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Jet Zero: Airline industry not likely to solve jet emissions in the near future

Jet Fuel and the Impact on Climate Change

Jet fuel emissions have a significant impact on climate change. While aviation accounts for a small percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is responsible for a disproportionately large share of emissions from the transportation sector. According to Our World in Data, aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but 3.5% when we take non-CO2 impacts on climate into account.

Jet fuel emissions contribute to climate change in several ways. First, they release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is a major driver of global warming. Second, they emit other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which can have negative impacts on air quality and human health. Third, high-altitude emissions have a greater warming effect than emissions at ground level.

With air travel projected to increase in the coming years, the industry is under increasing pressure to find ways to reduce its environmental impact. One solution that is gaining some traction is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SAF is a low-carbon alternative to traditional jet fuel that is made from recycled waste such as waste oils, agricultural and forestry residues. Unlike traditional jet fuel, SAF emits significantly less carbon dioxide and other pollutants, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

Several airlines, including British Airways, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines, have already started using SAF on some of their flights. However, the production of SAF is still limited, and it is currently more expensive than traditional jet fuel. A recent paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that at most, 5.5% of aviation fuel in the EU could come from sustainable sources by 2030, largely from advanced waste biofuels. (source: BBCFuture)

In addition to more sustainable fuels, the aviation industry is also exploring other ways to reduce emissions, such as improving aircraft efficiency, looking to develop electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, and investing in carbon offsetting programs.

Despite the aviation industry's commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 it is not likely that they will achieve a significantly greener industry by 2030.

Private Jets

Private jets negatively impact the environment due to their high fuel consumption and emissions. While private jets account for a small percentage of overall air traffic, they are responsible for a disproportionately high amount of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

The emissions from private jets are particularly concerning because they are often used for short-haul flights, which are less efficient and produce more emissions per mile than longer flights. In addition, private jets tend to have fewer passengers on board, which means that the emissions per passenger are even higher than on commercial flights.

According to a report by the European Commission, a typical private jet emits around 10 times more carbon dioxide per passenger than a commercial flight.

Reducing the impact of private jets on the environment is a complex challenge that requires a range of solutions. One approach is to improve the efficiency of private jets by investing in new technologies and designs that make them more efficient. Another approach is to encourage the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for private jets, as outlined above, which can reduce emissions compared to traditional kerosene jet fuel.

In addition to technological solutions, there are also regulatory and policy measures that could reduce the impact of private jets on the environment. For example, some countries have introduced taxes or fees on private jets to discourage their use. Possible bans on private jets are being considered by the Dutch government and Greenpeace has called on the EU to place an outright ban on all private jets.

How can we make a difference as individuals?

There are several ways that people can make better choices when it comes to sustainable air travel:

  1. Consider alternative modes of transport: Where possible choose to travel by train or bus instead of flying. Choosing alternative modes of transport can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and support more sustainable travel.

  2. Choose direct flights: Direct flights are more fuel-efficient than connecting flights because takeoff and landing are the most fuel-intensive parts of a flight. By choosing direct flights, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save time.

  3. Fly economy class: Flying in economy class has a lower carbon footprint than flying in business or first class because there are more passengers per unit of fuel burned.

  4. Pack light: The more weight on a plane, the more fuel it needs to burn to stay in the air. By packing light, you can reduce the weight of the plane and its fuel consumption.

  5. Use public transportation to and from the airport: Using public transportation, such as buses or trains, to get to and from the airport can reduce your carbon footprint compared to driving or taking a taxi.

  6. Choose airlines that prioritize sustainability: Some airlines have committed to reducing their carbon footprint and investing in sustainable aviation fuel. By choosing airlines that prioritize sustainability, you can support their efforts and help drive change in the industry.

  7. Avoid unnecessary business trips. In today's interactive world, meetings can be held virtually, and hybrid events are the future, bringing people and places together.

  8. Avoid Long Haul flights. These are even more polluting than short-haul flights due to the contrails produced at high altitudes which have an even more warming impact. Long-haul flights account for 6% of all the flights in Europe but produce 52% of the emissions from flights. (National Geographic)

By making better choices we can help reduce our impact however most critically it is up to governments and the aviation industry to step up and address the pollution caused by this sector.

The Green Fridays 4 Future Team

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