Business Aviation: Doubling Down on Sustainable Aviation Fuels

As pandemic restrictions ease and demand for air travel returns, the business aviation industry is doubling down on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and other measures that support its ambitious climate commitments.
By Stewart D’Leon | December 22, 2021

As pandemic restrictions ease and demand for air travel returns, the business aviation industry is doubling down on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and other measures that support its ambitious climate commitments. 

Business aviation was an early advocate for SAF, first setting aspirational emissions mitigation goals back in 2009 and continuing to build on them today. We believe strongly that SAF, which has the potential to cut aviation’s lifecycle carbon emissions by up to 80%, is critical to making our industry more efficient and reducing carbon emissions meaningfully. SAF is our industry’s sustainable solution of today, as we innovate and create the technologies of tomorrow.

The good news is that the SAF market is accelerating faster than ever, helped by commitments from business and commercial aviation as air travel rebounds and sustainability becomes a more urgent global priority. Demand is increasing at the same time as the development of SAF from a variety of sources, including food waste, algae and converting carbon dioxide to fuel. It’s an exciting time to get involved, and other big players in the aviation industry are beginning to jump into the market. But there is much more work to be done on SAF, as well as other advancements that will reduce our environmental footprint.

To that end, business aviation leaders recently set some ambitious sustainability commitments. The industry pledged to cut carbon emissions in half and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, while continuing to increase fuel efficiency by 2% every year between 2020 and 2030. In addition, commercial airlines and other organizations have pledged to transition 10% of the global jet fuel supply to SAF by 2030.

These efforts have been echoed by the public sector with commitments from the U.S. government and the European Union. At the UN climate summit in November, the Biden administration set a goal for achieving net-zero aviation emissions by 2050, following previously announced executive actions to support increased SAF production by 2030. The EU aims to increase the amount of SAF blended by 10% in 2030 and 50% in 2040.

This is real momentum, but challenges remain. SAF is still in limited supply as production scales to meet demand, and airports incorporate it into their existing fuel pipelines. We need greater investment, action and cooperation from the public and private sectors to make SAF widely available and plentiful.

To increase SAF supplies and help lower costs right now, suppliers are investing in production and creating partnerships to make sustainable fuel more widely available.

The industry is also finding innovative ways to create demand. One of those market innovations is “Book and Claim,” which allows a jet operator to buy SAF even when it is not available at their departing airport, in exchange for an environmental credit.

At the same time, the industry is making investments to develop next-generation technology—including electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft—that will further support the industry’s climate pledges, and it remains steadfast in its pursuit of greater efficiency. This will also come with technological advancements, such as aerodynamic optimization and other infrastructure changes, that will help the industry reach its net-zero goal better and faster.

The unified commitments from the public and private sectors to invest in SAF and sustainable aviation are meaningful and making a difference today. However, there’s still plenty of work to be done to enable SAF to meet growing demands.

Business aviation will continue its efforts to accelerate the production, availability and adoption of sustainable aviation fuels, and use market-based measures to both increase demand for SAF and offset carbon emissions. The combination of these efforts and technological gains will allow our industry to continually reduce its carbon emissions.

Our shared goal is ushering in the next wave of aviation—one that is safer, more efficient and better equipped to contribute to the health and safety of our planet.

Author: Stewart D'Leon
Director of Environmental & Technical Operations
National Business Aviation Association

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