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IBA Sustainability Watch - June 2023

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are now seen as a key risk to investments in aviation, and authorities across the world 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 will be sharing key insights and the latest news from the growing world of sustainable aviation.

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Scaling up SAF is problematic as competition for land and clean energy will increase, implicating other sectors.

A recent study analysing 12 roadmaps for decarbonising the aviation industry found that there is a large reliance on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and that most studies fail to acknowledge the fundamental issues that accompany SAF. The problems associated with SAFs are firstly the forecasted demand for renewable electricity. For SAF to be truly sustainable, green electricity must be used within the production processes. The current roadmaps project that SAF production will require 9% of global renewable energy by 2050. Secondly, feedstock availability of sustainable biomass will be a significant hindrance. It is estimated that aligned to the roadmaps, 30% of global sustainable biomass will be needed for SAF use by 2050. This is a significant amount considering various other economic activities including road transport and heating & electricity generation also utilise biofuels. The argument extending from the study questions whether aviation should be given preference to the limited land, feedstock, and clean energy resources. The scaling up of SAF could implicate sectors also relying on biofuels in their net zero pathway. The global societal goal should be to avoid harrowing climate impacts, as opposed to achieving net zero emissions in one sector only - these arguments are rarely recognised in public forums. Therefore, allowing one sector to have preferential access to the crucial resources needed to achieve climate change aversion is counterintuitive. IBA commend the research being conducted on the controversial elements of SAF. As SAF is important in aviation’s path to net zero it is crucial we utilise it correctly, therefore IBA will continue to bring these facts to the industry’s attention.


Air New Zealand begins weighing passengers to improve efficiency and safety.

The airline will weigh volunteering passengers on their international network departing Auckland from late May to early July in 2023, as part of a New Zealand civil aviation requirement to better understand the weight and balance of the aircraft. The data recording is completely anonymous and is required to improve the accuracy of passenger and baggage assumptions currently used by airlines. The industry standard for many years has been ICAO’s 100kg, including 20kg for a checked bag, which can be used to determine fuel and loading requirements, and weight-driven traffic metrics. The latter of which is of interest to third party data providers, such as IBA, to drive more accurate estimations of passenger and total RTKs, and subsequent emissions intensity data points. Air New Zealand have previously conducted a similar study on domestic traffic, but more accurate estimations on the weight of long-haul passengers have an exponential impact on RTK accuracy as the sector length increases, especially on flights from New Zealand to the rest of the world. With CO2/RTK becoming the primary measure of operational emissions intensity, and key driver of sustainably linked financing, IBA will be keeping a close eye on outcomes of the survey to ensure our data is as accurate as possible.


The Blended-Wing Body could be a key future aircraft design to mitigate emissions.

ZeroAvia have partnered with aircraft developer and designer Natilus, to create a new hydrogen-electric blended-wing body (BWB) cargo aircraft. The new design is set to be a game-changer in the cargo industry as the plane reportedly allows for increased hydrogen storage – making it suitable for long-range sustainable air cargo operations. Low carbon emissions and extended flight range are the key sustainable variables that could harness sustainable solutions in the industry. The BWB design is seemingly becoming a more popular solution as Bombardier have completed the first phase of testing with a small-scale business jet model. The first model was 7% the size of a standard business jet, and the next model will be approximately twice as large. It is projected to be able to cut emissions by 50%. While this solution may not be gaining similar momentum in the commercial aviation industry, it has not been ruled out. California start-up JetZero have designed an aircraft structure that can carry up to 250 people over a range more than 5,000 nautical miles and is expected to launch in 2030. This aircraft is also expected to achieve an emissions reduction of 50%. However, from a commercial point a view, the scalability of a BWB design is problematic. With a conventional aircraft wing, the fuselage can be extended to suit airline demand and has a broader market appeal for a single design effort. With a BWB, this is not feasible due to the blended nature of the aircraft design. IBA are enthused by these innovative design concepts but see market success primarily in the business jet and cargo industry as opposed to commercial aviation.


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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.


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