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Diverse array of energy solutions needed to decarbonize aviation, CATF report finds

September 29, 2022 Work Area: Zero-Carbon Fuels

A new report from Clean Air Task Force finds that decarbonizing the global aviation sector will require significant investment in and policy support for an expanded suite of clean energy solutions beyond only biofuels, including low-emissions hydrogen and synthetic fuels, electricity, and direct air capture — providing recommendations for policies to advance these solutions in both the United States and European Union.  

“The global aviation sector is a major greenhouse gas emitter, and we’re far from having the tools we need to decarbonize it. Biofuels simply won’t get us where we need to be,” said Jonathan Lewis, Transportation Decarbonization Director at Clean Air Task Force. “This report shows we will need significantly more support for an expanded suite of solutions, and lets governments know how they can best provide that support.” 

The report, Decarbonizing Aviation: Challenges and Opportunities for Emerging Fuels, notes that while biofuels are commonly described as “sustainable aviation fuels,” they aren’t always climate beneficial. Large-scale biofuel production drives up demand for commodity crops and motivates farmers around the world to convert natural land into farmland, a process that transfers soil- and plant-carbon into the atmosphere. Furthermore, even if biofuels were climate beneficial and if all the world’s biofuels were directed to aviation, they would still not meet projected global energy demand for aviation on their own — which is expected to increase significantly in the decades to come. 

In order to decarbonize aviation, the report finds, governments will need to develop a coherent policy response that includes: 

  1. Investments in research, development, and deployment of next-generation fuels 
  1. Tax credits or subsidies to incentivize investment and production 
  1. Regulations to accelerate demand for next-generation fuels 
  1. Technical standards – including full lifecycle accounting of the GHG emissions — tied to the production, transport, and use of aviation fuels

Read the report for a full list of policy recommendations for both U.S. and EU lawmakers, as well as an overview of the policy landscape for aviation decarbonization for both governing bodies.  


Press Contact

Troy Shaheen, Communications Director, U.S., tshaheen@catf.us, +1 845-750-1189

About Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.

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