© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A plane is seen during sunrise at Munich International Airport
By Kate Abnett and Laurence Frost BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s aviation sector on Thursday outlined how it could phase out its net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a commitment it said would depend on political support to scale up sustainable fuels and innovative technologies. Airlines affected by the coronavirus travel slump are also facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the public over their environmental impact, as the European Union seeks to reduce its net production of greenhouse gases across the economy to zero by 2050. A study backed by airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers and air navigation providers said the industry can reduce its net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 from flights in and out of the European Economic Area, Great Britain and Switzerland. “While we assume our responsibilities, it is clear that we cannot do this alone,” said Olivier Jankovec, director general of the airport organization ACI Europe, which published the report together with Airlines for Europe, the ASD group of manufacturers, the body of air traffic control CANSO and regional association of airlines ERA. “We need the EU to deliver the regulatory and policy framework that will allow us to deliver net zero,” Jankovec said. By 2050, the groups said that European aviation could reduce 92% of its emissions and offset the rest using carbon removal technologies. The sector emitted 192 million tons of CO2 in 2019. Most of the cuts would be made through technologies that include hydrogen and hybrid-electric propulsion, in addition to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Carbon pricing policies, better air traffic management, and the impact of environmental costs on air travel demand would lead to more modest reductions. Given that key low-carbon technologies are unlikely before 2030, the report said aviation would be heavily reliant on offsets to address its emissions this decade. The groups called for supportive policies that include the price of CO2 and an EU-wide blending obligation for SAF, which currently accounts for less than 1% of jet fuel consumption in Europe. The EU is developing SAF usage targets for airlines. On Monday, eight EU countries called for a European SAF combination mandate.