Business aviation has long been the target of environmental protestors who say private jet travel is an unnecessary luxury that produces a significant amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. But the business aviation industry is actually leading the pack when it comes to decarbonization, according to a group of business jet OEM executives who gathered at an EBACE media luncheon on Monday for a panel discussion on sustainability.
In the push to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the broader aviation industry is working collaboratively to wean off of fossil fuel in favor of using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). But given that SAF is more expensive than regular jet fuel and is not available in most parts of the world, adopting the use of SAF at scale is proving to be a colossal challenge. This is especially so for the airline industry, which accounts for about 2.5 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions.
“Business aviation has a big advantage in that we will be the first ones to operate at a huge level on SAF. Why? Because we and our customers are ready to pay a little bit more,” Airbus Corporate Jets president Benoit Defforge said during the panel discussion. He added that he believes flying less will not be the answer to the climate crisis because there will always be a need to transport people and goods.
Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream Aerospace, echoed that sentiment. “Aviation is the engine for global commerce, and it has been for decades,” he said. “We really need to be a leader at this moment and prove that, in fact, we can solve or be part of the solution even though we are a fraction of the issue,” he said, referring to the fact that business aviation accounts for only about 0.04 percent of total emissions.
“While we’re under a lot of pressure right now, I think that one of the things we've proven as a group is that we solve problems,” Burns added. “We make airplanes better each and every day,” he said. New business aircraft today are about 33 percent more efficient than they were just a decade ago, he noted.
And as aircraft OEMs continue to make new aircraft more efficient, they’re also working to educate their customers and operators about SAF, as well as offering incentives to encourage more people to consider using the alternative fuel through direct sales or book-and-claim programs.