Speaking yesterday to a World Economic Forum (WEF) Ministerial meeting on sustainable aviation fuels, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu underscored that as a worldwide connector of peoples and businesses, and one heavily relied upon to promote economic growth at scales which permit meaningful sustainability investments by global societies, the international civil aviation sector has a key role to play in the world’s post-pandemic green transition.
The government officials participating included the meeting’s Chair, UK Aviation Minister Mr. Robert Courts, the Principal Secretary for Kenya’s State Department of Transport, Mr. Solomon Kitungu, and His Excellency Engineer Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouie, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, United Arab Emirates.
“ICAO is leading the way today in helping countries explore and assess the best possible options to achieve aviation decarbonization rapidly and sustainably,” Dr. Liu noted to the session participants, “and they are presently considering a new long-term sectoral emissions goal and are focused on three main innovation areas: technology, operation, and fuels.”
She underlined to the Ministers that Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) are seen as one of the most promising and effective tools to achieve current decarbonization objectives, including biofuels, fuels generated from waste products, and even fuels derived from atmospheric CO2.
Also emphasized was that as the move to SAFs must be a global transition, taking place in both developed and developing countries, effective knowledge sharing and capacity building will be just as essential to successful outcomes in some cases as the most advanced technological breakthroughs.
Since SAF capacities at levels now currently needed for international air transport will require major investments globally, ICAO has created a global coalition for sustainable aviation which also unites leading SAF pioneers.
“We look forward to bringing new voices and new innovators under our tent so that they can be showcased globally and factored into all related considerations,” she told the meeting, “and so that a patchwork of regional SAF measures doesn’t lead to duplicated efforts, higher costs, or commercial barriers.”
ICAO has highlighted the importance of establishing a broad and level playing field between aviation and other transportation sectors on sustainable fuels incentives, especially when considering that hundreds of SAF plants will be required globally, costing hundreds of millions of dollars each, and that energy shifts on this scale require major investments and radical cooperation.
The ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, currently allows airlines to claim the CO2 benefits of Sustainable Aviation fuels when specific sustainability criteria are met, and this represents the very first global policy and agreement for incentivizing the use of sustainable fuels.
“But much more is needed if the greening of the air transport sector is to proceed in a manner which doesn’t disconnect our world, its peoples, and its economies,” the ICAO Secretary General stated.
Dr. Liu concluded by reiterating that SAFs are just one part of a comprehensive set of measures countries have agreed to pursue through ICAO to address sectoral emissions and environmental sustainability, and that great progress is also being made today in terms of promoting advanced innovations in aircraft and propulsion technologies, finding new operational efficiencies in the air and on the ground, and in forging key commitments such as the global agreement to offset international flight emissions via CORSIA.