The International Air Transport Association (Iata), which is the representative body of the global airline industry, has called on the International Energy Agency (IEA) to give priority to investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Iata made this appeal ahead of the IEA’s Clean Energy Transitions virtual summit.
The IEA is an intergovernmental organisation with 30 member countries and eight association countries. To be a full member, a country must also be a member of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. One of the association members is South Africa (the only other African association member is Morocco).
The IEA virtual summit will focus on achieving a low-carbon future. Iata argues that investing in SAF will both create jobs, helping with economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, and accelerate the achievement of the goal of the aviation sector to cut its emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050. The association affirmed its willingness, and the willingness of the wider aviation community, to work with the IEA, governments and fuel companies to greatly expand the use of SAF and so cut aviation carbon emissions,
“The enormous amounts of money that governments are investing in the economic recovery from Covid-19 are an opportunity to create a legacy of energy transition for the aviation industry,” highlighted Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “To achieve this, governments, the finance community and the fuel producers – both large and small – must work together with the goal of rapidly increasing production of affordable sustainable aviation fuel.”
Iata pointed out that SAF could slash carbon dioxide lifecycle emissions by as much as 80% in comparison to conventional jet fuel. SAF was extracted from sources that did not compete with food production or for water supply, nor did they harm biodiversity. And because airlines had extensively invested in and tested SAF, it had already been certified as ready-to-use, safe and sustainable. In fact, more than 250 000 flights had already taken off using a blend of SAF.
“As much as airlines want to use SAF, production is well below the scale needed for prices to fall to competitive levels,” he explained. “Attaining the right price point is even more crucial as industry losses and debt levels rise.”
Current global SAF production is now estimated by Iata at 50-million litres a year. To be able to compete with conventional jet fuel on price, production has to hit 7-billion litres a year, which would be equivalent to 2% of global 2019 jet fuel consumption.
“[I]f governments can use this unique time to combine a safe fiscal and regulatory framework supporting SAF production with the direct allocation of stimulus funds to SAF production, it is possible to reach the 2% tipping point in 2025,” he urged. “That would power greener flight, create jobs and fuel the economic recovery together. SAF is our biggest emissions reduction opportunity. The time is right to push it forward so that, together, we can achieve major carbon reductions on the way towards fossil fuel-free flight.”