Without aviation, people would be deprived of a freedom that has become fundamental: freedom of movement. And most importantly, without aviation, the peoples would again become strangers to each other.
However, these merits, among others, such as a significant contribution to the production of world wealth, do not negate the impact of air transport on climate. The scientific consensus actually estimates that aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions globally today.
Therefore, aviation is a fantastic tool for the prosperity and harmonious development of human society. But it is also a real and important cause of climate change, which in itself poses a significant risk to humanity and our planet. Thus, our collective task is to resolve this paradox quickly enough, without succumbing to the ease that would be to take our eyes off all the problems that this aviation allows us to solve.
Challenge and collective commitment
This is the third time aviation has had to undergo a profound transformation and reinvent itself. Initially, it already allowed for fast long-distance travel, but at the cost of insufficient security. Technology, improved devices and operations have made it the safest means of transportation for decades.
These improvements were first made at high cost, leaving this mode of transport for professional use and for the wealthiest segments of the population. The industrialization of production tools and air services then allowed this mode of transport, which became the most energy and economically efficient mode of transport, to be democratized to such an extent that today it is sometimes criticized for not being sufficiently expensive!
This time the task is collective: we must reinvent the energies used and therefore the modes of movement. We must create new standards that will govern these technologies, and we must invent and deploy new ecosystems for the production, distribution and use of these low-carbon energy sources of the future.
We have an exceptional tool for this: our aviation industry. In France, the aviation sector alone represents over 150,000 direct jobs, or almost 5% of industrial employment. It generates about $20 billion in added value and provides much of our country’s commercial dynamism, including $65 billion in exports.
It is a key sector of technological and industrial excellence that is today mobilizing unprecedented funds to achieve a responsible environmental transition. It is also a sector that has understood and integrated the notion of sovereignty necessary to protect our interests and our values, and which has regained momentum in recent months due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Solutions exist. They have already borne fruit. Aeronautics is the industry that has reduced emissions the most. Thanks to continuous innovation since the dawn of jet aviation – in engines, materials – CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer have been reduced by about 80%. We are now focused on the remaining 20% to achieve zero emissions and we have a specific plan to achieve this.
The entire aerospace industry is committed to success by 2050.
At Airbus, we act, invest and mobilize all our know-how to meet this challenge. Already, every aircraft that leaves our assembly lines allows us to replace aging aircraft and thus achieve an immediate increase in CO2 emissions of at least 20%. The same planes we build today can carry up to 50% clean fuel, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of every flight. By 2030, this figure will be increased to 100%.
In addition, we aim to bring the first zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035, in particular through the development of hydrogen technology for use in commercial aircraft. For the first time in the history of the commercial aviation industry, the goal will be to find less environmental impact. Yes, we have entered the third aviation revolution. It represents an exceptional turning point in the industry and requires fifteen years of hard work from researchers, engineers and technicians in our sector.
The decarbonization of aviation is not a pipe dream: it is a transformation that is already underway. We are innovating to make this a reality and guarantee every individual the fundamental freedom to see the world through their horizon without affecting our planet. We believe more than ever in the future of the aviation industry.