Carbon capture could serve as a crucial step in more sustainable aviation, says GlobalData

A recent poll* by GlobalData has revealed that 68% of respondents consider climate change to be the most important environmental, social and governance (ESG) issue and airlines have been noted as some of the worst contributors with CO2 emissions. The leading data and analytics company notes that even though carbon capture should not be the only tool to be used in tackling climate change, it has major potential to contribute to a more sustainable future in travel.

A large-scale facility that could remove up to one million tons of CO2 every year is currently being developed in North East Scotland. The Direct Air Capture (DAC) Plan is a joint project with UK firm, Storegga, and Canadian company, Carbon Engineering. Once removed from the atmosphere, CO2 can be pumped into the ground, sold for commercial use or even be transformed into liquid fuel. A form of sustainable aviation fuel created from CO2 would not permanently remove carbon from the air, but would form more of a circular economy, lessening the damage it is currently causing.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the world wants to ‘stay safe’, the rise in global temperatures need to be kept below 1.5C by the end of the century. 2020 temperatures were already 1.2C above historical levels. There is a need to curb emissions of gasses that are driving them up – one of which CO2 and emissions from airlines and general travel is a major factor.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Net zero carbon emission plans are being rolled out by airlines. United Airlines was one of the most recent which promised to achieve this feat by 2050. Other airlines in the Oneworld Alliance, such as American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, have also committed to this promise by 2050.”

Consumers are also more environmentally focused. ‘How ethical/environmentally friendly/ socially-responsible a product or service is’ ‘always’ and ‘often’ influenced 42% of global respondents in GlobalData’s survey**. This was more influential than ‘how digitally advanced/“smart” the product/service is’ (‘always’ and ‘often’ influenced 35%). This reflects consumers priorities going forward, where companies’ sustainability commitments could prove more desirable in purchasing decisions.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “The potential for direct air capture to combat climate change and form a more sustainable future for travel is real. It is a technology that could prove majorly beneficial for more sustainable aviation going forward. Through creating fuel that is formed from carbon that is already in the air, this could help halt carbon emission levels growing further. However, it cannot be relied upon alone.

“The Direct Air Capture plan rolling out in Scotland for example, will not be fully operational until 2026. Change needs to happen now to tackle climate change in travel. This form of technology should be looked to as an addition to other initiatives rolling out such as cutting emissions. Therefore, it is not a magic bullet to eradicate climate change, but possibly more of a magic bean for further growth and a more sustainable future.”

*GlobalData’s poll, live since 1 Feb 2021 – 253 respondents

** GlobalData’s Q1 2021 consumer survey, – 21,768 global respondents

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