Facts about aviation and the environment

The debate about our impact on climate change continued over the past quarter. There is no doubt that aviation needs to adapt to climate change and become more sustainable. We have gathered a few facts here about aviation and the environment.

What is aviation’s biggest impact on the climate?

Fossil carbon dioxide emissions and water vapour discharge at high altitudes. In the aviation industry, like in other parts of society, it is not just carbon dioxide that affects the climate. At high altitudes, it is mainly nitric oxide and water vapour that affect the climate.

What are high altitude effects?

There are other effects on the climate from emissions and discharges from aviation at high altitudes. Nitric oxide emissions and water vapour discharge affect the climate. There is still great uncertainty about their effect on the climate. High altitude effects are extremely limited in domestic air transport since aircraft need to fly at an altitude of at least 8,000 metres to produce condensation trails (or contrails) and cirrus clouds, the temperature needs to below, and there has to be a given level of moisture, among other factors.

How big an effect does aviation have?

Aviation around the world accounts for 2 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions (source: IPCC). The industry is working to further reduce this 2 per cent through the large-scale use of fossil-free fuels in the fuel mixture, new, more fuel-efficient aircraft, higher load factors, more efficient flight paths and electrification of shorter flights.

Why is bio jet fuel important?

Biofuel is essential in order for aviation to meet increased demand and at the same time achieve our long-term climate goals. Since bio jet fuel is made from renewable materials, it does not produce any fossil carbon dioxide emissions during combustion. The goal is for Swedish domestic air transport to be fossil-free by 2030 and for Sweden’s international air transport to be fossil-free by 2045.

Can today’s aircraft fly using biofuel without any changes to aircraft?

Yes, biofuel already works with today’s aircraft engines – no further technological innovation is required. Swedish airlines already fly with biofuel mixed in their tanks on some routes. The product is identical no matter whether it comes from fossil or bio materials. The aviation industry has agreed on a number of specifications that all biofuels must comply with. This means that jet fuel in the future, no matter what raw material is used, will also have the same chemical composition and thus can be mixed with traditional jet fuel in any quantity. This means that the same aircraft engines can still be used and airports can handle biofuel with the existing technical fuel infrastructure. At present, a mixture of 50 per cent is allowed (under the ASTM standard), but the goal is to have 100 per cent biofuel approved for use within a few years.  

What is bio jet fuel made from?

Bio jet fuels are required to be made from materials that do not compete with food production and that are not harmful to the environment. Examples of raw materials include algae, forest waste household waste and slaughterhouse waste, depending on where the fuel will be produced.