An industry going green
G20 Summit

An industry going green

The largest potential impact on near-term aviation emissions reduction will be derived from sustainable and lower-carbon aviation fuel, and G20 members have a key role in driving the momentum for this transition

With international air traffic expected to exceed 2019 levels this year, the global civil aviation sector has now fully resumed its vital role in connecting the global community and driving sustainable development worldwide.

However, safeguarding and decarbonising this recovery will require a new public-private global consensus on the rapid technological and systemic evolutions that are currently taking place and are critical to these goals.

Heightening international cooperation will be key, especially in the context of the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 for international aviation that was adopted by governments at the International Civil Aviation Organization last year. 

Delivering a decarbonised global aviation sector will require a variety of measures to reduce carbon emissions. Among these, governments have formally recognised that the largest potential impact on near-term aviation emissions reduction will be derived from sustainable aviation fuel and lower carbon aviation fuels, in addition to cleaner energy sources.

ICAO is therefore fostering international partnerships and cooperation, and actively engaging with financial institutions such as development banks, private equity entities and fuel producers to help spur the needed investment and development now required. 

ICAO also recognises that as a standard-setting body, we have our own significant role to play in ensuring that our processes and procedures facilitate and encourage progress, and that we holistically align our implementation support and capacity-building offerings with the needs of our 193 member states. 

On this point, I would like to highlight the significance of the upcoming third ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3), which will be held from 20 to 24 November in Dubai.

This event is taking place not only within the context of a rapid acceleration of SAF production over the past 18 months, but also within the context of a much greater understanding of the scale and complexity of achieving our goals: the approximately 200,000 tons of annual SAF availability today must increase to 400 million tons per year in 2050. 

Significant investments

This corresponds to an investment of around $3 trillion, or about 3% of global investments on global green energy. This means in turn that the capital is available. The primary objective for ICAO and its members with respect to financing should be to support developing countries and states with particular needs to improve access to financing and further de-risking of specific projects to develop and deploy sustainable and lower carbon aviation fuels and other aviation cleaner energy in order to promote the transition and stimulate investment.  

However, attracting this capital will require elaborating and implementing a Global SAF Policy Framework, and the objective of our CAAF/3 event is no less than this ambitious outcome.

The stage is being set, with ICAO hosting pre-CAAF/3 consultations among states and other stakeholders, with a focus on the policy and financing aspects of aviation cleaner energy. 

These consultations comprise the review of the capacity-building initiatives led by the ICAO Secretariat, such as the ICAO Assistance, Capacity-building and Training for SAF programme, which has attracted partnership with 125 states and international organisations. An example of the type of support delivered under this umbrella is ICAO’s delivery of a guide and template for the implementation of SAF Feasibility Studies, which will facilitate potential financing opportunities through harmonisation.

A new ICAO proposal to provide support for the financing of SAF projects will be of particular interest to G20 members. Through the establishment of the ICAO Finvest Hub, ICAO could facilitate access to public and private investment capacities and assist with the attraction of new and additional funding. The initiative is seen as especially relevant for developing countries and states with specific needs. ICAO would essentially act as a trusted facilitator to ensure collaboration among all stakeholders in public and private sectors.

All this reflects the fact that because aviation cannot go away, it must go green.

The Covid-19 pandemic illustrated the foundational role of aviation in global society and its vital importance as a catalyst for sustainable development. Indeed, ICAO and aviation support progress towards no fewer than 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty reduction, gender equality, global health and, of course, sustainable energy. 

G20 members must play a vital role in shaping the momentum for this transition. Their leadership is needed more than ever to advocate for an ambitious consensus on the future for air transport. 

ICAO therefore looks forward to the G20’s continued leadership at the CAAF/3 this November and beyond, and to the realisation of the cleaner energy solutions that G20 members will help identify and implement.