There is no doubt that aviation has a positive impact on our lives, allowing goods to travel around the world, businesses to flourish and connecting family and friends. However, today the science is clear, CO2 emissions must be reduced if the world wants to avoid the most drastic effects of climate change. Aviation has a key role to play, accounting for around 2% of CO2 emissions globally.
Options for more sustainable flying are becoming increasingly available and developing rapidly with numerous breakthroughs achieved in recent years. In particular, Sustainable Aviation Fuels, or SAF, are an alternative to fossil fuels. SAF, produced from sustainable resources, is increasingly being blended into conventional jet fuel supplies around the world, directly reducing aviation emissions. The technological feasibility of SAF is proven. Moreover, of all the decarbonization options for aviation, SAF is expected to present the largest CO2 emissions reduction opportunity by 2050, and beyond. This was recognised globally by States during their Long-Term Aspirational Goal (Net-Zero by 2050) deliberations at the 41st International Civil Aviation Organization General Assembly.
It is hoped in the future, SAF will be used on all conventional flights by default. SAF is part of the overall decarbonization solution for the industry which also requires use of new technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft. Today however, SAF is only available at a small number of airports globally. In order for SAF to scale, cost must come down and demand must increase. Airlines are doing their part, signing agreements to purchase large amounts of SAF as it becomes available, and governments are implementing policies and incentives for SAF.
Importantly, travellers (corporate and individuals) can also assist in growing this demand by directly purchasing SAF for their flights. This is called ‘insetting’. In return, SAF Certificates can be issued, enabling corporate travellers in particular, to formally report the associated emissions reductions as part of their organizations environmental reporting process.
Unlike offsetting, which aims to reduce or prevent emissions via projects that plant trees or invest in cleaner ways to cook, for example, insetting through the purchase of SAF, allows travellers to directly invest in eliminating aviation lifecycle emissions. Flying with SAF replaces the use of conventional jet fuel, which means that the carbon stored in fossil fuels remains in the ground. Carbon dioxide produced during combustion of SAF is absorbed within the process of SAF production. Insetting therefore, directly supports decarbonization of the aviation sector.
- A number of airlines offer passengers the option to purchase SAF directly during the booking process.
- Business jet users may be able to directly purchase SAF from their fuel supplier at some airports.
- Alternatively, SAF can be purchased via a number of dedicated purchase sites, where consumers can calculate their travel-related emissions and then select what percentage of their emissions they would like to reduce with SAF.
The following sites are run by or in cooperation with members of the Clean Skies for Tomorrow initiative and are just some of the options available for flying on SAF (beyond those offered by airlines during the booking process).
These external links connect directly to corporate sites not affiliated with the Forum. Before purchasing, consumers should carefully read the terms and conditions, ensuring that the purchase price, SAF use period, and certification issuance process are in line with their corporate or personal reporting needs.
Many travelers, especially corporate travelers and their organizations, will need to provide proof of CO2 reduction for mandators or voluntary emissions reporting procedures. SAF Certificates are the way to do that.
A certificate of credit for the CO2 reduction should be available once the SAF order volume has been used. Purchasers should be aware that SAF supplies are limited and as such, it may take a number of months for the SAF purchased to be delivered to an airport and used in an aircraft. It is therefore important, that corporate travelers in particular, check that the chosen supplier (airline or purchase platform) will:
1. issue a certificate; and
2. do so within a timeframe that meets corporate or personal reporting requirements.
SAF is currently produced in a limited number of locations and not transported widely (doing so would increase its lifecycle emissions). This means it is not available at all airports. As a result, the industry uses what is called a “book and claim” system. (This is similar to the common approach of purchasing “green” electricity.) There are two impacts of purchasing via a “book and claim” scheme.
1. While SAF may not be available for the travelers' specific flight, the purchase puts the volume of SAF consumed into the global fuel supply. Therefore, this displaces the purchase of conventional fuel, reducing the volume of fossil fuels being burnt and the associated emissions.
2. Any SAF purchased also helps strengthen the demand signal, ultimately leading to a systemic increase in the volumes of SAF produced.
SAF describes non-conventional (fossil-derived) aviation fuel produced from biological (plant or animal material) and non-biological sources (e.g. municipal waste or waste CO2). SAF is typically produced using a range of technology pathways and feedstocks. SAF is known as a “drop-in” fuel because little to no change needs to be made to aircraft or infrastructure and it can be blended with conventional jet fuel.
To produce SAF, the industry needs to tap into a range of options as no single sustainable feedstock will answer every need. Given the range of feedstocks, production methods and locations, the final emission reduction of a given batch of SAF may therefore differ. However, one of the benefits of purchasing SAF through a “book and claim” system, is that all of this is taken into account. The volume of SAF purchased is adjusted to match the CO2 generated by the flight.
Airlines and purchase platforms typically estimate the CO2 emissions caused by the fossil fuel needed for a particular flight and bring the respective amount of SAF into airline operations to fully account for those emissions. However, the exact methods used to calculate CO2 and the volume of SAF to purchase for a given flight may differ across platforms or airlines based on the variables included in the calculations. Variables that may influence this include the type of SAF, fare class, routing and aircraft type for example.
And that is because it currently is.
As a relatively new solution to the market, SAF is currently at least 2x the price of conventional jet fuel. With increasing demand, new technologies and facilities are being developed, improving the efficiency of production and increasing the availability.
For further information on the purchase of SAF, and in particular, how book and claim systems enable these kinds of purchases, please refer to the publication Powering Sustainable Aviation Through Consumer Demand: The Clean Skies for Tomorrow Sustainable Aviation Fuel Certificate (SAFc) Framework.