World Economic Forum report identifies biofuels as the ‘game changer’ to achieve aviation emission targets

23.5.2011 (GreenAir online)
An aviation sustainability report from the World Economic Forum finds that achieving the industry’s target of halving its carbon emissions by
2050 will be a significant challenge given an 85% CO2 emissions reduction gap.
This is despite a significant and continuous $6 trillion investment by airlines
in newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft expected during the timeframe. The report
identifies four key levers to reduce aviation carbon emissions:
– improving aviation infrastructure,
– increasing aircraft R&D,
– accelerating scale-up of aviation biofuels and
– implementing market-based measures.
It says biofuels could help bypass long aircraft lifetimes that limit the CO2
efficiency improvement potential of other technological innovations but 13.6 million
barrels of sustainable second generation biofuels with significantly lower lifecycle
CO2 emissions would be required daily by 2050 to meet the target.

The report says it is unlikely that governments will be able to provide all the
necessary funds for the implementation of the necessary technological and infrastructure
improvements and it will require the involvement of capital markets, private equity
and, for developing countries, the multilateral development banks to fill in the
financial gaps.

According to analysis by World Economic Forum and its partner on the report,
Booz & Company, demand for passenger and cargo is projected to grow by 4.5%
per year, from 540 billion revenue tonne kilometres in 2010 to 3,000 billion in
Carbon emissions are forecast to increase at a slower annual average rate of
3% a year, from 630 million tonnes in 2010 to around 2,000 million tonnes in 2050,
assuming industry fleet improvements take place to replace old aircraft and cover
demand growth with newer more fuel and CO2 efficient aircraft.
As such, the gap between the 2 billion tonnes base case and the industry target
of 330 million tonnes in 2050 would equal almost three times today’s total aviation
CO2 emissions.

“Significant leadership opportunities need to be taken by the industry to ensure
it can grow and still reach its CO2 targets,” says the report.

It advises the industry to inform and educate policy-makers on the criticality
and urgency of implementing aviation infrastructure improvements such as the US
NextGen and the Single European Sky air traffic management projects. Industry
should also work with policy-makers to develop financial and legal incentives
to increase investment into incremental R&D for radical new aircraft technologies
and to drive vertical partnerships with stakeholders along the entire biofuel
value chain.

It also calls for industry to actively engage and support governments working
with ICAO in the development of a global sectoral approach on market-based measures
for aviation through partnerships with experts from the carbon finance community,
and ensure that any measures that are developed focus on incentivising the parties
best placed to make the CO2 abatement investment.

Positive fiscal incentives are seen as having the most potential to increase
investment in reducing carbon by the aviation industry. Given that the report
had a considerable input from airline and aviation interests, it unsurprisingly
rejects green taxes and levies that are currently being implemented or discussed
in different countries. It cautions that “taxes usually result in a net outflow
of funds from the industry that inhibits investment in CO2 reduction projects.”

The report argues that only a limited indirect effect on emissions reduction
is likely to occur with such measures through the cost increase of air travel
if carriers pass costs on to customers and the resulting likely slight decrease
in air traffic. “In addition, the potential macroeconomic effect of more expensive
and thus reduced air travel on GDP and economic development must be considered,”
it says, adding that aviation is an important enabler for the trade of goods,
tourism, services and the socioeconomic development of nations.

The daily requirement for 13.6 million barrels of jet biofuel by 2050 to meet
the industry target would represent a shift to 90% sustainable biofuels in 2050,
estimates the report’s researchers
[ 13.6 million barrels per day works out at 4.9 billion barrels per year.  This
is well over 6 times current global biofuels production.  AirportWatch calculation.
Jürgen Ringbeck, Senior VP and aviation expert at Booz & Company, said the
biggest challenge would be in building up the supply of sustainable biofuels and promoting their prioritisation for use in the aviation sector.

“The sector’s move to biofuels requires significant investments to achieve a
quantum leap in technology and increase production,” he said. “The necessary market
dynamics will only develop if governments set the right incentives for the agricultural
sector, energy producers and the airlines to incubate a global aviation biofuel
production system. Due to the early stage of development and high risks involved
with aviation biofuels, a new innovative approach of all involved stakeholders
is required.”

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum said it hopes the report will lead industry
and government stakeholders to engage in a wider discussion among themselves and
with non-governmental communities to “build a practical enabling environment that
should be conducive to catalysing a step change in private sector action to decrease
aviation CO2 emissions, develop and deploy revolutionary existing and new technologies,
and provide sustainable investment choices at scale and speed.”

The report is the outcome of a year-long collaboration among leaders in the aviation,
energy and financial services industries, governments, universities and international


World Economic Forum – ‘Policies and Collaborative Partnership for Sustainable
Aviation’ report (download)

By comparison 
 The global biofuel production is estimated to reach 1,900 Million barrels in
2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the forecast period
2015 – 2020.   (That’s about half of current Saudi oil production).
In 2015  there may be around 130 billion litres of biofuel produced,3343,en_2649_37401_40054096_1_1_1_1,00.html
(1 barrel of oil is about 159 litres.  Therefore 130 billion litres is around 0.8 billion barrels.  Compare that with the anticipated
demand of 4.9 billion barrels biofuel by 2050)