News article

Taking flight: a reduced-emission future for aviation

30 April 2024

The aviation industry connects people and places across the globe, but its environmental impact remains a significant challenge. However, exciting advancements are taking place, aiming to minimise this impact and pave the way for a reduced-emission future.

Revolutionising air travel: climate-conscious initiatives

A multifaceted approach is being adopted to reduce the environmental footprint of air travel. These practices focus on:

  • Technological advancements: Developing next-generation aircraft with improved fuel efficiency, exploring cleaner alternative fuels like Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), and optimising flight operations.
  • Operational improvements: implementing sustainable air traffic management practices (which could reduce 8-10% of aviation emissions) and streamlining ground operations to reduce emissions.
  • Infrastructure developments: investing in aviation infrastructure that embraces renewable energy sources for airports and electric ground handling equipment, and minimises aircraft taxiing powered by the main engines.

Why is a reduced-emission future for aviation essential?

While aviation contributes a smaller percentage of global emissions compared to other industries, only around 3% of global emissions, its high visibility and the challenge of decarbonisation make it a crucial sector to address. Every industry needs to reach net zero, and significant reductions from aviation will send a powerful message to others.

A closer look at technological advancements

The future of aviation holds exciting possibilities for reducing its environmental impact:

  • Next-generation aircraft: New designs focus on lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics, and efficient engines to significantly reduce fuel consumption.
  • Alternative fuels: Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) derived from renewable sources offer significant potential for slashing lifecycle emissions. Airlines prioritising SAF use are leading the way. While SAF is promising, it is not yet widely available. 
  • Electrification and hybrid models: electric and hybrid-electric aircraft are being developed for shorter routes, offering a promising pathway towards net-zero emissions.
  • Radiative forcing mitigation: research is ongoing to address the additional warming effect of contrails (condensation trails) formed at high altitudes under specific atmospheric conditions.

Industry leaders are taking action

Several airline & supporting organisations are taking concrete steps towards a reduced emissions future for aviation:

These examples showcase the industry's growing commitment to reduce aviation’s environmental impact.

The positive impact of a reduced-emission future

  • Reduced carbon footprint: implementing these advancements can significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions from air travel, helping to slow down global warming. .
  • Quieter skies: new technologies and operational improvements can lead to quieter aircraft operations, benefiting communities around airports.
  • Reduced flight times for passengers.

Challenges and the road ahead

  • Scalability and cost: the widespread adoption of SAF and new technologies requires addressing scalability and cost-effectiveness concerns. Industry stakeholders are actively advocating for policies that incentivise development and adoption.
  • Infrastructure development: upgrading ground infrastructure and air traffic management systems to support reduced-emissions is crucial.
  • Collaboration and policy support: strong collaboration between airlines, policymakers, and fuel producers is essential to accelerate the transition. We must enact policies that promote practices which reduce aviation's environmental impact.
  • Green hushing can also be a challenge, where airlines who are genuinely trying to introduce environmental initiatives are criticised for minor imperfections, or for talking about these, discouraging further efforts. The airlines need to be able to stand out for taking positive steps, so that consumers can make informed choices. This highlights the need for a supportive and constructive approach to encourage airlines to continuously improve their environmental initiatives.

A brighter future by working together

By working together, the aviation industry, policymakers, and various organisations can create a future where air travel remains convenient while minimising its environmental impact, leading the way for a more responsible future for all.

Next steps:

  • Stay informed about the latest technological advancements in aviation.
  • Support airlines that prioritise environmental initiatives.
  • Advocate for policies that promote the development and adoption of aviation technologies like Singapore’s requirement for all departing flights from Changi Airport to use SAF from 2026.

How Can CarbonClick Help?

CarbonClick can play a vital role in supporting the aviation industry in their environmental initiatives and reducing emissions:

  • Providing airlines and airports with carbon offsetting solutions: this allows passengers travelling to compensate for their flight emissions while supporting high-quality climate projects, and also allowing airlines to offset all or a portion of their flights whether for compliance, initiatives, or incentives such as matching customer offsets to enhance the impact. 
  • Partnering with airlines on educational initiatives: we can collaborate on educational programmes and awareness campaigns to promote reduced-emission aviation choices, including airline staff, and the wider traveling community. 
  • Advocating for policies that support reduced emissions: CarbonClick can and does leverage its expertise to advocate for policies that incentivise the development and adoption of technologies and practices that reduce aviation emissions.

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