On 7 October 2022, at COP 27 in Egypt, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) announced its Long Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) at its event on green innovation in aviation. Following the creation of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition at COP26, the LTAG will guide the aviation industry towards reaching net-zero in carbon emissions by 2050 in order to support and comply with the aims of the Paris Agreement. Fundamental to ICAO’s LTAG vision is the mass adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) in alignment with CORSIA, ICAO’s carbon offsetting and reduction scheme..

SAFs have been assessed to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% when compared to traditional fuels and can be integrated into existing fuel mixes with relative ease. Airbus currently produce aircraft certified to fly using a 50% blend of SAFs and these fuels have powered around 450,000 flights since 2011. British Airways and Aer Lingus have already partnered with an SAF company to begin powering their flights from 2025 and EasyJet’s new roadmap to net zero now plans to combine carbon offsetting with the use of SAFs.

However, the rapid uptake of SAFs in the aviation industry is hampered by cost and supply. Currently SAFs only account for 0.1% of all jet fuel used. According to McKinsey, it also takes five years to build a SAF production plant. Rapid uptake of SAFs over the next decade therefore requires industry action and substantial investment within the next few years.

At COP 27 industry leaders called for a regulatory framework to help support investors in SAF production and the integration of SAFs into fuel supply systems. ICAO’s own SAF assistance, capacity-building and training scheme provides a framework for nations to accelerate SAF adoption. State representatives from the UK, Egypt, Kenya and Singapore also provided insight into their plans for regulation and both the UK and Singapore unveiled their own national plans. The UK with the Jet Zero strategy and Singapore with its Blueprint for a Sustainable Air Hub.

The UK’s Jet Zero strategy has set a government target for 10% SAF usage by 2030 and has allocated £165 million until March 2025 towards its Advanced Fuels Fund. There are also ongoing plans to introduce further support for SAF uptake, possibly via a government backed contract for difference scheme that will set an agreed price for SAFs in the UK.

SAFs can only form a substantial part of net-zero aviation with significant funding. However, the incentives exist. Should that funding be made available it was estimated at COP 27 that if even only 10% of aviation fuels consumed by 2030 are SAFs, it will save 60m tonnes of carbon emissions per year and provide 300,000 green jobs.

A new era of green innovation for aviation - YouTube