There is “so much momentum” behind the push for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) that 2023 is a “really exciting” juncture in the route to cleaner, greener air transport, said Jonathon Counsell, group head of sustainability at International Airlines Group.

Speaking at the Sustainable Skies World Summit 2023, he told FINN: “We are fully committed [to meeting sustainability targets]. We were the first industry to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. And I believe we’re still the only industry that is such committed and we’re also committed to solutions – not only the long term reduction in emissions, but sustainable aviation fuels. So 66% of all airlines around the world have now committed to 10% [SAF] by 2030. And that’s now leading governments, so the US and UK Governments have now followed the industry’s lead in those commitments.”

Commenting on the time it takes to negotiate a SAF contract, Counsell added: “These deals are so new, and in many instances, they require an investment in the company that’s producing the SAF.

“We have to prove that these fuels are truly sustainable. There’s a lot more information required to prove the sustainability of the feedstocks and the production of these fuels, but that time will come down as we do more details. The time to do them will reduce.”

US leading the way

Counsell said the United States is leading the way when it comes to the production of SAF.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage every country to produce sustainable aviation fuels,” he said. “The beauty is there’s not one type. There’s eight types. So pretty much every country could produce SAF. But without doubt the leading country at the moment is the United States.

“Now they’ve introduced some really attractive policies. So most of the global capital is going there. I mean, us IoT for instance, we’ve committed to 10% by 2030. That’s a million tonnes we’ve secured 25% 20 250,000 tonnes 90% of that will be supplied from the US. so most of the action has taken place there.

“We’ve seen so much momentum. I’ve been working in sustainable aviation fuels for the last 15 years, and it’s great, today it is really exciting because we’re actually seeing the first plants get built.”
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