Biofuels solution to aviation emissions

6th May 2011


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  • Natural resources ,
  • Transport ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Mitigation

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IEMA

Replacing jet fuel with sustainable alternatives will be crucial in enabling the global aerospace sector to meet its carbon reduction targets, according to the World Economic Forum.

In a joint study published this week, the World Economic Forum and international strategy consultants Booz & Co conclude the advancements being made in aviation technology to lower carbon dioxide emissions will not be enough to offset growth in the sector.

The report, Policies and collaborative partnership for sustainable aviation, predicts that carbon emissions from aviation are to increase 3% year-on-year, resulting in a tripling of the sector’s current emissions by 2050.

To combat the increases and meet the industry’s aim of a 50% reduction of emissions on 2005 figures by 2050, there is no option that doesn’t involve biofuels according to Jürgen Ringbeck, partner and air transport expert at Booz & Co.

“Even if other levers can bring about further efficiency gains in the short- to medium-term, it is only highly-developed fuels from biomass that have the potential to achieve the long-term, ambitiously-framed industry targets,” he said.

While highlighting the significant role of biofuels, the report also concludes that improved aviation infrastructure, innovative aircraft designs and market-base measures are also urgently needed to combat rising emissions.

It concludes that positive incentives in regulation and funding will be key factors in the success of biomass fuels and wider emissions cuts and warns that the sector most work together to define a global, sustainable approach to meet its targets.

The report seems to confirm the International Energy Agency conclusions, published last month, that biofuels will be key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the coming decades.

However, there remains much debate as to the sustainability of biofuel production with environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and a recent study from the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics highlighting the threat to food production and the possibility of increased deforestation to grow the crops needed to create the fuels.

The Nuffield report concluded that new, more ethically focused targets and policies are needed to protect vulnerable communities and habitats.


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