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20 airlines commit to reduce climate impact with new technologies

Hydrogen-powered aircraft

Twenty airline members of the World Economic Forum (WEF), yesterday, expressed their support for the Forum’s Target True Zero initiative committed to utilizing new technologies, such as electric, hydrogen and hybrid aircraft, to address climate change challenges.

The development and delivery of novel propulsion technologies – powered by sustainable energy sources – were highlighted as key towards helping the aviation industry minimize its environmental impact.

Launched in July 2021, the Initiative aims to develop understanding about how novel propulsion technology can help address aviation’s climate impacts and how the deployment and scaling of these technologies can be accelerated.

Accordingly, industry leaders aim for 30% of the aircraft serving shorter range routes added to their fleets from 2030, to be powered by new technologies such as hydrogen and electric power.

Adopting new technologies

“The adoption of these technologies into the global fleet – through either new aircraft design or the retrofitting of conventional aircraft – can help reduce the climate impact of our operations while preserving the immense economic and social benefits that aviation brings to the world,” the WEF said a statement.

The signatory airlines include: Aero, Air New Zealand, Air Nostrum, Alaska Airlines, Amelia, ASL Aviation Holdings, Braathens Regional Airlines, easyJet, Finistair, Icelandair, Iskwew Air, Loganair, Mokulele, Ravn Alaska, SoundsAir, Southern Airways Express, and Surf Air Mobility.

Others are Viva Aerobus, Waltzing Matilda Aviation, Xwing, which operate over 800 aircraft and carry over 177 million passengers on 1.8 million flights a year, and hope to use this influence to create market demand for new types of aircraft.

Signatory airlines therefore called on governments to support electric and hydrogen aircraft that can eliminate in-flight carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and reduce the industry’s climate impacts.

Commenting on the commitments, Head, Aerospace and Drones, WEF, Timothy Reuter, was quoted: “The Target True Zero initiative will address the role novel propulsion technologies like electric and hydrogen aviation can play in the transition to an aviation system with true zero climate impacts.

“It will address issues in the areas of technology, industry dynamics, infrastructure and supply chain, regulation, and public acceptance.

“By accelerating the adoption of solutions with fewer climate impacts, we can ensure equitable growth around the globe while ensuring a healthy planet for future generations.

The Target True Zero initiative will address the role novel propulsion technologies like electric and hydrogen aviation can play in the transition to an aviation system with true zero climate impacts.

Key commitments:

Short-haul flights first – Shorter range flights were recognized as most likely to employ novel propulsion first. The signatories committed to working towards 30% of aircraft, that serve routes of 750km or less, that are added to their fleets from 2030 onwards employ novel propulsion technologies.

Scaling the technology in the future – The airlines also committed to decarbonizing longer range aircraft, once this becomes technologically and economically viable.

Partnership – The signatories called on aerospace manufactures to prioritize innovation that will allow them to meet these goals.

Public-private cooperation – The Target True-Zero airlines also urged governments to do their part in supporting the transition to cleaner aviation. Key calls included establishing policies to provide incentives for operators to adopt these technologies and addressing the infrastructure issues needed to support their use in airports across the world.

Quotes from Airlines

Chief Executive Officer, Aero, Uma Subramanian, said: “At Aero, we are deeply committed to charting our industry’s path to zero emissions and minimizing its environmental impact.”

The adoption of these technologies into the global fleet – through either new aircraft design or the retrofitting of conventional aircraft – can help reduce the climate impact of our operations while preserving the immense economic and social benefits that aviation brings to the world.

Chief Operational Integrity & Safety Officer, Air New Zealand, David Morgan, said: “Air New Zealand has an aspiration to put low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade. We know that the journey to decarbonising the aviation industry is not something that one airline can tackle alone. Initiatives like True Target Zero are vitally important to share information, learning and accelerate the adoption of zero-emission aircraft around the globe.”

Chief Sustainability Officer, Braathens Regional Airlines, Maria Fiskerud, said: “Progressing the development towards zero-carbon aviation is crucial to reach the Paris-agreement. Our ambition is to fly all our flights fossil-free in 2030, with SAF in our propeller plane in addition to our electric airplanes.”

President, Finistair, Charles Cabillic, said: “We are convinced that by working together, we will be stronger, and we will be able to deploy disruptive technologies that will allow the sector to accelerate its environmental transition. We are certain that this transition will be done firstly on short-haul flights with light aircraft.”

Lead Executive, Iskwew Air, Teara Fraser, said: “Together let’s reimagine, remediate, and rebuild the aviation sector centring on equity and sustainability.”

Chairman/CEO, Mokulele Airlines and Southern Airways, Stan Little, said: “As the largest intra-state carrier in America’s “greenest” state, Mokulele Airlines has been working for many years as a pioneer in bringing electrification to Hawaii’s air transportation system. We’re proud to join the World Economic Forum in seeking a global public commitment to promoting sustainable air travel.”

Chairman/CEO, Surf Air Mobility, Sudhin Shahani, said: “The entire industry is making important improvements toward decoupling aviation’s operations from carbon-emitting fuels. But with full electric, zero-emission aircraft still a few decades away, we also need solutions now. With half of all flights less than 500 miles, fortunately, hybrid solutions will allow us to bring meaningful carbon reductions to market within a couple years and on aircraft we’re already flying today.”

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