Aviation executives think 2055 is more realistic timeline to hit net-zero targets

With rising costs, supply issues and energy resources being the major hurdles, the industry is calling for more support to meet its 2050 decarbonisation goals

The survey, conducted by Ipsos in May, polled aviation executives in the US, UK, China, India, UAE and France about achieving net zero. Photo: GE
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Aviation executives say that 2055 is a more realistic timeline for the industry to meet its target of net-zero emissions, five years later than the 2050 deadline, given slow progress and growing challenges, a survey commissioned by GE Aerospace showed.

The survey of 325 aviation business leaders in six countries found that 46 per cent of respondents believe the industry will meet its net-zero goal by 2050, while 32 per cent said it will not, and 22 per cent were unsure.

On average, respondents believe the targets are most likely to be met by 2055.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos in May 2023, polled aviation executives in the US, UK, China, India, UAE and France.

They were split about whether progress was happening at the right pace, with 51 per cent saying it was too slow, which adds “a sense of urgency”, GE Aerospace, the US-based engine-maker, said.

“These results show that the aviation industry is focused on the goal of achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, while also recognising the need to accelerate efforts and ensure all key stakeholders are on the playing field,” Allen Paxson, vice president and general manager of commercial programmes strategy at GE Aerospace, said.

In 2021, the industry set a 2050 goal of net-zero emissions during the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), which calls for a progressive increase in the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

So far, green fuel makes up 0.1 per cent of airline consumption because of limited availability and high prices.

Sustainable aviation fuel is expected to deliver about 62 per cent of the carbon mitigation needed to achieve net zero by 2050, according to Iata.

The industry, which contributes about 3 per cent to global carbon emissions, is considered a hard-to-abate sector due to the lack of viable alternative technologies or readily available clean fuels currently.

The biggest hurdles to meeting the climate goal by 2050 are rising costs, budgetary pressure, supply issues, and energy resources, the GE survey found.

Reaching the goal will require advancements in both fuels and engines, which will play the biggest role in achieving the 2050 target, it said.

Half the respondents said that the increased use of green fuels and hydrogen-blend fuels would help the industry reach the climate goal, while 34 per cent cited developments in hybrid engines and more efficient engine designs.

Aviation executives ranked increased Sustainable aviation fuel investments as the most important role governments can play in reaching the 2050 goal, the survey showed.

More than 60 per cent of respondents said they prefer government incentives and policy support over mandates and regulation when it comes to accelerating sustainability efforts.

Some 74 per cent of respondents said they would maintain or grow green investments in the face of inflation or recession, according to GE.

Updated: June 19, 2023, 4:16 AM