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Is Sweden changing the aviation industry?

Is Sweden changing the aviation industry?

The airline industry has been undergoing serious changes while you blinked; it\’s an industry that\’s easy to lose track of unless there\’s a viral video showing a passenger being imprudently booted off a plane due to their flawed, randomly-picked booking policy state. Or what was the story again? I\’m looking at you, United Airlines. A country that very rarely associates itself with horrible customer policy nightmare stories is one that rarely receives much negative attention at all – Sweden.

While many associate Sweden with commercial success in the freight ship industry, boasting the likes of Johnson Line and Brostrom in its ranks, it\’s not uncommon to miss out on Sweden\’s contributions to the airline industry and how it has recently called the whole industry into question as it moves to reduce its fossil fuel emissions.

\’\’The state should contribute risk relief when the change of technology within the airplane is carried out\’\’ – That was the principal argument in question as leading experts in the field met to discuss a nation-wide plan to tackle this sensitive issue. These experts are right in saying this; the technology is available to produce fossil-free aviation fuel that can be used directly in today\’s flights. It is warmly welcomed – especially when these instruments promote the use of biofuels, which are the future of the industry itself. 

Future transport must be fossil-free – so also by air. As air travel in the world has increased, the need for measures to reduce the climate\’s climate impact is becoming increasingly important. With a pallet of action, the airplane has the opportunity to become fossil free and thereby create accessibility while reducing emissions. With the right measures, Swedish domestic flights can be fossil-free in 2030 and both domestic and international flights from Swedish airports will be fossil-free in 2045. It\’s not easy and it will take time, but Sweden can now take some good climbs in the right direction.

The possibilities of travelling around the world have never been better than today. The international aviation availability and the mobility resulting from this create great social, cultural and economic values. At the same time, the entire transport sector, which includes the airline industry, faces a major climate challenge. The total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in the world increase when they actually need to decrease and go down to zero by 2050 to give us a reasonable chance of limiting global temperature rise to well below two degrees established at the Paris Conference on Climate Change in 2015. Also, emissions from airplanes – not least from international air travel – are increasing. It is not sustainable.

According to the United Nations Climate Change Panel, the airline\’s emissions are around 2 percent of total CO2 emissions. Longer flights also generate a so-called high altitude effect, that is, the climate-affecting emissions of mainly water vapor and nitrogen dioxide that occur at high altitudes. With these emissions included, the IPCC aircraft is expected to account for 4 percent of the total climate impact of humans, i.e a doubling of the effect of carbon dioxide emissions. In order for the necessary conversion to succeed, all industries must be fossil-free, in practice, as well.

It will not be easy, and all different solutions that concern technology development and behavioral changes are currently not on the table, although several significant measures can be implemented in the near future and some have already begun. Through technology development, airline have become about 80 percent more fuel-efficient per passenger kilometer in the last 50 years, and in recent years we have seen a number of industry initiatives in the biofuel sector.

Within the framework of the government\’s initiative \’\’Fossilfree Sweden\’\’, the airline industry has developed a roadmap for how the Swedish airplanes can become fossil-free. The roadmap contains the industry\’s own proposals for what it takes to reach the target and is handed over to the government on April 25th. In order to achieve a fossil-free flight, efforts and initiatives from the aviation industry are needed, but also from commodity and fuel producers and from policy makers. But above all, it is important that we now go from word to action and take some steps in the right direction. The roadmap has therefore taken its starting point in what can be done in a relatively short time to bring about a change. Important measures are seen in three areas:

A shift from fossil to fossil-free aviation fuel is a short-term measure that can bring about the greatest impact to reduce the climate\’s impact on the climate. An important step in the process is to establish large-scale biorefinery capacity in Sweden. Making major technological advances in heavy industry in a small export-dependent country with an open economy is not risk-free. Therefore, financing is a key issue. The state is likely to contribute risk mitigation for investors when the technology change is being implemented and the public procurement requirements for fossil freedom are also a key for fossil fuels to compete out the fossil. There are also research indicating that biofuels do not cause as high altitude power as fossil fuel combustion. The aviation industry looks confident at the investigation of instruments to promote the use of biofuel for the flight, and looks forward to contributing constructively with the skills and willingness of the industry.

Sweden is at the forefront of international technology development in the aviation industry. Through continued technology development, with more efficient aircraft engines and aerodynamically optimized aircraft, climate-related emissions can be reduced by about 30 percent according to leading Swedish aeronautical experts. By developing aircraft not only driven by fossil fuels but, for example, partly powered by electricity, it is estimated that emissions can be reduced by about 40 percent according to aviation experts.

Whatever predictions occur about the estimated reduction, keeping an eye on Sweden\’s initiatives are interesting and earn attention from the world over; taking such a big step in a greener direction could create a domino-effect of epic proportions, especially if such policies are implemented trans-nationally and as a benchmark for how airlines should carry themselves toward a future where such developments are just like another day at the park. That brings the question; Is Sweden the catalyst in this question or just another contributor to innovative solutions?

Daniel Vice writing for Evolvera; always changing, always evolving

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