Emirates Commits $200 Million to R&D For Sustainable Aviation
Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, has pledged to invest $200 million in research and development (R&D) projects aimed at reducing the impact of fossil fuels on commercial aviation. This marks the largest single commitment by any airline to sustainability and will be disbursed over three years. United Airlines previously held the largest commitment to sustainable aviation.
The funds will be used to identify partnerships with leading organizations working on solutions in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and energy technologies. Emirates plans to invest in advanced fuel and energy solutions for aviation, areas the airline currently faces the biggest challenges in reducing its environmental impact.
Emirates’ president, Sir Tim Clark, stated that the airline had looked long and hard at the reality it faces in commercial aircraft and engine technology, fuel supply chain, and industry regulatory and eco-system requirements. “It’s clear that with the current pathways available to airlines in terms of emissions reduction, our industry won’t be able to hit net-zero targets in the prescribed timeline.”
“We believe our industry needs better solutions, and that’s why we’re looking to partner with leading organisations on R&D. Our aim is to contribute meaningfully to practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of commercial aviation.”, stated Clark.
Until viable SAF solutions can be found, the airline will continue to implement environmentally responsible practices throughout its business, including supporting SAF, ensuring efficient fleet operations, and incorporating modern and efficient aircraft into its fleet.
The airline’s strategy focuses on emissions reduction, responsible consumption, and the conservation of wildlife and habitats. Emirates’ investment in flying one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world is its biggest commitment overall to reducing its emissions. The airline currently has 200 of the latest Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft on order, including A350s and 777Xs.
Emirates participates in a range of industry working groups and stakeholder engagements on sustainable aviation fuel. The airline also has a comprehensive fuel efficiency program that actively investigates and implements ways to reduce unnecessary fuel burn and emissions.
Some of the airline’s most significant initiatives include the operation of “flex tracks” or flexible routings, introducing fuel-efficient practices while the aircraft is on the ground, such as the use of ground power units instead of the aircraft Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), and switching one or two engines off while taxiing and after landing.
Emirates also invests in renewable energy initiatives, including the installation of solar panels to power some of its operational buildings in Dubai and the use of electric vehicles in its operations.
The airline has been recognized for its environmental initiatives by a number of industry organizations. In 2019, the airline was awarded the Eco-Airline of the Year award by Air Transport World for its sustainable practices and eco-friendly policies. Emirates was alone one of the first airlines to publish an Environmental Report, which details the airline’s environmental initiatives and performance.
Emirates completed the first 100% SAF-powered demonstration flight in partnership with Boeing and GE in January. However, bio-based SAF, currently the only type of commercially available SAF, is extremely limited in supply. IATA estimates that the entire world’s annual supply of SAF meets less than 0.1% of airlines’ needs.
The aviation industry is responsible for approximately 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with that number expected to increase as more efficient aircraft lead to lower fares for passengers. The aviation industry is under increasing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint as a result.
One of the major challenges for the aviation industry is the significant amount of investment required to develop SAF capacity to power aircraft, as well as the supporting infrastructure. It is estimated that the airline industry would need to invest $121 billion per year over the next several years to achieve those goals.
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