The ‘big 3’ carbon reduction wins in the aviation industry

In the centre of a circle of tall trees looking up at the canopy
Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
10 October 2019

Over the last century air travel has completely transformed the way we live – connecting distant lands and communities and allowing us to become a truly global economy. 

While there have been many benefits accompanying the evolution of global travel, and the transformation of how we work and play, it has come with some downsides – a notable one being significant carbon emissions.

In this week’s episode of Earth Unscrewed we learn about some of the incredible things that are being done to make the aviation industry more sustainable. Presenters Helen Scales & Seyi Rhodes speak to Emma Harvey, head of sustainability at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, and Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of revolutionary carbon recycling company, LanzaTech.

During the episode you’ll hear Emma Harvey discuss how Virgin Atlantic is making the most significant impact in the shortest possible time by focusing efforts on the ‘big 3’ carbon reduction wins: fleet, CORSIA and fuels.

FLEET: Since 2011, Virgin Atlantic have been implementing a multi-billion dollar fleet upgrade from four-engine to more efficient twin-engine aircraft. By optimising planes they’re making approximately 30 per cent carbon savings per trip. Learn more about fleet VAA fleet developments here.  

CORSIA: CORSIA stands for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. It’s a hugely important deal and was negotiated by individual countries and the UN body ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and agreed in October 2016 (after many years of active industry support from airlines, including Virgin Atlantic). CORSIA aims to address industry target of carbon neutral growth from 2020. Learn more about CORSIA and its impact here.   

FUELS: The next big breakthrough for carbon reduction is set to come from advanced, affordable, waste-based sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF. VAA have set themselves a target of powering aircraft with at least 20 per cent sustainable aviation fuel by 2035. This can’t be done alone, but if the right government support is in place commercial production could start as soon as the early 2020s. Virgin Atlantic is calling for an urgent commitment to incentivise production towards jet fuels – as opposed to solely incentivising ground fuels – as this will help secure critical investment for the commercial plants we need.

From reducing emissions and drive forwards sector-leading initiatives, to utilising bacteria that transforms waste into jet fuel – this episode is all about how we can do things better to take action and achieve significant carbon reductions. Listen to Earth Unscrewed: Change is in the Air.

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Earth Unscrewed is Virgin’s podcast about the incredible (and often surprising!) solutions that are providing some serious hope for the future of our planet.