Dubai-based airline Emirates announced today the launch of a new fund aimed at investing in research and development projects focused on reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuels in commercial aviation.
Emirates said that it has committed $200 million to the fund, making it the largest sustainability commitment by an airline, with the funds to be dispersed over three years.
Fuel accounts for the vast majority of the aviation sector’s emissions, which accounts for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with that figure potentially rising significantly over the coming decades if no action is taken. Initiatives being pursued to address the climate impact of the industry typically involve efforts to improve aircraft efficiency, develop sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), or create aircraft utilizing low or zero carbon propulsion systems such as electric or hydrogen-based, although many of these are at early stages of development.
While airlines and aircraft manufacturing industry groups have announced net zero commitments, and governments increasingly set emissions reduction goals for the industry, however, Emirates Airline President Sir Tim Clark said that new solutions will be required in order to meet these goals.
“It’s clear that with the current pathways available to airlines in terms of emissions reduction, our industry won’t be able to hit net zero targets in the prescribed timeline.”
The new fund will focus on advanced fuel and energy technologies, Clark said, with funds earmarked for R&D, and not for operating costs including SAF purchases or carbon offsets.
Clark added that while new solutions are under development, the airline will continue to pursue initiatives including uplifting SAF, fleet operations efficiency and adding modern aircraft into its fleet. Earlier this year, the airline, in partnership with Boeing and GE, operated its first experimental flight using 100% SAF in one engine on a 777-300ER.
“We believe our industry needs better solutions, and that’s why we’re looking to partner with leading organisations on R&D. Our aim is to contribute meaningfully to practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of commercial aviation.”
The new initiative follows initiatives by other major airlines to advance emissions reduction solutions, including the launch earlier this year by Delta of the Delta Sustainable Skies Lab to accelerate research, design and testing for sustainable aviation solutions, and a new venture fund launched by United aimed at investing in and supporting SAF-focused startups.