The International Air Transport Association (IATA) intends to see greenhouse gas emissions from the airline industry halved by 2050. This target, though seemingly highly ambitious, is a very necessary one, given the alarming rise in global warming and the fact that airline companies' contribution to overall anthropogenic climate change could soon be as high as 5%. One of the key changes envisaged is switching to new types of fuels to replace kerosene. IATA has set out as an aim that by 2025 a billion passengers will have taken a flight powered in part by what the association calls sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – i.e. biofuels. An alternative to powering aircraft with 'greener' fuels is to use hybrid or full-electric propulsion. Although French aircraft manufacturer Airbus has abandoned the E-fan project, which envisaged building an all-electric plane, the company is now working in collaboration with Rolls Royce and Siemens on the E-Fan X project, whose goal is the development of a hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft. Meanwhile environmentally-friendly prototypes are setting new records. Solar Impulse, whose technical development began at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2016 became the first-ever solar-powered aircraft to fly right around the world and SolarStratos (successor to the PlanetSolar boat project) is intended to be the first solar-powered aeroplane to penetrate the stratosphere. Various initiatives in this field all over the world are receiving acclaim: Air Canada has just been named Eco-Airline of the Year 2018 by industry magazine Air Transport World for its commitment not only to use biofuels but even to recycle flight attendants' uniforms, plus also its decision to join the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, whose aim is to see a price put on the external costs to the planet of carbon dioxide emissions, which would then be paid by CO2 emitters.
By Marie-Eléonore Noiré