WEF Launches Purchasing Coalition To Accelerate Decarbonization

United Airlines SAF refueling
United Airlines has made significant commitments to sustainable fuels, electric propulsion and carbon capture.
Credit: United Airlines

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has launched an initiative to accelerate the commercialization of decarbonizing technologies by leveraging collective demand from companies prepared to commit to purchases by 2030.

The First Movers Coalition is targeting seven sectors, including aviation, that together account for more than a third of global carbon emissions but do not have cost-competitive clean-energy alternatives to fossil fuels. An eighth sector, direct air capture of CO2, also is targeted.

The launch came as researchers led by the UK’s Oxford University, Manchester Metropolitan University and National Environmental Research Council released a report suggesting aviation could consume up to one-sixth of the remaining temperature budget required to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050 unless CO2 emissions are reduced by about 2.5% a year.

“Any growth in aviation emissions has a disproportionate impact, causing lots of warming,” said Myles Allen, Oxford professor and co-author of the study. “But any decline also has a disproportionate impact in the other direction. So the good news is that we don’t actually need to all stop flying immediately to stop aviation from causing further global warming, but we do clearly need a fundamental change in direction now, and radical innovation in the future.”

Founding members of the First Movers Coalition include Airbus, Boeing, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. The initiative has launched a call for Phase 1 commitments to new technologies, aimed at creating a market by 2030 that can be ramped up to achieve decarbonization by 2050. The commitments aim to be collectively significant enough to commercialize the new technologies.

In Phase 1, airlines and air transport companies, as well as airfare and airfreight purchasers, are required to set a target of replacing at least 5% of their conventional jet fuel demand with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025. The SAF must reduce life-cycle GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 85% or more. Alternatively, aviation members can commit to using zero-emissions electric or hydrogen propulsion by 2030.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.