Will Bio-Jet Fly? Towards a Carbon Neutral Aviation Sector

19 / 2016

Aviation has transformed society over the past five decades, effectively shrinking the planet and bringing great economic and social benefits to an ever increasing number of people. Its unremitting growth does, however, come at a price. Direct emissions from civil aviation account for approximately 3 % of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for around 2 % of global GHG emissions. The emissions amount to only a third of those in the road transport sector, but display a high per-passenger intensity and are increasing rapidly along with the relentless rise in demand for both passenger and cargo flights. An average annual growth rate of approximately 3 % until 2050 is expected in aviation traffic within the EU. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimates average yearly growth rates of up to 5% in global passenger traffic until 2030. These expansions could lead to a more than six-fold increase in emissions from global aviation by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels, which would amount to a consumption of roughly 9 billion barrels of Jet A-1 fuel a year. That makes aviation the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the world. Both governments and the industry actors are becoming aware of their need to play an earnest part in mitigating its effects on climate change, if one is to end up anywhere near the strict 2°C limit agreed at the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, let alone the ambitious 1,5°C objective set out in at COP21. There is a clear case for adopting measures to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.