Investors need clear strategy on aviation energy transition, says ICAO

The civil aviation body is seeking an 'inclusive' global framework for increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels

Juan Carlos Salazar, ICAO's secretary general, said the conference on alternative aviation fuel is aiming for an agreement on decarbonising the sector. Antonie Robertson / The National
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An agreement on a clear pathway to increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels will send a strong message to global lenders on major opportunities for financing the sector's energy transition, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has said.

The ICAO's third Conference on Alternative Aviation Fuels (CAAF/3), taking place in Dubai this week, is seeking to establish a global framework for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), lower-carbon aviation fuels (LCAF) and other clean energy that is critical for the aviation sector to reach its target of net zero by 2050.

As the ICAO's member states deliberate this week to reach consensus on a global mechanism for increasing production of SAF, some developing countries have concerns about the economic impact of these initiatives and the technical know-how needed to implement them.

"The financing community is willing to finance the development of SAF, especially for the smaller countries also, but what they want is a clear framework by ICAO, and once they have that, it gives them the confidence to open up opportunities for financing," Viliame Gavoka, the newly elected CAAF/3 chairman who is also Fiji's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, told The National on Tuesday.

"They need to be confident that the commitment is there from the aviation industry to go in this direction, so they can lend money and support the transition," he said on the sidelines of the conference.

Multilateral development banks are ready to fund developing countries, while for developed countries "the big lenders are waiting", he said.

The global framework will also seek to address "capacity building", "technology transfer" and training, Mr Gavoka said.

"At the end of the day, the global community will be speaking the same language in terms of aviation, we want to make it common across countries," he said.

Asked how confident he was of an agreement being reached by the end of the week, Mr Gavoka said the one of the main issues was "whether to quantify the milestones going forward" that need to be accomplished in the interim by 2030, before reaching the ultimate net-zero target by mid-century.

Inclusive plan for greener aviation

ICAO secretary general Juan Carlos Salazar said the commitment from delegations to reach an agreement was "absolutely positive".

"I see the willingness to reach a common understanding, there is a meeting of minds here that sustainable aviation fuel is the way forward and is the logical first step," he told The National.

"Everyone wants to make this feasible in a way that is inclusive and will represent the views of the different member states and the different regions across the world."

Several country delegations at the ICAO CAAF/3 meetings on Tuesday expressed the need for a global framework that recognises and bridges the gaps in resources and capabilities between countries.

The delegation representing Saudi Arabia told the gathering that countries are not in a level playing field and there is an urgent need for developing capacity-building and narrowing funding gaps.

The delegation from India voiced similar concerns and called for a global framework that supports developing countries.

Bolivia and Kenya added their voices to the call for an agreement that is inclusive and leaves no countries behind.

The importance of SAF

The ICAO CAAF/3 is to deliver an agreement on boosting SAF production in support of the long-term aspirational goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 that was adopted at ICAO’s 41st assembly last year.

The goal is to establish an ICAO global framework for the use of cleaner energies for aviation such as SAF and LCAF. The framework would include the necessary building blocks – such as policy and planning, regulations, implementation support and financing – to boost production and improve the price competitiveness of clean fuels. It will also potentially quantify interim goals on the use of cleaner energies in aviation by 2030 and 2050.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) believes SAF could contribute more than 60 per cent of the emissions reductions needed in aviation globally by 2050. The rest will be tackled by efficiency improvements through technology and operations and the use of hydrogen-powered planes, provided that countries create effective support policies.

"A global framework for SAF and LCAF could help in setting a global approach to policymaking and avoiding unintended consequences that may lead to market distortion," Iata said in a paper about its position on CAAF/3.

Updated: November 22, 2023, 6:12 AM