DOHA – Airlines will likely beat an interim industry goal of around 5% sustainable aviation fuel consumption by 2030 so long as energy companies boost production, the head of a global airline industry association of airlines said on Wednesday.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents nearly 300 airlines, last month released its strategy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including a progressive increase in sustainable aviation fuel use.
Under the plan, airlines have committed to significantly increasing the use of bio-based fuel from 2% of fuel consumption in 2025 to 65% in 2050, including a stepping stone of 5% in 2030.
Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised sustainable aviation fuel targets as “pathetic”.
But IATA Director General Willie Walsh said he expected airlines would beat their interim 2030 target of 5.2%, citing some airlines who have set out higher goals.
“Probably it stems from his view that we should be able to do better, we should be more ambitious, and generally I think we will,” Walsh said in reference to Johnson’s comments.
His remarks coincided with a transport debate at the United Nations’ climate conference in Glasgow.
The aviation industry, which accounts for some 3% of global carbon emissions, is considered one of the toughest sectors to tackle due to a lack of alternative technologies to jet-fuelled engines. It plans to bridge the gap with bio-based fuels.
Walsh said there was “no question” airlines would be using sustainable fuel today if it were as available as conventional jet fuel, and urged oil companies to increase production.
“There’s no point mandating airlines to use it when it isn’t there for us to use.”
He cautioned that passengers would have to accept that high usage of sustainable fuel will mean higher fares so long as it is sold by oil companies at a premium to conventional jet fuel.
Produced from waste cooking oil, plants and animal fats, sustainable aviation fuel could cut up to 80% of aviation emissions, Shell has said.
Walsh also said on Wednesday high oil prices could delay airlines’ efforts to restore balance sheets that have been impacted by the pandemic.