Here’s the conundrum: Aviation is one of the most valuable modes of transportation for the global economy, but it is also one of the most recognizable polluters in the 21st century. The industry has the ability to transport not just passengers but freight, capital and ideas across the world and is forecast to equate to 4.9% of global GDP this year—but produced 2% of global CO2 emissions in 2019 at roughly 915 mega tonnes.
The industry has taken this to heart and like so many others, is adapting to the unprecedented need for decarbonization and sustainability. At the fore of this is a move to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), the use of technology to reduce emissions and drive efficiency, and the spending of millions on R&D to herald the future introduction of electric and hydrogen power for future aircraft.
Sustainability is the near- and long-term future of aviation
SAF is perhaps the nearest term answer to lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the sector. The fuel is already seeing a lot of investment through academic research, government funding and from the private sector. A transition from traditional but carbon inefficient kerosene to biofuels is already underway with key players such as IFS customer and Sustainability Awards Winner, Rolls-Royce, pledging to prove all its long-haul engines are compatible with 100% SAF by 2023. The British Government has announced the investment of £15 million into the UK’s first SAF production plant this year under its Green Fuels, Green Skies initiative.
Yes, there are still technological and economic hurdles to jump—currently SAF production is 8 times the price of traditional kerosene, and many operational engines simply are not capable of burning the new fuel and would need to be replaced or the aircraft retired, but the industry is on the charge.
Charging forward on electric power!
Technology too will prove to be a vital component in the move from fossil fuels. A longer-term vision of the sector is completely replacing jet engines with electric and hydrogen variants.
Work on this is underway with Airbus and other market leaders investing substantially into R&D. Some models are already off the ground, at the beginning of Q4, an electric-powered rotary aircraft crossed New Zealand’s 48-mile Cook Strait and IFS is delighted to see Rolls-Royce recently broke a speed record with its all-electric “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft.
These electric aircraft advances usher in the beginning of a sustainable aviation revolution, particularly for short haul flights operated by smaller aircraft. This will be accompanied by the advent of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) which will have a market value of $17 billion by 2025, with further growth forecast to $115 billion by the mid 2030’s. AAM will not just redefine eco-friendly short distance cargo delivery but also offer new regional and inner-city travel options.
Cape Air: Rethinking climate change commitments in Cape Cod
One airline that has made huge strides in aviation sustainability is IFS customer, Massachusetts-based Cape Air. The North America airline, which operates 90 aircraft in the Northeast, Midwest, Eastern Montana and Caribbean, has always had its eyes set on a low carbon future. Based in the low-lying Cape Cod peninsula—itself acutely susceptible to the encroaching sea level rises from climate change—the company has been at the forefront of addressing climate change, and is leading by example. Cape Air was one of the first to make use of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) arrays at its headquarters that generates 325,000 kWh per year and, together with energy efficiency measures, cut imported energy use by 30%. The company has also been proactive with its employees, offering incentives to help its 1,400 staff—such as $1000 towards the purchase of Electric Vehicles (EVs), on site EV charging, and giving rebates for staff to install PV set ups at home.
Electric planes a positive contribution
Cape Air has not stopped there and will become one of the world’s first carriers to go electric in the sky. The company is working closely to develop and operate the Eviation Alice electric aircraft—a nine-seat fully electric plane that has been designed from the ground up to be the perfect short commute aircraft. Once the aircraft is flying, given Cape Air operates across shorter routes, range anxiety of the aircraft will not be an issue, while at the same time the aircraft can significantly cut carbon emissions.
Paperless but still with a paper trail
Cape Air has been a customer of IFS since 2014 when it embraced IFS technology and become as technologically forward thinking as possible. It has already revolutionized its maintenance operations, traditionally a very paper intensive exercise, with digital advancements. Since using IFS software to support aviation maintenance, Cape Air has cut physical paperwork by over 50%. IFS has also enabled the company to streamline shipping to maintenance depots around the U.S. mainland and beyond, helping cut packaging, shipment emissions and costs.
IFS, working to influence change at the top
IFS is not just able to bring these sustainability strategies to clients but is also a global ambassador and citizen of change that has focused on its own environmental, social and governance (ESG) ethos internally. IFS has done some incredible work through the IFS Foundation in Sri Lanka, creating positive change for the country through clean water initiatives, financing the renovation of schools and hospitals, and creating employment in remote areas.
IFS is proud to work with some of the leading climate change voices of this generation, including IFS Ambassador and UN Patron of the Ocean Lewis Pugh, who with IFS has helped highlight the vulnerability of oceanic biomes to man-made climate change by swimming in some of the coldest seas and oceans on the planet.
IFS recently began to support the UN Global Compact, which at time of writing is the largest private sector sustainability program in the world—and aims to help businesses promote fundamental human rights and achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals.
IFS has also taken an active interest in climate policy and was at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, where the winners of the IFS Sustainability Awards were announced.
Flying towards a cleaner aviation future
In the words of the World Economic Forum: “Achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 will not only help create an environmentally sustainable industry but also ensure a financially resilient and competitive aviation industry as a whole.” In line with this, IFS is committed to be carbon neutral by 2025, with Darren Roos’ CEO, IFS, commenting: “Sustainability as an integral part of our business model we not only capture value creating opportunities, but we can mitigate risks and stay on course to be successful in our sustainability strategy.” Roos continues, “with the launch of this multi-year plan we are making commitments and make ourselves accountable. This is meaningful to our customers, our employees, our owners and our community at large.”
IFS and its Change-for-Good pioneer customers such as Rolls-Royce and Cape Air are playing their part. They have their sights set on supporting a cleaner aviation sector going forward—as do we all.
Do you have questions or comments?
We’d love to hear them so please leave us a message below.