SAF Photo 204946680 © Wirestock
© Wirestock

Tiaca director general Glyn Hughes has weighed into the SAF debate and aviation’s route to net-zero, urging the industry to recognise the multiple paths it can take to greener flights.

Concerns have been raised over airfreight’s capacity to maintain its present growth rate, cater to rising demand for e-commerce and hit 2050 net-zero targets. However, some commentators are suggesting the focus on SAF as the route has become myopic.

Change Horizon MD Celine Hourcade told The Loadstar reaching net-zero while still doubling traffic each year was “wishful thinking”, and that e-commerce presented a hurdle to aviation becoming sustainable.

But Mr Hughes said e-commerce was just a way of purchasing goods and its issues reflected those seen across supply chains. He “was not sure” he saw the correlation between e-commerce and spiking demand for SAF, noting that capacity would operate regardless of SAF availability and carriers had other routes to net-zero.

“While the path to the 2050 net zero target calls for SAF use to increase, where it’s not available the industry will look at carbon capture or carbon credits,” he told The Loadstar.

SAF is considered by most in the aviation sector as the surest route to net zero by 2050, but just 0.03% of the required 450bn litres a year that would be needed to fuel the sector was produced globally last year.

One air cargo source said the industry’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) focus had been “narrowed” to SAF, and what was needed was greater awareness of a company’s total ESG impact.

“SAF is certainly an important part, but it currently has a limited impact, since refineries cannot produce the amount that would be needed to have a lasting impact – which renders it predominantly a marketing exercise from my perspective,” the source told The Loadstar.

“What’s important is the capacity to monitor a company’s total ESG impact and activities in a manner that fulfils audit requirements and has a direct impact on investment decisions by equity firms and banks.”

Mr Hughes suggested supply chain officials needed to ask themselves six questions when it came to ensuring they had sustainable practices in place: “Am I being as environmentally responsible as I can? Am I using recyclable materials? Am I optimising transport? Am I using sustainable energy or compensating for emissions? Am I supporting global prosperity and economic growth? And how can I, my partners and supply chain stakeholders continually improve?”

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