Over 200,000 commercial flights using low-carbon fuel show an energy transition is possible

Montreal, 26 September 2019 – As the world’s aviation community gathers in Montreal for the 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, the aviation industry is demonstrating its commitment to climate action every day across its global network, this week surpassing 200,000 passenger flights using sustainable aviation fuels. Through deployment of new technology, improvements in operations and infrastructure, the sector is working to improve efficiency and cut CO2 emissions in the short- and medium-term.

Long-term commitments to halve CO2 emissions from the sector will rely on the introduction of radical new technology and an energy transition to fossil free sustainable aviation fuels. Michael Gill, Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group says: “Aviation has always been an industry exploring the cutting edge of technology and a number of new developments give us guidance on the shape of air transport operations in the future. Electric propulsion and even hydrogen are starting to become more robust technology options, although a great deal of research remains to be done in both areas. Electric may be a possibility for short-haul aircraft operations in the 2035-2040 timeframe.

“For mid- and long-haul flying, an energy transition away from fossil-based fuels and towards sustainable sources of liquid fuel is needed. Luckily, the industry has already been hard at work in this area. Over 200,000 commercial flights have now taken place since we gained certification for the use of sustainable aviation fuel in 2011. It is in regular use at five global airports, but the percentage of total fuel use is still very small.

“A transition like this cannot happen overnight. There are 11 sustainable aviation fuel production facilities currently in operation, under construction or in the final stages of financing. We need to double that production stream and then double it again to start making a noticeable impact on our carbon footprint. The energy transition has begun, but we need governments to help accelerate that process through policy measures that can bring about a faster shift as we navigate the pathway towards our long-term goal of halving aviation’s CO2 emissions by 2050.”


  • The industry working paper urging a long-term goal for aviation to be agreed by the 2022 ICAO Assembly is available here.