Green flights are still a long way off, say scientists

Latest reports warn that climate-friendly aviation isn't within easy reach as CO2 emissions reach record highs.

The findings were compiled byThe Royal Society and the International Energy Agency.
The findings were compiled byThe Royal Society and the International Energy Agency. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/scharfsinn86

Achieving ‘green flights’ could be some way off, with scientists having looked at the challenge of producing sustainable aviation fuel to supply the UK’s ‘net zero’ ambition.

Experts say it would require enormous quantities of UK agricultural land or renewable electricity to keep flying at today’s levels. This is according to findings from a report, 'Net zero aviation fuels: resource requirements and environmental impacts', by UK science academy The Royal Society, which examined four options for greener fuels to replace the 12.3m tonnes of jet fuel used annually in the UK.

The UK science academy’s report concluded that none of the options - biofuels (energy crops and waste), hydrogen, ammonia and synthetic fuels, could replace fossil jet fuel in the short term. It said that while each fuel type has advantages and drawbacks, the findings underscore the challenges of decarbonising aviation, especially when resources are likely to be in global demand for a range of ‘net-zero’ objectives.

Separately, another report highlighted how air travel is responsible for communities around the world emitting more carbon dioxide in 2022 than in any other year on records dating to 1900. The International Energy Agency report showed that as global airline traffic increased post-pandemic, carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil grew 2.5%, with about half the surge resulting from the aviation sector.

The findings prompted a warning from climate experts that energy users around the world must cut emissions dramatically to slow the dire consequences of global warming. To reverse emissions, they suggested that nations must subsidise renewables, improve energy efficiency, electrify industry and transportation, set a high price for carbon emissions, reduce deforestation, plant trees and rid the system of coal.

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