Twenty airline members of the World Economic Forum’s Target True Zero initiative committed to use new technologies, such as electric, hydrogen and hybrid aircraft, to mitigate the aviation industry’s impact on climate change.
The development and delivery of novel propulsion technologies – powered by sustainable energy sources – are key towards helping the aviation industry minimise its environmental impact, according to a statement from the WEF on Wednesday.
The WEF launched the Target True Zero Initiative in July this year to develop an understanding about how novel propulsion technology can help address aviation’s climate impact and how the scaling of these technologies can be accelerated.
“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.
Global airlines have adopted a resolution to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as they come under intense pressure from climate change activists over the impact of their operations.
The target will cost nearly $2 trillion by 2050, Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said earlier this year.
Iata set out a strategy to achieve its target through the use of sustainable aviation fuels, new aircraft technology, more efficient operations and infrastructure and developing energy sources such as electric and hydrogen power. Other options include carbon capture and credible carbon off-setting schemes.
The airlines which committed to the WEF initiative include Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, easyJet, Icelandair, Surf Air Mobility and Viva Aerobus, among others.
The participating airlines operate more than 800 aircraft and carry in excess of 177 million passengers on 1.8 million flights a year, the WEF said.
“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,” said Timothy Reuter, head of aerospace and drones at the WEF.
“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 airlines said short-haul flights were most likely to use novel propulsion first. The signatories said they would aim for 30 per cent of aircraft serving shorter range routes to be powered by new technologies such as hydrogen and electric power. These will be applicable on aircraft added to their fleets from 2030 onwards.
The airlines also committed to decarbonising longer-range aircraft. The signatories called on aerospace manufacturers to prioritise innovation that will allow them to meet these goals.
The airlines also urged governments to support the net-zero transition by establishing policies to provide incentives for operators to adopt these technologies and by addressing the infrastructure issues needed to support their use in airports, the WEF said.