According to the boss of the second-largest airline in the world, tackling climate change will increase flight costs.
According to Ed Bastian, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, “Over the course of time it will cost us all more but it is the right approach that must be taken,” he told BBC.
The International Energy Agency estimates that about 2.5% global carbon emissions are caused by aviation.
According to critics, the only way to decrease them is by flying less.
Atlanta-based Delta says that after spending $30m (£22.4m) a year on carbon-offsetting it has been carbon neutral since March 2020.
It also promised to invest $1bn in the next 10 years to eliminate all emissions.
It hopes to make the world more fuel efficient and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by developing sustainable aviation fuels.
It is essential to reduce carbon emissions if we are to limit global warming at 1.5C above preindustrial levels, as was agreed by Paris 2015 and Glasgow’s COP26 climate summit.
Andreas Schafer (University College London professor of energy & transport) says moving the global aviation sector towards zero carbon emissions will require a “trillions” rather than billions.
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His preliminary research suggests that airfares will need to rise by between 10% and 20% to meet the cost of these costs.
Prof Schafer states that “in the short-term government support will likely be required with these costs because decarbonising aircraft will be extremely difficult. Therefore, current efforts will have to be dramatically scaled up.”
Bastian admits that it’s a lofty goal and one his airline will not be able achieve on its own.
He said, “It is the greatest long-term problem this industry faces.” We’re currently in an industry classified as difficult to decarbonize because we do not have enough bio-fuels and sustainable aviation fuels to meet our needs.
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Delta plans to use 10% of sustainable aviation fuel before the end 2030.
SAFs are being used by many airlines and fuel firms. Others are developing technologies that convert food waste into fuel for jet aircraft and extract carbon dioxide from the air.
These fuels are still more expensive than other jet fuels, and they require more of them. This is a problem.
The US government predicts that the demand for jet fuel will more than double in 2050.
According to International Air Transport Association, (IATA), passenger flight numbers will increase from pre-pandemic levels of 4.5 billion and 10 billion in 2050.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, stated to the BBC that even though it is difficult to produce the necessary levels of SAF production “it can be done if the industry and the governments collaborate.”
Production increases will lower the price to competitive levels. Similar increases have been seen in wind and solar power development in recent years.”
23 countries pledged their cooperation to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation sector by working together at the UN climate summit held in Glasgow. They are all working together to achieve their goals, including more efficient energy usage and sustainable aviation fuels.
Greenpeace, an environmental group claims the agreement amounts to “brazen greenwashing”.
Klara Maria Scheink from Greenpeace says, “This announcement is full if scams like offsetting.
But it fails to take tangible steps to reduce flight and green travel, which are the only things that will help achieve the goal to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.
While many individuals and businesses have taken the opportunity to evaluate their carbon footprints through the pandemic, Bastian believes that the numbers of flight will return to the pre-pandemic level.
All forms of travel will return. We are most pleased to see families as a group of travellers. There have been many difficult stories of family members not being able connect for extended periods of time. [periods]”.
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Bastian also says business travel is returning as video meeting can’t substitute for everything.
When people come together, there is a sense of unity and purpose.
Delta’s desire to travel led to a $194m profit during the three-month period ending in September. It was the first profit it has reported since the pandemic.
Delta, which flew 200 million passengers per year in 2019, was the 2nd largest airline worldwide before the pandemic. In September 2018, it operated at 71% of its prepandemic capacity.
Its domestic US market recovery has been the fastest while long-haul flights to Asia have taken the longest. This pattern is similar to the one seen in recent Boeing forecasts, where they predicted that global aviation will recover fully by 2024.
Delta, like other airlines, has been supported by the US in a billions of dollars to help them through the pandemic. However, they are optimistic about a better future, now that the US has opened its borders to foreign travelers.
Bastian said that this might take some adjustment and may cause long lines at airports while paperwork and Covid vaccines are being checked.
But he remains confident in the airline’s future and said that the pandemic was an “opportunity to invest in our tomorrow”.
The airline is now making money, he said: “We hope that we can maintain that and continue into the new year being a profitable carrier.”
Ed Bastian’s complete interview can be viewed on “Aaron Heslehurst talks businessBBC World News, Saturday at 23:30 GMT, Sunday at 05.30 GMT, Monday at 16:30 GMT, and Monday at 08.30 GMT.
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