more ambitious goal to an existing industry commitment to halving carbon emissions over the same period.

AAPA has fully embraced the aviation industry’s climate change commitments to date establishing a comprehensive sustainability agenda. This includes 1.5% fuel efficiency improvement, stabilising net CO2 emissions through carbon neutral growth.

Noting that the cooperation of multiple stakeholders including governments, air navigation services, fuel suppliers, airports, aircraft and engine manufacturers would be essential to the successful achievement of the net zero emissions goal, AAPA has stressed that the industry’s pathway to this ambitious target is an “all-industry effort” based on a combination of technology, operational improvements, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and a global market-based measure, namely the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Sustainable aviation fuels are expected to feature heavily in the industry’s overall reduction in carbon emissions by almost completely replacing fossil fuels on commercial flights by 2050. Support from governments and other stakeholders to commercialise SAF through research & development, subsidies, incentives, as well as the allocation of resources for its development and distribution, will “be crucial” to ensure adequate and cost-effective supplies to meet the needs of the airline industry, says AAPA.

Significant quantities of SAF will be needed by the industry as 80% of emissions are from flights over 1500 km, for which aircraft powered by alternative energy sources, such as electricity and hydrogen, are not available, it acknowledges.

While air connectivity growth across the Asia Pacific region may have stalled due to the pandemic, it will still be the centre of future industry growth as the crisis eases. The Asia Pacific region will likely constitute some 40% of global SAF demand, but as Subhas Menon, director general of AAPA acknowledges “production and supply facilities in the region are lacking”.

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