Unlike other transport sectors, civil aviation has no other energy alternative, such as solar power or electricity, and will have to use liquid fuels for the foreseeable future.
Emissions from international aviation are specifically excluded from the targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. This has led to some national environmental policies such as fuel and emission taxes for domestic air travel in the Netherlands and Norway, respectively. Although some countries tax the fuel used by domestic aviation, there is no duty on kerosene used on international flights at this moment. The EU is pressing ahead with its plans to include aviation in its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Today global international aviation emissions are 70% higher than in 2005 and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 these could grow by a further 300-700%.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has the potential to reduce up to 80% of CO2 emissions compared to fossil fuel when used on a large scale. One would expect to see a flourishing SAF market, however, the reality is that this market is virtually non-existent because of the economics. Bio jet fuel is still two or three times more expensive than fossil fuel.
On October 6, 2016, the ICAO finalized an agreement among its 191 member nations to address the more than 1000 ton of carbon dioxide emitted annually by international passenger and cargo flights. The agreement will use an offsetting scheme called CORSIA (the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) from which forestry and other carbon-reducing activities are directly funded.
Under the agreement, the global aviation emissions target is a 50% reduction by 2050 relative to 2005.
To achieve this goal approximately 100 million-ton SAF per year would be needed at today’s global jet fuel consumption but less than 0.1 percent of this volume is produced today.