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IBA's Sustainability Watch - December 2023

Welcome to IBA’s December Sustainability Watch 


Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are now seen as a key risk to aviation investments, and authorities worldwide are demanding more transparency and stricter reporting standards. It’s never been more important to understand the pathways to net zero emissions and their real-term impacts on all key players across the industry. Each month, IBA’s ESG Consulting team share key insights and the latest news from the growing world of sustainable aviation.

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New study warns of non-CO2 climate effect trade-offs

A new paper published in the Royal Society for Chemistry’s journal, Environmental Science, results from a two-year study by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Imperial College London and the universities of Oxford and Reading. The study suggests no ‘silver bullet’ regarding potential solutions to curb non-CO2 emissions, which include nitrogen oxides (NOx) and contrails. Instead, there needs to be more scientific know-how to focus on policymaking. The risk of trade-offs is high as reducing the occurrence of non-CO2 through route planning, technology and the use of SAF may increase CO2 emissions, which the prejudicial long-term effects are extensively studied.

The science behind contrail emission reduction by route planning is still incipient, as depicted by the paper - mostly due to the challenges in making accurate meteorological forecasts. In addition, the use of SAF as a mitigation measure is also not fully understood by science. IBA acknowledges the importance of contrail emission reduction and the necessity of science-backed policymaking to tackle the matter better.

Significant achievements by Delta Air Lines in 2023

Like most airlines, Delta Air Lines is striving to achieve the industry-wide net zero emission target by 2050. With the implementation of new sustainability initiatives, both independently and through collaborations, the airline has attained significant milestones moving a step closer to its net zero emissions goal. Through a combination of operational efficiencies such as optimized landing procedures at hub airports, route optimization, block time adjustments amongst others. The airline has seen a 62.5% increase in fuel savings compared to the previous year. Secondly, Delta has sold old aircraft for research purposes and is actively implementing specialized repairs on ageing engines, partnering with the likes of Boeing and MIT.

In 2022, Delta welcomed 69 new-generation aircraft into its fleet, estimating a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the previous-generation aircraft. Further, Delta has invested in 500 electrified ground support equipment (GSE), facilitating both fuel savings and a reduction in the carbon footprint within the environment. Lastly, the elimination of pre-departure and departure documents before flights further demonstrates Delta's commitment to environmental sustainability. Delta Airlines' proactive stance towards sustainability demonstrates a commendable effort to align itself with global sustainability goals and contribute positively to the industry. Focusing on innovation, operational efficiency, and environmental responsibility sets a different direction for other airlines.

UAE announces a 1% domestic blending mandate in fuel supply by 2031 by leveraging local SAF producers

In line with the EU and UK, the UAE has set a SAF blending mandate to act as a signpost for investment and continued support for the SAF production industry. The mandate covers the 8 airports in the UAE and requires that 1% of all fuel supplied is SAF by 2031. While the mandate is not as ambitious as in the EU, which requires at least 6% by 2030, the UAE’s mandate will be solely fulfilled by domestic SAF supply, and not rely on imports. The UAE is therefore also seeking to capitalise on the opportunity to supply markets further afield, by leveraging its position as one of Europe’s chief jet fuel suppliers. The SAF will consist of three types: two of which will utilise existing technology using locally grown crops and municipal solid waste, and a third, more advanced synthetic fuel, utilising the UAE’s abundant solar energy to generate low carbon electricity.

As the host of COP28, the global spotlight has been firmly on the UAE to determine the scale of their commitment to decarbonisation, and how they will transition from an economy almost entirely reliant on the export of fossil fuels. This focus on aviation is encouraging to see and is a prime example of the opportunities a transitioning aviation industry can present for developed and developing jet fuel markets. The hope is that this industry signpost can trigger a significant ramp-up of SAF production in 2024 and that domestic SAF mandates can be the beneficiary if the UAE’s SAF export plan is a success: the SAF demand in Europe and across the world will certainly be there.

ESG Consulting – How can we help? 

Our team can support you with advice on sustainable finance, ESG ratings, ESG strategy and understanding emerging technologies. Our expert insight is supported by cutting-edge insights from our award-winning IBA NetZero platform.  


Find out more about ESG Consulting or request a demo of IBA NetZero.

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