With the holidays around the corner, you might already have your bags packed and your plane tickets reserved. Air transport is the most common and convenient way that we are to travel to various destinations and while soaring through the air may be the most exhilarating thing for many of us, we never seem to think about the high amounts of greenhouse gasses flying released at high altitude, and the further one flies the greater the impact.
This is not to say the invention of aeroplanes has been a major disadvantage to us completely, on the contrary, aviation has proved to be one of the most technologically rich sectors globally with the successful flying of millions of passengers safely across the world each day. However, while this cannot be denied, the challenge that it has posed on us is for us as a species to reinvent flying altogether to make it compatible with our global net zero emissions future i.e. decarbonizing aviation.
The aviation industry accounts for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. And, the impact of flying on climate is not limited to greenhouse gas emissions from burning fuel alone, the warming impact of contrails is now widely understood to be in the same range as aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2021, the global aviation industry declared that it will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through accelerated efficiency measures, energy transition and innovation across the aviation sector and in partnership with Governments around the world, however, no single technology or solution is going to decarbonize aviation by 2050. Instead, we need the right mix of policy, markets and innovation, according to the World Economic Forum. One question remains; what sustainable aviation solutions do we have available?
It’s unlikely that any changes would happen to the aeroplane or even the outlook of the airport. The answer to sustainable travel will lie in the change to fuel production facilities and renewable power generation farms. This will only be possible through enhanced collaboration and partnerships across the aviation value chain, as well as between companies in the same subsector.
Innovation is another way we can achieve a decarbonized aviation sector. Looking further ahead, alternative propulsion technologies, like the electric car, would have to make room in our minds for an electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft that will help us unlock this dream. I know what you may be thinking, what happens when the plane isn’t charged enough? A lot of investment time and trials need to be put in to achieve this.
Improving the aerodynamics of aircraft and using lightweight materials, such as advanced composites, could enhance fuel efficiency and reduce overall energy consumption. This would include the optimisation of air traffic routes and improving overall air traffic management can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by minimizing delays and optimizing flight paths.
Airlines were exploring and implementing carbon offset programs to compensate for their emissions by investing in projects that reduce or capture an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases.
Research into Alternative Propulsion Technologies: Ongoing research into alternative propulsion technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells and other innovative solutions, aimed to provide more sustainable options for aviation.
Overall, various industry collaborations and initiatives were being formed to address sustainability challenges collectively. These include partnerships between airlines, manufacturers, and research institutions.
It’s essential to stay updated with the latest developments in the aviation industry, as new technologies and solutions are continuously emerging to make air travel more sustainable.
“Flying green is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The sky is vast, but our responsibility is even greater.”
– Leonardo DiCaprio