The climate emergency continues to grow in scope, as the latest in a series of damning reports by the IPCC reveals that the prevention of climate disaster is a case of ‘now or never’. Greenhouse gases are the principal cause of global temperature rises and must peak before 2025 to effectively mitigate the heating of the planet past 1.5 degrees Celsius – a key target identified in the Paris Agreement.
Greenhouse gases are a by-product in every major industry, with travel being one of the biggest contributors. Aviation in particular is a point of scrutiny for climate scientists and activists; though emissions from air travel are low in comparison to agriculture and manufacturing industries, the uncommon release of greenhouse gases at atmospheric height is seeing industry leaders seek innovative ways to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint.
The Aviation Industry and Greenhouse Gases
In total, the aviation industry contributes just 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally. While a small percentage, it is still a significant contribution – and a leading source of concern for the industry as it searches for a more sustainable standard of operation in the future.
There is also evidence to suggest that the extenuating circumstances of mid-flight emissions should be considered ‘multipliers’, whereby the emission of nitrogen and water vapour at high altitudes can have a multiplicative effect on warming.
What Is Being Done?
The UK government is pursuing a ‘net-zero’ emissions strategy as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement – by which the country is aiming for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Further deliberation at Glasgow’s COP 26 has led to the introduction of robust ESG reporting, enabling the independent tracking and monitoring of private-sector efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
In aviation, private jet charter companies such as Vista Global are leading the charge, with ambitious aims for carbon neutrality by as early as 2025. These companies are aiming to mitigate their environmental impact through the monitoring of emissions, and the institution of carbon credit programmes – as well as innovation and investment in sustainable fuel technologies.
Carbon credits are a form of carbon offsetting programme, where investment in greenhouse gas reduction processes enable businesses to average out their emission impact to netzero. Carbon credits in particular are useful because they guarantee investment in greenhouse gas reduction projects, from forest-planting to methane-capture technology; that is, the reduction in emissions would not be able to take place without investment – ensuring that carbon credits are not a token gesture and have a measurable positive effect.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Meanwhile, aviation companies are also seeking to directly reduce emissions through the usage of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). While electric vehicle technology is developing at a breakneck pace, alternative fuels are a quicker medium-term means of reducing CO2 emissions. SAF development builds on the success of biomass and ethanol fuel technologies, with small hurdles regarding energy efficiency remaining.
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