Aviation Sector Sets New Goal for Cleaner Energy: Shift from Fossil Fuels Initiated at CAAF/3

At the third Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3), the aviation sector adopted a pivotal goal to transition from fossil fuels, marking a significant step towards a more sustainable future. The conference, convened by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), saw representatives from over 100 states, industry stakeholders, and civil society unanimously agree on a less carbon-intensive future for aviation energy [1].

The CAAF/3 conference concluded with two key outcomes: the ICAO Vision, which underlines the goal of 5% carbon intensity reduction by 2030, and a Global Framework for Cleaner Energies, designed to assist states with the transition. The latter includes capacity-building programs, knowledge and technology transfer, financial access, and policy guidance to scale SAF [1].

The newly set goal targets a 5% decrease in carbon intensity of aviation fuel by 2030 compared to today’s predominantly fossil fuel-based energy. The target will be achieved through a shift towards Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and, as an interim measure, the use of Lower Carbon Aviation Fuels (LCAF) [1].

The agreement signals a shift in the aviation industry towards clean energy and seeks to catalyse supportive policies and investment in the sector. Already, the transition to SAF is underway in around 40 countries, and about 50 airlines, representing over 40% of global air traffic, have committed to using more than 5% of SAF by 2030[1].

Haldane Dodd, Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group, hailed the agreement as a “milestone moment” for the sector. He emphasized the critical role that the finance community and energy sector will play in supporting the necessary infrastructure, and in delivering SAF in ever-increasing quantities [1].

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The industry has also seen a surge in forward purchase agreements for SAF, with current commitments around $45 billion, a substantial increase from $6 billion pre-Covid. Moreover, there are currently eight certified pathways for SAF production used in commercial flights, with further options being assessed. By 2029, over 150 projects in 35 countries for SAF production are being explored [1].

Ahead of the conference, stakeholders expressed concerns about the urgency of action. In his address before the conference, Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the ICAO Council said: “We must urgently scale up the development and deployment of sustainable, lower carbon and other clean energy aviation fuels in order to meet the sustainability expectations of both the world and the stakeholders […] We have a great opportunity to show and communicate to the world that aviation is seriously and strongly committed to decarbonise by 2050”.

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Speaking ahead of the CAAF/3, Laurent Donceel, Deputy Managing Director of A4E said: “Committing to a transition to clean energy is an investment in the future of air travel. The world expects action from the aviation industry to ensure it continues along the path towards sustainability. The future of aviation depends on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and it is critical that the meeting this week produces a global agreement for net-zero aviation with realistic targets to promote the use of SAF. Global investments in SAF and boosting the energy transition in aviation will create a bounty of jobs and growth around the world”.

With this agreement, the aviation sector is poised to make progress on the sector’s much-needed decarbonisation efforts. Future analysis, investments, and SAF production will tell whether or not the CAAF/3 will aid in achieving a less carbon-intensive aviation sector.