Biofuel subsidies not enough to meet aviation sector’s climate goals

Image By 湯小沅 (N90R) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image By 湯小沅 (N90R) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Current methods to make aviation more sustainable, including subsidies for biofuels, will not be enough to meet climate targets, according to a PhD student from Delft University in the Netherlands.

Paul Peeters, who has completed his PhD on the sustainability of the aviation sector, concludes that climate targets will not be reached without a ‘severe reduction’ in growth.

According to a statement from Delft University, global tourism is set to trigger a massive increase in CO2 emissions, the world’s population flying nine times as many kilometres in 2100 as in 2015, and the average distance of flights doubling.

“Aviation's share in tourism's CO2 emissions will grow from 50% in 2005 to more than 75% in 2100 even though by far the most journeys will be made by car,” Peeters’ calculations suggest.

In 2016, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) announced methods to reduce aviation’s environmental impact. These included a 200% tax on tickets, $1,000 per tonne CO2 ­carbon tax, and a 90% subsidy for renewable aviation biofuels. Peeters’ thesis claims that these would have a “negligible effect” and “will not result in the sustainable development of tourism in terms of the economy and climate.”

Peeters’ research argues that the most important recommendation for policymakers is to develop a policy that directly reduces the volume of air travel and with it, the growth in the distance travelled. Peeters suggests that individual countries also need to take responsibility for the emissions from international flights from their airports.


ICAO plan for 2050

In October, ICAO member states agreed on a 2050 Vision for sustainable aviation fuels which aimed to ensure conventional jet fuels are substituted with sustainable alternatives ‘to a significant percentage’ by 2050.

Dr. Olumuyiwa Aliu, ICAO’s president, stressed the importance of the new Vision at the Second ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels in Mexico City, Mexico. He noted that the current emissions reduction progress of the aviation sector was insufficient to meet ICAO’s 2020 targets.

Sustainable biofuel aviation fuels have already started to be used at several airports, contributing to some 40,000 sustainable flights having already been completed.

Image By 湯小沅 (N90R) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons