On Earth Day and every day, U.S. airlines are committed to helping build a brighter and greener future. This Earth Day, Airlines for America has something special to celebrate: On March 30, we announced an industry-wide commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, and it’s one that we’re determined to achieve by working in partnership with government leaders and the rest of the aviation sector.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. airlines were transporting a record 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo per day while contributing less than 2 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions. For decades, U.S. carriers have been investing in increasingly fuel-efficient aircraft and operating them in more efficient ways, improving overall fuel efficiency by more than 135 percent since 1978 and 40 percent just since 2000. We’re proud of that record of sustainability, but we want to do more – and we’ve pledged to do exactly that.
First and foremost, A4A and our member carriers will work toward a rapid and massive expansion of the production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Using SAF results in up to 80 percent less carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel, and that’s why we need more of it – a lot more: an average of 84 percent more every year between now and 2030. Why 84 percent? That’s the annual increase in production needed to reach our goal of having 2 billion gallons of SAF available for U.S. airlines to use in 2030, a crucial waypoint on our flight path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
U.S. airlines know they can’t reach that goal alone, and we were heartened to see the Administration include support for a blender’s tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel in its Made in American Tax Plan. A credit of up to just $2 per gallon would go a long way toward improving the cost-competitiveness of SAF, which currently costs three to five times as much as conventional jet fuel. We were also glad to see the Department of Energy announce a new $61.4 million funding opportunity for biofuels research, including SAF.
It is precisely those kinds of supportive, complementary government programs and policies that are needed as we work together to combat climate change. Reducing our net carbon emissions to zero will also require supporting advancements in airframe and engine technology, expanding electric infrastructure at airports, implementing international agreements such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and modernizing our air traffic control system. Net-zero carbon emissions: we want it, our passengers want it, and the planet needs it. Working together, we can achieve it.
To learn more about the deployment of SAF in the U.S., please read our primer on the topic, and for more information on each of our member airlines’ specific sustainability initiatives, please click on the links below.