Aviation's green horizon: 2024's eco-friendly push
Market Insight 06 February 2024 06 February 2024
Predictions 2024 - Climate Change
Balancing carbon commitments with technological and regulatory realities
In 2024, the aviation industry will face pressure to accelerate its adoption of lower-carbon technologies, driven by ICAO’s “aspirational goals” and IATA's 2050 Fly Net Zero commitment. This challenge will remain a powerful catalyst for aerospace companies and airlines to invest significantly in eco-friendly aircraft technologies. Simultaneously, governmental bodies and NGOs will respond with regulation, potential litigation, and a healthy dose of skepticism.
As percentage mandates for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in the fuel mix become more widely enacted, airlines and aerospace companies will continue to invest in this. Aviation companies will also continue to look closely at R&D in adopting hydrogen and battery-powered aircraft technologies.
Advanced air mobility, particularly Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles, will also see significant investments and joint ventures. However, eVTOL's path-to-market will remain challenging due to intricate and exacting certification processes with weight, energy density and range posing impediments for longer, higher altitude flights. The latter is particularly pertinent given this is where commercial aviation’s carbon footprint remains high with increasing demand for long-haul flights. Ensuring technology safety and reliability will present substantial hurdles. Additionally, eVTOLs can compound the complexity of urban airspace congestion, necessitating enhanced air traffic control management systems.
Despite the industry's commendable efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, skepticism and calls for more radical options will persist. SAFs’ limitations in scaling production will expose pricing disparities. Meanwhile, questions will linger regarding the weight and power density of battery-powered aircraft technologies and their viability, particularly for long-range flights for more than 4-6 passengers.
In 2024, expect heightened litigation as NGOs and watchdogs scrutinize aviation companies for perceived greenwashing. Companies will become more mindful of their environmental claims in marketing and advertising.
Furthermore, the year will witness a continuation of the trend of governments exploring flight schedule reductions, caps, and potential bans, particularly for short-haul travel, and particularly toward business aviation.
Aviation must continue efforts to reduce its environmental impact while adopting realistic metrics for demonstrating carbon emissions reduction. Governments, along with the oil-and-gas industry that has benefited from transportation’s reliance on fossil fuels, must provide smart tax incentives and massive R&D to find alternatives to meet tomorrow’s demand for aviation travel.