Will European Regulations Lead Aircraft Innovation?

Published: 04-16-2023
The race for sustainability in aviation is on.

Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

Carbon emitted into the atmosphere has become a global issue. Although there is no worldwide governing body, many governments have committed to hitting targets for reduced carbon. This especially concerns the aviation industry, because of the amount of emissions that come from this sector.

To reduce carbon emissions from aircraft, both the United States and the EU have showed a strong commitment to Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF. This type of fuel is made from biomass and waste materials and has the potential to outperform petroleum jet fuel, according to the Department of Energy.

In the race to increase the use of SAF, the US government has created tax incentives, many through the Inflation Reduction Act. The EU, on the other hand, has created mandates which require their aviation industry to use SAF as 10% of all jet fuel by the year 2030, as reported by Reuters.

Both the US and the EU are ramping up production of SAF, including several new plants. Currently, SAF is less than 1% of the amount of jet fuel being used, which means there is much further to go for decarbonization.

The aviation industry also ran into EU environmental regulations when the multinational economic partnership set rules for what counts as sustainable investment. The objective of these EU guidelines is to steer private investment towards green and sustainable business.

Airlines wanted new aircraft to be considered a “best in class” sustainable investment, due to increased fuel efficiencies. Environmental groups pushed back, however, due to the raw amount of carbon emitted by the aircraft, regardless of their relative improvement on this front.

It’s clear that the issue of carbon emissions and sustainable green energy are not going away, especially in Europe. The question then is where does the aviation industry go from here?

Beyond SAF, we may see new innovation in the aircraft themselves. Will the increasing amount of rules and regulations coming from Europe – and ramping up in the US – end up changing the way we think about how to manufacture an airplane?

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