Airline executives predict ‘major changes’ amid push to cut emissions: analyst

Aviation leaders predict “major changes” in the way people travel as sustainability requirements increase, an analyst says.

“It’s sort of a new era,” David Callaway, founder and editor of Callaway Climate Insights, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “Some are already saying it’s a bubble… But they’re going high right now, and I think you’ll see them start to pay attention, because they know their customers are paying attention. They know their customers care. this kind of things.”

Callaway spoke to Yahoo Finance Live as airline executives gathered at the Paris Air Show to strike deals and discuss the future of air travel.

Faced with growing pressure to improve its climate footprint, the International Air Transport Association – a group of 300 airlines including United, Delta and JetBlue – has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

But achieving that goal will be tricky. This requires reducing relatively low carbon output – in 2021, aviation accounted for just 1.8% of total carbon emissions, a figure well below that of industries like automotive, which accounted for over 12% .

Still, that’s a big sum — domestic aviation alone emitted 327 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, almost as much as international flights, which emitted 384 million metric tons, according to IATA. .

While IATA said governments and businesses must participate to help the industry reach its net zero goal, Callaway said airlines are always striving to develop new technologies. And they’re looking for ways to deliver on their promises to cut emissions beyond just buying carbon offsets.

“What lurks in the background is what every aviation leader knows there will be major changes in how people travel and what they are going to demand from the fuel cycles of these airlines,” he said.

In 2021, the International Air Transport Association pledged to achieve net zero emissions in the airline industry by 2050. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In 2021, the International Air Transport Association pledged to achieve net zero emissions in the airline industry by 2050. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In some places, airlines are being pressured by governments willing to make the same climate commitment to their citizens. Last month, France – host of the Paris Air Show – banned short-haul flights between places where rail routes exist, and Austria has implemented a similar ban.

Faced with a population that began a “flight shame” movement in 2019, Sweden increased emission charges for planes. The Nordic country has said it wants older planes, which emit more carbon, to pay more on take-off and landing.

Callaway said the United States was a different story, although more short-haul flights were cancelled. It’s the first sign of a global shift toward longer flights, which Callaway says will become the center of attention in sustainability efforts.

“(The) airline industry is entering a new era of super long-haul flying,” he said, “and in that area we are going to see the advancement of sustainable aviation fuel.”

An example of the potential future of aviation: the use of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF – which Callaway said will either be a “jet fuel and biofuel hybrid” or biofuel created from waste food and other renewable materials.

As the airline industry recovers from years of pandemic and disaster, Callaway said he’s discussing climate change efforts on a level he’s never seen before.

“Times have definitely changed and the airline industry is changing with it,” he said.

Jared Mitovich is a staff writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @jmitovitch

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