How is the aviation industry cleaning up its act to allow us to travel into a green future?
Most of us have spent many months this last year confined to our homes. I'm sure the urge to travel, go on holiday, and explore the world again must be bubbling away for a lot of us. When restrictions are finally lifted, populations vaccinated and this frustrating chapter put behind us, I'm sure the travel industry will boom again.
It has long been known that air travel certainly harms the environment. Weighing up the social, economic, personal benefits of air travel against the environmental harm that it brings is a tough one. In 2019 worldwide flights produced 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of 43 billion produced by humans and globally*. The travel and aviation industry is one of the greatest things we have to connect people around the world and it also supports over 87.7 million jobs!* So it is important in our quest to tackle climate change that we find new ways of doing things without getting rid of some of the amazing benefits some of these industries offer us.
Luckily the aviation industry is aware of the environmental impact it has been having. In 2008 leaders from the industry set out these goals:
- improving fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020
- stabilising emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth;
- an aspirational goal to reduce net emissions from aviation by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. *
If these goals are met this sustainable development from the aviation industry will mean we can enjoy the massive social and economic benefits that air travel brings while ensuring less negative impact on the environment.
One of the ways the aviation industry is going to meet its goals of a more sustainable future is by using alternative more sustainable aviation fuels. These sustainable alternatives can be up to 80% less carbon-intensive over their life cycle than traditional aviation fuels.
A company leading the way in sustainable air travel is ZeroAvia. Their mission is to “Accelerate the world's transition to sustainable aviation by enabling zero-emissions air travel at scale” Their vision is to create renewable-powered hydrogen-electric aviation*. By using the power of solar and wind combined they can create hydrogen to fuel their planes. Therefore allowing for zero-emission air travel.
In September last year, ZeroAvia completed the first Hydrogen Electric passenger plane flight. This is an unbelievable step in the right direction. Although it will be a few years yet before we find ourselves flying on Hydrogen-powered passenger planes this shows the world the new possibilities of zero-emission air travel.
In our battle against climate change the weapon we need to use to fight it is innovation. Some of the industries that cause significant damage to the environment also create great economic and social benefits. The answer to the problem that the aviation industry produced 915 million tonnes of co2 can't simply be “let's just stop flying then”. The answers to these problems need to be solved by adapting, changing, and innovating to allow us to continue to reap the massive rewards these industries can offer us without the massive negative environmental impact. I'm sure over the next few years we will see great changes in our world as we strive to clean up our act. Unfortunately, this has to happen there is no other choice because the alternative does not bear thinking about…