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Sustainability Surge

The U.S. airlines have long been focused on reducing their fuel use and carbon emissions, but there is undeniably a surge in aviation sustainability as carriers work toward a sustainable recovery from the pandemic and the recently announced industrywide goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“It really is A4A and its members embracing the full range of a sustainable recovery,” A4A Vice President for Environmental Affairs said at the International Aviation Club’s virtual event, Aviation’s Sustainability Surge. “That includes the environmental, economic and social aspects, and you’ve really seen the U.S. airlines leaning forward on all of those.”

A crucial component of the industry’s flight path to net-zero emissions, Young explained, is to have “the production of sustainable aviation fuel ramped up rapidly and extensively” so that U.S. carriers have 2 billion gallons of SAF available to use in 2030.

Sustainable aviation fuel, or “SAF,” which is made from proven technologies and meets rigorous standards, has been in use by U.S. airlines on a limited basis for years, but it costs up to four times as much as conventional jet fuel. That is why A4A is calling on the Biden Administration and Congress to enact supportive measures such as an up to $2 per gallon blender’s tax credit for SAF, which would help make it more cost-competitive, encourage producers to make more of it and enable airlines to use more of it.

“Sustainable aviation fuel emits up to 80 percent less carbon [than conventional jet fuel],” explained Lauren Riley, Managing Director for Global Environment Affairs & Sustainability for United Airlines. “There’s just not enough of it.”

“SAF works, and it has been working in the industry for five years,” added Steve Csonka, executive director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). “So, if we solve those other issues… with respect to price-point and bringing more facilities online, we have the ability to introduce those [emissions] reductions today.”

As Young explained, the industrywide commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 builds on the U.S. airline industry’s strong record of emissions reductions. “Before the COVID crisis, we were transporting 2.5 million passengers a day, moving 58,000 tons of cargo a day, and we represented 2 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions footprint,” she said. “We were proud to have improved fuel efficiency 135 percent since 1978.” Young explained that A4A member airlines are committed to working in partnership across industry and with government policy makers to push technology, operations, air traffic control efficiency, SAF production and deployment and other infrastructure advances to meet A4A members’ ambitious climate goals.

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