Since over 330 International Air Transport Organisation (IATA) members airlines first came together in 2021 to make a formal commitment to decarbonisation targets, IATA has continued to work “across industry and the supply chain to make sure we have the right tools to help everybody move towards net zero 2050,” explained Hemant Mistry, Director of Net Zero Transition at IATA. However, speaking to FINN at Sustainable Skies World Summit 2024, he highlighted that much more practical work needs to be done to understand and subsequently mitigate non-CO2 emissions.

IATA has a crucial role in catalysing change within the industry, Mistry elaborated. “We can operate globally – we can really understand what sort of opportunities there are across different regions in the world”. Having secured the necessary commitment from member airlines, IATA’s current role involves advocating and assisting “on the procurement side, the supply side, the standards side” across “all of the different areas, and all of the different levers for net zero 2050”.

With IATA’s roadmaps (including some 150 milestones) representing the first bottom-up approach to move to net zero 2050, these need practical solutions. Following the first 100% SAF-powered transatlantic flight, “now what we’re doing is looking at some of the milestones, working with different suppliers, to scale up new pathways and new feedstock technologies so we can get the ramp-up of SAF we need by 2030,” said Mistry.

Regarding SAF, “[IATA] can work to see how we can best cultivate and utilize that production capacity and how we can use that on a global scale for a global industry – I think that’s really important,” he added. “Let’s also bear in mind that some of these feed stock opportunities create economic value for rural communities as well, so we’re harnessing new potential for those communities”. Next steps in scaling up SAF will inevitably “need the big companies to come on board as well,” hence IATA is “actively working with the oil companies, traditional oil companies, to see how they can best transition away from fossil fuels so we can have more renewable solutions from the big companies as well”. However, engagement with new companies will also be critical in solving solutions to support aviation’s decarbonisation.

Detailing that IATA’s “commitment to reducing CO2 and non-co” [emissions] are equal,” Mistry also detailed IATA’s belief that it needs to do more industry and government-partnered research to “really understand how best we can quantify the impact of non-CO2 on a per flight basis – and this is what’s really important, how we can mitigate it”. He added that “we are really focused on… working within the scientific community, the OEMs and so on”.

Some governments, including the European Union, are already looking at ways in which they call MRV – how they can measure, report, validate and verify non-CO2, explained Mistry. “But their proposals are not accurate enough. All they’re doing is, I think unfortunately, trying to tick a box to quantify non-CO2. But it’s not going to be accurate enough and they will openly have to admit that their solution does not help mitigate non-CO2.” He concluded: “One of the ways we think we really need to progress on is to find a small population of aircraft which have what we call humidity sensors – and then they could help determine which regions which would be more prone to contrails. That’d the kind of steps we need: practical, real steps that help solve the issue – not paper exercises that are essentially a tick in the box for certain communities”.
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