Fly High

3 fixes airlines need to go green in 2021

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At first, Covid-19 put air travel across much of the world on hold. As a result, air traffic — and the greenhouse gases air traffic emits — plummeted in 2020.

According to Carbon Monitor, aviation emissions dropped by almost half in 2020.

In fact, the drop in air traffic accounted for 10 percent of all emissions reductions during the early months of the pandemic, according to one report.

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Air travel is beginning to rebound from Covid-19. But the pressure is also mounting on airlines to fix their sustainability problem — a massive concern for the climate crisis.

Past efforts by the airline industry, including programs to offset carbon emissions, don’t go far enough to fix the problem.

So what else can they do?

Here are 3 unexpected fixes airlines need to make to go green ASAP.

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1. Improve pilot efficiency

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Emissions reduction company Signol published a 2020 report showcasing a trial program with Virgin Atlantic that helped individual pilots improve fuel efficiency by 30 percent. This may be a cheap and easy way to bring down emissions levels.

2. Use AI technology

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In 2020, Air France and a handful of other airlines joined Openairline's “SkyBreathe” program, which optimizes fuel data coming in from airplane’s “black boxes” using AI technology.

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Openairlines believes it can save airlines money and reduce their fuel usage by two to five percent, cutting down on emissions.

3. Invest in sustainable aviation fuel

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In 2021, some of the biggest names in aviation — including Airbus, the biggest commercial airline manufacturer — came together to test whether 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel can decarbonize the airline sector. The market for this fuel is projected to hit $562 million by 2025.

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Sustainable aviation fuel is typically made of vegetable oil and animal fats instead of kerosene or gas. But there may be other ways: A new study in Chem Catalysis shows it is possible to convert plastic to jet fuel in an hour.

Read more environment stories here.

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