Policy support needed to boost sustainable aviation fuels in China

(China Dialogue, 2 Mar 2023) China's aviation sector needs sustainable fuels to lower its carbon footprint, but support is needed to reduce costs and increase production.

The aviation sector must overcome some major challenges in the coming decades if it’s to reach its 2050 net zero target. By then, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates airlines will be carrying 10 billion passengers a year, more than double the pre-pandemic high of 4 billion in 2019. The industry is pinning its hopes largely on the development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) to reach the net zero target, with IATA expecting such fuels to provide 65% of the sector’s carbon reductions by 2050.

China’s aviation market is second in size only to that of the US. According to analysis published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Chinese flights emitted 103 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019 – 13% of the global aviation total. Although aviation accounts for 1% of the country’s total emissions, its share is expected to grow as emissions from heavy industries, such as steel and cement making, fall in the next decade. A research paperpublished before the pandemic predicted that China’s civil aviation emissions will reach 516 million tonnes by 2050 – five times the 2019 amount.

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China Dialogue, 2 Mar 2023: Policy support needed to boost sustainable aviation fuels in China