By Bjorn Fehrm
July 20, 2021, © Leeham News: Last week was a game-changing week for air transport. Three events synchronized to trigger it.
EU presented 13 policies to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with concrete steps in-between. On the same day, the airframe and engine OEM’s CTOs said in a Farnborough Connect webcast: “It’s a commitment problem, not a technical problem to achieve the EU goals.”
This happened against a backdrop of European floodings, which made all discussions about climate change or not moot. Super-organized Germany lost over 100 persons to typhoon like rains, never seen before, that produced scenes like these: https://twitter.com/Aviation_Intel/status/1416215953080205321?s=20
The presented EU policies encompass all sectors of the economy and trade. Air transport is just one area that gets concrete targets. The centerpiece of the EU scheme is that companies pay for their pollution. We can, therefore, expect CO2 taxes and other means to increase the cost of using carbon-based fuels for all industries.
Concrete for air transport is a demand for increased use of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel, a CO2 neutral jet fuel). The SAF share at EU airports must reach 2% by 2025, 5% by 2030, 32% by 2040, and 63% BY 2050.
The CTO panel at Farnborough Connect (Figure 1) all agreed this is not a technical problem. It’s a supply ramp-up challenge, as all OEM’s have their new aircraft cleared for a 50% SAF blend now and expect 100% certification within short.
The CTOs from Airbus (Sabine Klauke), Boeing (Naveed Hussein), GE (Chris Lorence), Raytheon Technologies (Mark Russel), Rolls-Royce (Paul Stein), and SAFRAN (Eric Dalbier) all agreed on the immediate solutions to lower the carbon footprint:
Rolls-Royce’s Stein said: “We fully support a blend mandate. It provides the certainty for the Oil and Gas industry to invest to the scale required. Can the scale-up be done? Of course, it can be done! Just look at how the World has re-industrialized to produce billions of doses of vaccine.”
Boeing’s Hussein added, “What we need is political certainty and stability. The industry is prepared to invest if it knows the regulations stay stable. With stability, this kind of investment is possible.”
Listening to the CTOs, I was amazed by the change of tone I experienced. They all agreed, and no one had a diverting meaning.
I started writing about Greener air transport at the Le Bourget Air show 2017, where Siemens presented its ambitious electric aircraft program. At the time, airlines and OEMs debated the urgency of making changes for lower emission, beyond what lower fuel burn for next-generation aircraft would give. And, if changes were necessary, what do to was all over the place.
Now, four years later, we have a 180° change in attitudes. Air Transport has a 100 years history, and in the last four of these, airlines and the rest of the industry go from “Is change necessary, and what then to do?” to “It’s now, it’s SAF, and we better get going!”
No doubt, the last years’ pictures of devastating fires in Australia and the US West coast, and now the floodings in Germany have made climate change clear to everyone.
As long as icebergs broke loose from the Arctic or Glaciers gradually disappeared, it concerned us, but it was far away. Now, if climate devastation can hit “Super-organized Germany,” then it can strike anyone.
Politicians no longer risk re-election by diverting funds to fight climate change. It’s the key change. The grand public gets it (some never will, but who cares any longer…), and change must happen now. It can get gruesome before it gets better.