Nuclear Power and Secure Energy Transitions: From Today's Challenges to Tomorrow's Clean Energy Systems
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Aviation

Despite slackening growth in 2017-2018, demand for air transport is expected to remain strong in the future. Meanwhile, impressive efficiency improvements achieved since 2000 also show signs of slowing down.

Aviation Jpg

Key findings

Direct CO2 emissions from fossil jet kerosene combustion in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

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Global aviation emissions declined by a staggering amount in 2020

After increasing rapidly over the past two decades, CO2 emissions from aviation fell by one-third from the 2019 level in the wake of the pandemic to just over 600 Mt in 2020 – the lowest level since 1997. Despite this unprecedented collapse, passenger numbers and cargo volumes are set to rise in the coming decades. In the past, energy intensity reductions have been insufficient to counterbalance such activity growth. A range of operational, technical and behavioural solutions will be required to cut emissions from 2025 onwards, to reduce them to just over 780 MtCO2 by 2030 and around 470 MtCO2 by 2040 in line with the Net Zero Emissions pathway. Priorities include promoting efficiency; managing the investment risks for scaling up sustainable fuels; and developing alternatives to jet kerosene, such as battery-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Energy intensity of passenger aviation in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

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Fuel efficiency continues to improve, but progress has slowed

The fuel efficiency of international aviation improved 1.9% per year between 2010 and 2019, after improving by 2.4% annually in the previous decade. While the more recent rate of improvement surpassed the industry’s own target, it is just below the aspirational goal of 2% annual improvements adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2010. The short- and medium-term outlook for fuel efficiency remains somewhat uncertain due to impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. What is certain, however, is that further technical and operational efficiency improvements beyond the ICAO target will be needed to offer any prospect of substituting fossil-based jet kerosene with more sustainable fuels in the long term.