Clean Aviation off to a flying start

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Transforming aviation into a lean and green, climate-neutral mode of transport by 2050 is the ultimate goal for the aviation sector. This is a serious and pressing challenge at a time when the aviation industry is only starting to recover from unprecedented damaged caused by the Covid pandemic.

Axel Krein is the Executive Director of Clean Aviation.

Although aviation has an impressive track record when it comes to reducing emissions, the growth in this sector and the rising demand for flights has outpaced any environmental gains made. By 2050, it’s predicted that the demand for flights will triple, compared to 2019 levels. If nothing is done to counteract the impact that those flights will have on the environment, emissions released will double.

The Clean Aviation public-private partnership will take on this challenge. We will push the boundaries in aviation innovation to dramatically lower the impact that flying has on the environment.

Clean Aviation aims to develop, integrate and demonstrate disruptive technological innovations into new aircraft concepts by 2030 which will decrease aircraft greenhouse gas emissions by no less than 30%, compared to 2020 state-of-the-art technology, and pave the way towards climate-neutral aviation by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal’s vision.

Ambitious though this objective may be, we are confident that Clean Aviation can succeed, building on the shoulders of the Clean Sky and Clean Sky 2 programmes. To do this, however, the aviation sector as a whole needs to think outside of the box. We must pursue disruptive and daring new technologies that will enable us to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while obviously adhering to well-established international safety standards.

Clean Aviation’s first Call for Proposals will be released by the end of March 2022 and the budget is one of the largest ever – €735 million.

We are looking for technologies that are already at lower Technology Readiness Levels, and within the Clean Aviation Programme, we will propel them to succeed in ground or flight demonstrations by 2028/2029. At that point in time the programme beneficiaries will already be offering their new innovations to their airline customers for a commercial entry into service by 2035. Time is of the essence – it is vital that this timeline is adhered to if we are to achieve climate-neutral aviation by 2050.

At the first-ever Clean Aviation Forum, which will take place on 22-23 March 2022 and is called ‘Reimagining Europe’s path to climate-neutrality – Clean Aviation takes off!’, we will showcase some of the success stories from Clean Sky and Clean Sky 2, as well as discussing the ambitions of the new Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking. We will paint a picture of how the future of aviation will look, and how we can reimagine the industry to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050. The Forum will bring together European industry leaders, research centres, SMEs, and universities, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the Parliament, and the Member States. Registration is currently open.

The future looks bright for Clean Aviation. Clean Sky 2 attracted 940 entities from 30 countries, with more than 5000 scientists and engineers contributing to our success. We will build on this impressive network within the framework of the new Clean Aviation Programme. I look forward to seeing new aircraft join the fleet of 2035, equipped with technology from the Clean Sky, Clean Sky 2 and Clean Aviation programmes. So far, we are off to a flying start!

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