- Jonathan Josephs
- Business Correspondent, BBC News
The head of the world’s second-largest airline has warned that measures to fight climate change will make air travel more expensive.
“Over time, it’s going to cost us all more, but it’s the right approach to take,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told the BBC.
Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of the carbon emissions that are warming the planet, according to the International Energy Agency.
Critics argue that the best way to reduce them is by flying less.
Atlanta-based Delta says that after spending $ 30 million a year to offset the carbon it produces, it has since March 2020 managed to neutralize its emissions.
It has also pledged to spend US $ 1 billion over the next decade to cancel all the emissions it generates.
More fuel-efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels, and removing carbon from the atmosphere are some of the ways he hopes to achieve this.
Reducing carbon emissions is crucial if the world wants to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in Paris in 2015, and widely discussed at COP26, the United Nations Conference. on Climate Change, which just ended in Glasgow.
Andreas Schafer, professor of energy and transport at University College London, said that “it will cost trillions rather than billions of dollars” to move the global aviation sector to net zero carbon emissions.
Preliminary results of research by his team suggest that airfares should increase by 10-20% to cover costs.
“In the short term, government support will be needed, as decarbonizing aviation will be a great challenge and current efforts will need to be dramatically expanded,” explains Professor Schafer.
Bastian admits that it is an ambitious goal that his airline will not be able to achieve on its own.
“It is the biggest long-term challenge facing this industry,” he said. “We are in an industry classified as difficult to decarbonise because we do not yet have biofuels or sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) en masse that we are going to need.”
Delta aims to use 10% sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2030.
Many airlines and fuel companies are investing in SAF. Other technologies being developed involve turning food waste into jet fuel and using carbon dioxide extracted from the air.
However, these still cost more than traditional fuels and the quantities required are also considered problematic.
The director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, told the BBC that, while creating the necessary SAF production levels is a great challenge, “it is perfectly possible if industry and governments work together”.
“The production increases will bring the cost down to competitive levels. We have seen similar increases in the development of solar and wind power in the last few decades,” Walsh said.
Agreement on aviation
At the UN climate change summit in Glasgow, 23 countries pledged to work together to bring the aviation industry to zero net carbon emissions by 2050. More efficient use of energy, sustainable aviation fuels and electric planes are part of its ambitions.
However, the environmental campaign group Greenpeace called the deal a “blatant green wash.”
“This ad is full of scams such as compensation and excessive optimism about so-called ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ and future aircraft designs,” said Klara Maria Schenk of Greenpeace.
“But it lacks the only thing that is needed to achieve the goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C, which is a tangible action to prioritize green travel and reduce flights,” he said.
According to IATA, It is expected that the global demand for passenger flights increase on more than double by 2050, from 4.5 billion, before the pandemic, to 10 billion by 2050.
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