Latin American leaders call for more than hype for sustainability | In depth

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The latest aviation buzzword in the post-pandemic era is “sustainability”.

In Latin America, as in other regions, industry leaders are keenly aware that they must move beyond platitudes and act quickly if they are to do their part to preserve the planet and promote the stunning natural beauty of their countries. .

But while the continent’s leaders know they must act, they struggle to agree on how.

“The solution is not black or white, it is a combination that we, as an industry, must solve together,” said Arturo Barreira, head of European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for Latin America, during the ALTA Airlines Executives Forum in Bogota, which will end on October 26.

Manufacturers, governments, air navigation service providers, the fuel industry, researchers, investors and passengers are just a handful of parties who need to find common ground and speak in unison if aviation is to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets, says Sebastian Mikosz, senior vice president of IATA. -President for the environment and sustainability.

IATA, which represents more than 290 airlines worldwide, pledged on October 4 to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050, in accordance with the Paris climate accords.

The strategy to achieve this must be multi-pronged and collaborative, with the participation of every element of the value chain.

Mikosz says sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will be the main driver to achieve net zero emissions, accounting for 65% of the change. But new technologies and operational and infrastructure improvements will help. The final piece of the pie is carbon offsetting and carbon capture.

SAF alone will need to grow from 100 million liters produced per year today to at least 449 billion liters in 2050.

Neste’s vice president of sales for North America, Chris Cooper, says such a monumental increase is possible.

“Neste can’t do it alone, but we would like to thank the industry for setting a goal, and we can now work together to achieve it,” he adds.

FINANCIAL COMMITMENT

An equally important challenge is how to pay for it all – and the exact cost of this large-scale transformation of the industry is unknown.

“It will be a heavy financial commitment” for all industry players to achieve this goal, adds Mikosz.

Boeing vice president for Latin America, the Caribbean and global politics Landon Loomis said the aircraft manufacturer was squarely focused on developing SAF. “We believe the SAF solution is where our efforts will be focused,” he said, adding that Boeing is also pursuing hydrogen technology and other alternative propulsion systems. Airbus has announced that it is working on a hydrogen airliner that will be marketed in the 2030s.

“It’s our job to stay at the cutting edge of technology,” he adds.

The increased use of new fuels like SAF may not require airports to build new infrastructure. But hydrogen probably would. Widespread use of hydrogen could require massive modernizations that airports cannot afford on their own, said Rafael Echevarne, general manager of the Latin America and Caribbean region of Airports Council International (ACI-LAC).

“We’re still at the very beginning, and that’s our big question mark,” he says. “What do you need? How much will it cost? We’re looking at all of these things.

“And if the plane is available in the 2030s, should airports prepare now?

Fabio Rabbiani, Director of the South American Office of ICAO, adds that in order to rally governments and regulatory authorities, the aviation and aerospace industries must clearly communicate the role they play in the continent’s development. .

“We have to show that aviation can benefit all other economic sectors, and build that vision of how we want to engage,” he said.

“One thing we learned from the Covid crisis is that there were gaps in communication. This subject is no different. We have to show why aviation can be a test bed for other economic sectors, ”adds Rabbiani.

ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM

Being the most visible entities in the industry’s greenhouse gas chain, airlines typically suffer the most heat from climate activists.

Henrik Hololei, Director General of the European Commission Mobility and Transport Department, says the entire aviation ecosystem must take joint responsibility – and not allow the airline industry to be the child whipped. at ALTA.

“When we talk about SAF, new technologies, more streamlined airspace, these are all aspects where the airlines are the takers, and they are the ones who are held responsible for the emissions, because they are the ones who emit.” , he said.

“We need all pieces of the industry to help the aviation industry become more sustainable,” he adds. “We are rebuilding better, this sector needs to move forward, stop the empty words and start delivering.”


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