The presidents of members of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines meet this past week in Singapore and put the issue of sustainability front and centre. The group passed a resolution calling on its members to adopt an “aspirational goal” of using 5 percent of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030, but that goal must be balanced, several participants said, with the costs to airlines who are just now showing profits after three years of losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants at the 67th AAPA Assembly of Presidents also did not rule out a controversial possibility that SAF derived from palm oil would be used in developing more SAF for use by airlines. Palm oil is controversial because old growth forests are cut down to make way for palm oil plantations. Anyone who has driven from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore can see the devastation that palm oil plantations wreak on native forests because the view from the highway is palm oil plantations from horizon to horizon.
“A harmonised global framework that enables the cost-effective supply of SAF is crucial for aviation to attain its net zero emissions goal by 2050,” said Subhas Menon, director general of AAPA. “By highlighting their collective ambition on SAF usage, AAPA airlines are indicating the level of SAF demand as an impetus for governments to consider the necessary support initiatives for SAF supply, and for fuel producers to plan SAF production capacity, to meet the needs of the industry. At the same time, a globally-agreed accounting framework for airlines to account for their emission reductions, based on a chain of custody approach, should be in place. This will ensure that the relevant carbon abatement credits are properly attributed in the SAF supply chain from feedstock to production and use.”
Noting the crucial role played by conventional fuel suppliers in this initiative, Menon said, “SAF is both essential and desirable for the aviation industry. In addition, SAF production represents a new growth and income opportunity for States as well as for waste, agriculture, and fuel industries, globally. Government policy to encourage the production and take-up of SAF everywhere in the world is needed to transition to an environmentally sustainable international aviation industry.”
Menon said at a press conference at the end of the assembly that this is the first time the association has set a target for its members and also called on governments and the “big boys” in the fuel industry to step up to the plate and deliver more SAF because the demand was there. He also said association members want to be seen as trying to meet the target but he was not confident that all of them could meet it.
The assembly also passed a resolution on aviation safety, pledging to work with ICAO and relevant national regulators to actively generate initiatives in Asia Pacific to further enhance safety culture in various areas, especially in regions with inherent terrain, visibility, and situational weather challenges.
A third resolution was passed by the assembly, calling on governments to avoid imposing unilateral measures on airlines that would have disproportionate impacts on operations, affect overall connectivity and schedule reliability. Governments need to consider the overall economic effects of introducing regulations that would increase the operational and cost burden on airlines, particularly in circumstances beyond the airlines’ control.
Menon also said, “The pandemic highlighted the complex and interdependent nature of the global aviation system. Sustainability, aviation safety and cross-border travel all require globally harmonised rule-making and coordination. Unilateral or inwardly-focused regulatory measures can result in unintended consequences in the wider aviation system beyond a state’s borders.”