For the aviation industry, 'business as usual' is simply not an option when it comes to emissions. The goal is to make flying so green that it has almost no adverse environmental impact. To realise this transformation, research institutions from 13 countries have joined forces to form the 'Zero Emission Aviation' (ZEMA) Group. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is among the signatories of this joint statement on sustainable aviation.
The purely growth-driven strategies that have characterised the aviation industry for decades cannot carry on into the future. The ZEMA Group believes that sustainable aviation will not be achieved if the industry continues to focus on the ongoing, incremental development of existing aircraft and engines. Instead, it is promoting the development and implementation of new technology. Sustainable fuels, to give one example, can play an important part. As combustion processes are directly linked to emissions, researchers are committed to harnessing alternative energy sources for new propulsion technology. They also want to work on optimising flight paths – requiring the acquisition of relevant data as well as aircraft that can fly these routes in a climate-friendly way. Urban mobility and electric aircraft are further areas of focus.
For all of the research institutions that have signed the ZEMA agreement, the statement also marks a commitment to developing sustainable aviation that meets the needs of society.
The clock is ticking. Delegates of the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015 declared that net greenhouse gas emissions should be zero from the second half of this century. The European Green Deal calls for Europe to be climate-neutral by 2050 – a target which, as the European Commission has stressed, will require considerable investment.