Destination 2050: A route to net zero European aviation

    Destination 2050: A route to net zero European aviation

    Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) & SEO Amsterdam Economics

    Destination 2050 shows a possible pathway that combines new technologies, improved operations, sustainable aviation fuels and economic measures. Absolute emissions are reduced by 92%, while the remaining 8% is removed from the atmosphere through negative emissions, achieved through natural carbon sinks or dedicated technologies.

    The report concludes that net zero CO2 emissions from all flights within and departing from the EU can be achieved by 2050 though joint, coordinated and decisive industry and government efforts.

    The report assesses to what extent four groups of sustainability measures are able to reduce carbon emissions until 2050, strongly influenced by policies and actions. The effects of these measures are compared to a hypothetical reference scenario taking into account continuous demand growth and the recent COVID-19 impact. These sustainability measures result in the following net CO2 emissions reductions in the year 2050:

    • 111 MtCO2 through improvements in aircraft and engine technology:
      • 60 MtCO2 by hydrogen-powered aircraft on intra-European routes and
      • 51 MtCO2 by kerosene-powered or (hybrid-)electric aircraft;
    • 18 MtCO2 through improvements in air traffic management (ATM) and aircraft operations;
    • 99 MtCO2 through using drop-in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF);
    • 22 MtCO2 through economic measures (carbon removal projects only).

    The research states that implementing these measures could make 2019 the peak year in absolute CO2 emissions from European aviation, thereby surpassing the industry target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 onwards. In the year 2030, net CO2 emissions are reduced by 45% compared to the hypothetical reference scenario as a result of continued fleet renewal, improvements in ATM and aircraft operations and a substantial reliance on economic measures. Compared to the CO2 emissions in the year 1990, on which European Green Deal targets are based, this however means a 36% increase of net CO2 emissions from European aviation. This is due to the fact that most substantial emission reductions measures – a next generation of aircraft and substantial uptake of sustainable aviation fuel – take more time to materialize. The research states that it is nonetheless essential that the foundations for post-2030 reductions are laid in the coming years, to realize net zero CO2 emissions in 2050 and reduce reliance on economic measures.

    The figure below shows the above mentioned sustainability measures as a roadmap towards 2050.

    The research provides further details on how these sustainability measures can be implemented and also gives recommendations towards both industry and government.

    Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre and SEO Amsterdam Economics conducted this study commissioned by the representatives of European airports, airlines, aerospace manufacturers and air navigation service providers.

    Click here to read the full publication.

    The executive summary can be found here.

    • Date 09/03/2021
    • Tags 2021, Aviation, Climate, EU, Fuels, hydrogen, Innovation, Legislation, Policy, Research, Scenario-analysis, Sustainability, Technology