For how long will flying less remain the best way to reduce aviation’s climate impact?

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EURACTIV is an independent pan-European media network specialised in EU affairs, established in 1999.

While technological solutions may cut aviation emissions in the future, flying less is the best option to reduce our climate impact now, writes Andrew Murphy.

Andrew Murphy is the aviation director at the clean mobility NGO Transport and Environment.  (Euractiv)

Europe’s efforts to address aviation’s climate impact, as seen in its fuel and carbon pricing proposals launched last year, can be seen as either an historic step towards getting to the root of the problem or as not nearly enough to address aviation’s mammoth climate problem.

The reality is, both of these views are correct.

That legislation, called the Fit for 55 package, finally gets to the root of the problem: better pricing of aviation emissions and developing alternative fuels to replace fossil kerosene.

Aviation emissions need to fall now, but the technical solutions to achieve this will take time. [Kichigin /]

European co-legislators could bring the package a step forward by also using it to address aviation’s non-CO2 climate effects, and supporting the deployment of zero-emission aircraft.

But even with the best will in the world, sustainable fuels will take time to be scaled up.

There aren’t enough existing feedstocks for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) lying around waiting to be used, and a dash for higher targets would result in airlines filling up with unsustainable animal fats, crop biofuels and fraudulent used cooking oil.

Production of the most promising alternative fuels based on renewable electricity, known as e-kerosene, will only scale up towards the end of this decade.

And new electric and hydrogen aircraft are exciting prospects, but likewise will take time to come to market. Solutions to aviation’s non-CO2 effects are also increasingly viable, but also need time to be developed and deployed.

We now face a conundrum. Aviation emissions need to fall now, but the technical solutions to achieve this take time.

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