The World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced that 20 airline members of its Target True Zero initiative have committed to using new technologies to combat climate change.

The airlines have pledged their support for novel forms of propulsion powered by sustainable energy sources, such as electric and hydrogen-powered planes, as well as hybrid aircraft.

The statement said:

“The adoption of these technologies into the global fleet – through either new aircraft design or the retrofitting of conventional aircraft – can help reduce the climate impact of our operations while preserving the immense economic and social benefits that aviation brings to the world.”

The signatory airlines operate more than 800 aircraft and carry over 177 million passengers on 1.8 million flights per year. These include Aero, Air New Zealand, Air Nostrum, Alaska Airlines, Amelia, ASL Aviation Holdings, Braathens Regional Airlines, Easyjet, Finistair, Icelandair, Iskwew Air, Loganair, Mokulele, Ravn Alaska, Soundsair, Southern Airways Express, Surf Air Mobility, Viva Aerobus, Waltzing Matilda Aviation, and Xwing.

The airlines have begun by concentrating on short-haul flights, and are working towards employing novel propulsion technologies for 30 per cent of aircraft, that serve routes of 750km or less, added to their fleets from 2030 onwards. They will then decarbonise longer range aircraft “once this becomes technologically and economically viable”.

The signatories also called on aerospace manufacturers to prioritise innovation that will enable them to meet such targets, and also urged governments to implement policies to incentivise operators to adopt these technologies and address the infrastructure issues needed to support their use in airports globally.

The Target True Zero initiative was launched in July 2021 to develop understanding about how new propulsion technology can address the climate impacts of aviation, and how the deployment and scaling of such technologies can be accelerated.

Timothy Reuter, Head of Aerospace and Drones of the World Economic Forum, commented:

“The Target True Zero initiative will address the role novel propulsion technologies like electric and hydrogen aviation can play in the transition to an aviation system with true zero climate impacts. It will address issues in the areas of technology, industry dynamics, infrastructure and supply chain, regulation, and public acceptance.

“By accelerating the adoption of solutions with fewer climate impacts, we can ensure equitable growth around the globe while ensuring a healthy planet for future generations.

David Morgan, Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer at Air New Zealand, added:

“Air New Zealand has an aspiration to put low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade. (…) We know that the journey to decarbonising the aviation industry is not something that one airline can tackle alone. Initiatives like True Target Zero are vitally important to share information, learnings and accelerate the adoption of zero-emission aircraft around the globe. Air New Zealand is thrilled to be on board with other industry leaders and we look forward to working towards our net-zero goals together.”

At the start of the week British Airways operated an A350 aircraft to New York which was powered with 35 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

British Airways powers New York flight with 35 per cent sustainable aviation fuel