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New Push to Decarbonize Aviation Sector as Consumers Consider Alternatives to Flying

Published
24 Sep 2019
2019
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Alem Tedeneke, Public Engagement+1 646 204 9191, Email: ated@weforum.org

  • According to exclusive data for the World Economic Forum, nearly half of the global public would consider more environmentally friendly alternatives to long-distance air travel, in some cases even if it were less convenient or more expensive
  • Frequent flyers are more likely than others to consider alternatives, but they also have greater trust in airlines’ commitment and ability to reduce environmental impact
  • The World Economic Forum today launches a Clean Skies for Tomorrow initiative, aimed at working with ambitious actors in the aviation sector to achieve carbon-neutral flying
  • Find more on Clean Skies for Tomorrow here and more on the Sustainable Development Impact Summit here

New York, 24 September 2019 – As the carbon footprint of the aviation sector comes increasingly under the spotlight, consumers are thinking twice about how they make long-distance trips, especially those who fly regularly. This is the finding from exclusive global public opinion research published today by the World Economic Forum to mark the launch of a new initiative, Clean Skies for Tomorrow, aimed at helping the sector achieve carbon-neutral flying.

According to the research, which was conducted out by Ipsos, one in seven global consumers (14%) said they would use a form of transport with a lower carbon footprint than air travel even if it were less convenient or more expensive. A further 29% said they would choose an alternative if one existed that was as convenient or no less expensive than flying. Combined, this group makes up 44% of all global consumers polled. This compares to only 26% of respondents that said they would continue to fly regardless of airlines’ carbon footprint.

Reluctance to continue flying is more acute among those that fly frequently, the research finds, with 61% of those that make five or more trips a year saying they were prepared to use alternatives. In terms of demographics, the willingness to consider alternatives was strongest among highly educated respondents (52%) and those under 35 years of age (49%) compared to 37% for those between 50 and 74 years of age.

The survey also measured consumers’ level of trust in the commitment and ability of airlines to reduce environmental impact. In total, 30% of consumers said they either had a fair amount or a great deal of trust in airlines’ commitment to reduce their footprint compared to 33% that had either very little or none. Frequent flyers have much more faith in airlines, however, with 62% having either a fair amount or a great deal of trust.

Opinions were also split when it comes to consumers’ perception of airlines’ ability to reduce their impact, with 33% in total having either a fair amount or a great deal of trust and 30% having very little or none.

“The aviation sector is facing a very difficult challenge in having to deal with more and more demand from travellers while at the same time finding ways of reducing its environmental impact. We believe the real key to the sector reaching carbon neutrality is through the scaled use of sustainable aviation fuels,” said Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility Industries at the World Economic Forum. “These exist and work, but there are not enough and they are far more expensive than traditional jet fuels. The entire value chain has to work together to drive down the cost of these fuels and we can only fulfil this mission with the support of policy-makers, industry stakeholders and all of us that rely on aviation for business and prosperity.”

“Aviation has to get to net-zero emissions. Sustainable fuels are critical to achieving this and we are delighted to join airlines, other airports and fuel companies through the World Economic Forum’s ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition’ to drive the development and uptake of these fuels,” John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive, Heathrow. “This is an important step towards making sustainable fuels commercially viable for the future.”

Aviation: Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition

With air travel predicted to double by 2035, the aviation sector could represent a significantly higher share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century compared to its 2%-3% share today.

The Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition provides a crucial mechanism for top executives and public leaders, across and beyond the aviation value chain, to align on a transition to sustainable aviation fuels as part of a meaningful and proactive pathway for the industry to achieve carbon-neutral flying.

Stakeholders will work together to address the chicken-and-egg scenario whereby producers and consumers are both either unwilling or unable to carry the initial cost burden of investing in new technologies to reach a scale where they are competitive with existing fossil fuel-derived options.

Champions of the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition will advance co-developed initiatives to break this impasse, to advance the commercial scale of viable production of sustainable low-carbon aviation fuels (bio and synthetic) for broad adoption in the industry by 2030. Initiatives include a mechanism for aggregating demand for carbon-neutral flying, a co-investment vehicle and geographically specific value-chain pilots.

The Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition is led by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Energy Transitions Commission. It is advanced through close consultation with advisory partner, the Air Transport Action Group.

Founding champions include: Airbus Group, Heathrow Airport, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Royal Schiphol Group, Shell, SkyNRG, SpiceJet and The Boeing Company.

The Sustainable Development Impact Summit takes place in New York 2019, 23-24 September. This year’s meeting will convene more than 800 regional and global leaders from government, business, civil society and academia. The meeting will explore four themes: transforming markets; accelerating climate action; financing sustainable development; and mobilizing action for inclusive societies.

The Co-Chairs of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2019 are Jesper Brodin, CEO and President, Ingka Group (IKEA Retail, Ingka Centres, Ingka Investments); Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President of Chile; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; and Melati Wijsen, Co-Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags.

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