The Skies are Turning Green

Swedish Plane. Photo: Mateusz Atroszko

In the Road to 2045 series, Swedish Press explores climate change issues in Sweden and how the country deals with this major challenge. Swedish Press has entered into a collaboration with Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability (Fores) who are experts in this area. In the coming months you will see updates on activities and regulations in Sweden, case studies on interesting companies, and interviews with leading climate profiles

The Skies are Turning Green

By Jakob Lagercrantz

By 2050, aviation is to halve its climate emissions compared to 2005, and from 2020 carbon emissions must be stabilized. That is both very aggressive and not nearly enough. Aggressive, because aviation is growing so quickly and solutions that are available in other transport sectors, such as electrification, are several years off in aviation. Not good enough, since the Swedish target does not fully comply with the global United Nations Paris agreement to reduce climate impacting emissions.

In Sweden, the new climate legislation stipulates that the transport sectoris to reduce its climate-impacting emissions by 70 percent between 2010 and 2030. What is less known is that aviation is not formally part of the target. But once the target was launched, Swedavia raised its hand and insisted on being included in it. Thus, the national agency responsible for all the major airports of Sweden set the target at 100 percent fossil-free domestic aviation by 2030. And Swedavia has a good track record, as the target of fossil free transports on the ground was practically reached already in 2017.  Since 2016, Swedavia buys biofuel each year corresponding to the fuel consumed by its employees on some 10,000 annual flights for business purposes.

But the aviation agency cannot deliver on the targets on its own; it needs policy support. In Sweden there is currently a heated discussion about whether or not the tax on aviation, introduced on April 1st this year, will be helpful towards reaching that target, and the 2030-secretariat is doubtful. “For passenger cars, it has long been obvious that an efficient electric car and a gas-guzzling SUV should not have the same tax, and aviation should be no different,” says Mattias Goldmann of the 2030-secretariat.

However, there is more of a consensus on the next step for greener, more sustainable aviation. The government and the opposition agree that sustainable biofuels are part of the equation; continuing with fossil-fueled airplanes is clearly not sustainable. Airlines like BRA have started to offer passengers to chip in to ensure that the equivalent of their flights are covered by renewable fuels, using agricultural waste, used cooking oil and other leftover products. The bonus points thus collected can now be turned into a more sustainable flight. Across the border in Norway, Swedavia’s equivalent Avinor even predicts that by 2040, domestic aviation will have become electrified, something that was hardly even science fiction just a decade ago.

“Sweden and Norway only account for a few tens of a percent point of global carbon emissions, so the way we can make a difference is by showing the way forward, and it is inspiring to see how many visits from around the world Sweden and Norway are now getting as a result of our tough targets for fossil-free aviation,” says Mattias Goldmann, himself responsible for a South African delegation visiting Sweden and the Arlanda airport in conjunction with the UN climate meeting in Durban. This is just one of many examples of how it may pay off for a small country to be a leader in an area where everyone is about to head in the same direction. Like greening the aviation sector.

 

Fores is a Swedish think tank devoted to questions related to climate and environment, migration and integration, entrepreneurship and economic reforms, as well as the digital society.