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Connecting Europe Days: Airline industry's ambitious goals to reach net-zero

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By Mario Bowden
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People boarding KLM plane, Lyon, France
People boarding KLM plane, Lyon, France   -   Copyright  frame

With the goal of achieving zero emissions in aviation by 2050, the European Commission has launched a number of programs. One such is Connecting Europe Days – hosted by all transport sectors in Lyon, France.

Formerly known as TEN-T Days, the event brings together politicians, industry representatives, and the European Commission to discuss transport and mobility, and their role in achieving the goals set out in the European Green Deal

Speaking at the aviation launch at the Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport, the president of VINCI Airports outlined that the aviation sector was getting ahead of the curve.

"The zero net emission at world level is 2050 for aviation, within the framework of the Paris agreements, we on the perimeter of the airport, will wait for it in 2026, that is to say almost 25 years before."

The aviation industry is currently responsible for a big share of emissions – 12% of all transport emissions. This has heightened the need for more efficient engines and cleaner fuels are imperative.

But these will have to meet precise requirements. as the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina-Iona Vălean explains.

"Alternative fuels have to be sustainable. They are one of the alternative things for more sustainable transport modes."

"What is important for us is to make sure that various sectors are not cannibalising each other on the same type of fuel. So, we are supporting the increase of volumes and we are trying to promote the technologies that are more appropriate to decarbonize, in one mode or another," Vălean said.

For energy giants, the challenge is to increase the share of biofuel, with the parallel reduction of pollutant emissions. This is already an option available through the so-called BAF combustible, a mix of kerosene and propellants of biological origin.

Those in the business are keen to make it work.

"If you use 100% of this bio-component, assuming that it is even possible today, the emissions would be up to 90% lower than if you used an equivalent fossil fuel," says Joel Navaron, president of Total Energies Aviation.

Aspirations do not end there. The dream in a medium-term perspective is to fly planes using hydrogen, with aircraft manufacturers and airport operators already beginning work on such projects.