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IBA's Sustainability Watch: June 2024

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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Formula E and DHL go green for Shanghai round

Credit: DHL


Formula E, the lesser-known counterpart to Formula 1 for electric cars, has achieved a groundbreaking milestone in utilising Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for air transport. For Round 12 of the sport’s championship season, teams and championship equipment were transported from Berlin to Shanghai using DHL's GoGreen Plus service, which is designed to help businesses reduce the carbon emissions associated with their shipments.


As businesses increasingly need to report their Scope 3 emissions, a commitment many have already undertaken, IBA urges more sports-related organisations to follow Formula E's example. Additionally, while these organisations are making progress in environmental consciousness, they should encourage fans attending events to consider eco-friendly transportation options. Given that Formula E successfully reduced freight emissions by 73% using SAF in 2023, IBA is keen to see the emission reductions achieved this year.


EBAA launches new sustainable business program at EBACE2024

Credit: EBAA


At the recently concluded European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) 2024 conference, the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) announced the formal launch of the Tier 1 Standards & Training for Aviation Responsibility and Sustainability (S.T.A.R.S.) program. This initiative represents a significant step towards a sustainable future for business aviation.


S.T.A.R.S. is a pioneering framework designed to help the business aviation industry develop and seamlessly integrate environmental and social strategies. Tier 1 of S.T.A.R.S. focuses on self-assessment and policy development for continuous environmental and social sustainability progress. Policies cover key areas such as greenhouse gas emissions reporting, waste and water management, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, a new code of conduct, data privacy and security. The subsequent Tiers 2 and 3 are the implementation phases, designed to comply with international standards, ensuring that the commitment to sustainability is both comprehensive and globally recognised.


Business aviation emissions increased by 31% between 2005 and 2019 and, receiving significant scrutiny both from the public and climate activists. IBA commends the business aviation industry for implementing such programmes, recognising them as a positive step towards improved reporting and monitoring. However, much more needs to be done to achieve the net zero 2050 target.


airBaltic and Fokker to develop hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035

Credit: Fokker Next Gen


Latvian flag carrier, airBaltic, has partnered with the Netherlands-based Fokker Next Gen to develop a new liquid hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, which will be manufactured at facilities in both countries. Both companies have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) through which Fokker Next Gen will gain insights from airBaltic to contribute to the development of the aircraft. Meanwhile, airBaltic will explore the potential integration of hydrogen-powered aircraft within its network.


Fokker Next Gen aims to build a twin-engine hydrogen aircraft by 2035, with the jet expected to carry 120-150 passengers and capable of a range of 2,500 kilometres. It will be powered by both liquid hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel, allowing for flexible operation based on fuel availability at various destinations. IBA considered the Fokker Next Gen as the closest competition to the Airbus ZEROe, with a similar number of seats, distances and expected entry-to-service date of 2035.


While both are not competitors in terms of specifications, IBA has noticed zero-emission aircraft manufacturers, including Zero Avia (40 – 60 seats, 1000NM) and Maeve (76 - 84 seats, 800NM) all reporting an entry-to-service date occurring in the next ten years.


China's aircraft manufacturer COMAC pioneers first SAF flight by 2035

Credit: Sinopec


In response to the Chinese aviation sector’s aims to reduce carbon emissions per ton-km by 4.5%, from 2020 levels by 2025, aircraft manufacturer COMAC has made significant progress in launching its first sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) flight. After extensive research and alignment with both Chinese and international standards, the Civil Aviation Administration of China approved the SAF-powered test flight back in February 2024, but it wasn’t until 5th June 2024 for eventual take off to occur.


C919 and ARJ21 aircraft, with a 40% SAF blend, departed Dongying Shengli Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport, respectively, marking a significant milestone for China. In 2008, Virgin Atlantic conducted the first-ever SAF flight in London using a Boeing 747-400 with a 20% blend, although commercial flights did not come until 2016. With global SAF mandates in place to increase production, IBA believes that the prospect for China is noteworthy and we are hopeful to see an increase in use and commercial production of SAF within the region.


Comparatively, using IBA’s NetZero platform, we note that CO2 per seat mile between Air China, China Eastern and China Southern have made some progress between 2018 and 2024. Air China has decreased by 4.1%, China Southern by 9%, and China Eastern by 6.7%. We have also seen an average aircraft age of 9.5 years and a total of 314 COMAC aircraft on order amongst all 3. Although the industry in China is efficient at keeping fleet young, IBA is eager to see progress in SAF production and use in commercial aviation.

How can we help?

IBA's ESG Consulting team supports with advice on sustainable finance, ESG ratings, ESG strategy and understanding emerging technologies in aviation. Our expert insight is powered by cutting-edge insights from our award-winning IBA NetZero aviation emissions reporting platform.


To find out more, please get in touch.

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