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Future Pathways towards Sustainability in Aviation

Aviation is facing substantial ecological challenges. Strong growth of air travel will likely lead to a sustained increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This stands in contrast to the goal of the aviation industry to reduce fleet-wide emissions by 50  % until 2050 and the worldwide goal to limit global warming to preferably under 1.5 °C.

This brings up a core question: Which technological solutions are available in order to achieve substantial emissions reductions, and which implementation costs might the aviation industry have to face?

In cooperation with Munich Airport, system dynamic models have been developed to shed light on different possible technology scenarios. These comprise both evolutionary technologies increasing aircraft efficiency and the deployment of sustainable jet fuel. First results show that climate goals can be achieved with a combined strategy of strong aircraft efficiency improvements and a massive use of sustainable fuels. Under certain conditions, fuel cost increase per passenger kilometre can be limited to 50 %, compared to current levels. However, this requires a supportive socioeconomic framework, high investments in technology, as well as serious and immediate commitments by all aviation actors.

In order to develop more complete and robust scenarios and deduce policy recommendations for aviation actors, future research will focus on expanding the simulation models and specifying more precisely framework conditions.

  • Integrated model structure for a holistic assessment of future scenarios: This integrated modelling approach allows to deduce fleet compositions, fuel demands, and fuel production capacities based on assumptions for technology development and socioeconomic trends.Integrated model structure for a holistic assessment of future scenarios: This integrated modelling approach allows to deduce fleet compositions, fuel demands, and fuel production capacities based on assumptions for technology development and socioeconomic trends.
  • Projected CO2 emissions trajectories of aviation in comparison to emissions reduction goals: Even with strong efficiency gains, a gap appears between expected and targeted CO2 emissions. This gap can theoretically be closed by a massive use of alternative fuels.Projected CO2 emissions trajectories of aviation in comparison to emissions reduction goals: Even with strong efficiency gains, a gap appears between expected and targeted CO2 emissions. This gap can theoretically be closed by a massive use of alternative fuels.