In 2019, Airplane flights, tourist or commercial, represented almost 4 per cent of the EU’s total greenhouse gases (GHG) in 2019, according to the Institute for European Environmental Policy. This figure represents an increase of 96 per cent from 1990 due mainly to higher growth in passenger travel.

In 2013 the carbon footprint of one passenger increased to 960kgCO2e (see carbon footprint calculator. www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx for your own personalised footprint calculation for this year).

In the same year a family running a 10-year-old small family car for 6,000miles (9,657k) has a carbon footprint of 2,440kgCO2e roughly equivalent to the annual carbon saving of two high meat-eating adults moving to a vegetarian/vegan diet.

Bearing in mind today’s mad rush to fly everywhere at the drop of a hat (even for a party) it seems apposite that we should look at how we Vegans and the aviation industry can do our bit to encourage sustainable travel, care for animals and increase the nation’s health.

The first port of call is to visit the European Aviation Safety Agency’s website and see what the latest developments may be in the field:  

https://www.easa.europa.eu/eaer/topics/sustainable-aviation-fuels

Before we look at the site it is worth saying that the basic and quickest solution for most people, including Vegans, would be to reduce our carbon footprints by the introduction of biofuels (or whatever) which may safely power aircraft.

Therefore, let us see what the EASA says on this subject (accessed February 2020).

Under the EASA’s web page entitled Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) we find the following:

  • The use of sustainable aviation fuel is currently minimal and is likely to remain limited in the short term.
  • Sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to make an important contribution to mitigating the current and expected future environmental impacts of aviation.
  • There is interest in ‘electro fuels’, which potentially constitute zero-emission alternative fuels. However, few demonstrator projects have been brought forward due to high production costs.
  • Fuels must be certified in order to be used in commercial flights. Six bio-based aviation fuels production pathways have been certified, and several others are in the approval process.
  • The EU has the potential to increase its bio-based aviation fuel production capacity, but the uptake by airlines remains limited due to various factors, including the cost relative to conventional aviation fuel and low priority in most national bioenergy policies.
  • Regular flights using blends of bio-based aviation fuel are already being performed from several airports in the EU, albeit at very low percentages of the total fuel uplift.
  • Recent policy developments and industry initiatives aim to have a positive impact on the uptake of sustainable aviation fuels in Europe.

In other words, the EU welcomes the development of SAF’s, but the airline carriers are reluctant to introduce the fuel because of restrictive costs. However, the EU does hope the Aviation industry will introduce more SAF’s in the future.

Well that was pass bucking to its extreme and reads to me like more EU wishy washy thinking aimed at protecting the EU’s market dependency on oil rather than sustainable travel.

At any rate let’s move on from the EU to Canada were more positive news is found viz, “the world’s first fully electric aircraft made its inaugural test flight in December” 

see https://www.afp.com/afpcom/en/019

This Canadian test flight in 2019 was fairly secret, if you ask me, since I cannot find any recorded details of the actual flight and whether she was a success or not, however let’s hope all went well.

On the other hand, despite all the pressure on the industry, I feel it is going to take technology a long time to come up with the world’s first all-electric plane, due to inter alia ; battery life, research costs, and the Aviation Industry’s apparent reluctance to invest in electric planes, so let us instead concentrate on the SAF route.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

SAF is made from the totally ambiguous sounding food stocks. In America SAFs from food stocks are being developed from such products as: beef tallow (or beef lard), alcohol, yoghurt, chicken fat and even waste plastic.  See Bloomberg article published here:  https://www.thejakartapost.com/travel/2018/11/22/you-may-be-vegetarian-but-what-about-your-favorite-airline.html

In Europe, apparently, there is no research available into the production of similar SAFs

All we have is SkyNRG’s independent Sustainability Board advice on “whether fuel meets the highest sustainability standards, thereby ensuring that the fuel (produced from waste streams) will not have a negative impact on the food supply and environment”. 

In addition, SkyNRG claim that “there will be absolutely no use of food crops, such as soya oil and palm oil (or by-products such as PFAD and POME [sic]), for production”. 

As to what this final European biofuel will be in the future is as of yet unknown. 

Conclusions:

Ever growing public concern over attempting to travel sustainably, allied with Vegans’ concerns over the ingredients contained in the future development of SAFs will be, more than likely, ignored as we march onto ever increasing levels of taking unnecessary tourist and commercial flights and ipso facto contributing to unsustainable levels of GHGs.

Further recommended reading:

“Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK”

Peter Scarborough, Paul N. ApplebyAnja MizdrakAdam D. M. BriggsRuth C. TravisKathryn E. Bradbury, and Timothy J. Key

Clim Change. 2014; 125(2): 179–192. 

Published online 2014 Jun 11. doi: 10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1