A handful of airlines have announced their plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To reach the goal, they say they will work with the government and other stakeholders toward a rapid expansion of the production and deployment of commercially viable sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in order to make two billion gallons of SAF available to US aircraft operators in 2030. The airlines have also suggested a number of initiatives the government can take to help the aviation industry achieve its goals.
The pledge comes from members of the Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization that represents the leading US airlines. Reaching the 2030 SAF goal will require an 84% annual average increase in SAF production through 2030, the organization says.
Member companies include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, UPS, and associate member Air Canada.
A4A says that while its members are committed to working within the commercial aviation sector to advance viable technology, infrastructure, and sustainable aviation fuel, it is “imperative that the US federal, state and local governments implement supportive policies and programs that enable innovation, scale-up, cost-competitiveness, and deployment in each of these areas.” Government must also avoid the implementation of policies that would limit the aviation industry’s ability to invest in emissions-reducing measures.
Many members are already investing in SAF, the trade group points out. JetBlue, for example, has announced a set of short- and medium-term ESG targets to achieve net zero carbon emissions for its airline operations by 2040. And Air Canada says it will invest $50 million in sustainable aviation fuels over the next decade to help it reach its GHG net reduction goals. But the aviation industry requires a “similar urgent commitment from policy makers, fuel producers and others in the feedstock and fuel supply chain to achieve meaningful scalability,” the A4A says.
Policy support that Congress could provide in upcoming infrastructure legislation includes a $2 per gallon SAF blender’s tax credit, further modernization of the air traffic management system to enhance efficiency, continuation and expansion of public-private aviation environmental research and development programs, US implementation of the international climate agreement called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and backing for emerging technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, according to the organization.
A4A points out that airlines contribute 2% of the nation’s CO2 emissions, but says US airlines have improved fuel efficiency by more than 135% since 1978 — saving over five billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.