The air travel industry has been “essentially decimated by the coronavirus,” but in order to maintain recovery and hit the target of carbon neutrality, investment in carbon emission reduction technology needs to massively increase, Dr. Alejandro Rios Galvan, director, sustainable bioenergy research consortium at Khalifa University said.
Air travel was one industry that was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, as governments and health authorities issued stay at home orders and closed borders. In response, several airlines have already fallen into bankruptcy, with experts predicting further industry consolidation likely. Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global airline body, said that the crisis had deepened for airlines, with international traffic plunging 86 percent in January compared to pre-coronavirus levels.
“The challenge for reducing the carbon emissions from aviation by 2050 to half of what they were in 2005 is a very big challenge, is incredibly big challenge and we need to double, triple or even quadruple the level of investment that has been happening over the past 15 years in new refining infrastructure, in new technology platforms, in new ways producing sustainable aviation fuel,” Galvan said in an interview with Al Arabiya’s Naser El Tibi.
Carbon emissions have continued to remain a hot topic inside the airline industry, with manufacturers, carriers and regulators discussing how to improve emissions following the coronavirus crisis.
The giant European planemaker Airbus released its emission data in February, followed by an announcement that it is working towards zero-emission flying using commercial aircraft powered by hydrogen by 2035.
“Airbus has announced that by year 2035 they plan on having a commercial passenger aircraft that will be using hydrogen as its fuel source, so the industry is moving forward. I think the industry has a very clear understanding of the challenge it has in front of it and they are working very diligently to try to accomplish the goal,” Galvan commented.
“This is a very big challenge, and it is going to take teamwork and collaboration from many stakeholders that are in these industries throughout these processes to be able to reach that goal,” he added.
A pandemic recovery
The coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented hit to the global economy, with airlines suffering in particular. While some industries have already looked to recovery, others are still a long way from a pre-COVID-19 state.
Galvan estimated that it could be anywhere between three to five years before traffic returns to the same level as 2019. However, the long-term view is considerably rosier, with operators expecting a return to growth in the future.
“For sure the industry is clearly optimistic, so we expect to be back on a positive growth way and in the long term in 2050 time frame we expect to be mostly back on track with what previous growth expectations were,” he said.