Qatar Airways CEO says 2050 sustainability goals could be beyond reach

Qatar Airways says a bit of healthy skepticism is needed for the industry's net-zero goals
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The chief executive of Qatar Airways has hinted that the industry’s goal to achieve net zero by 2050 could be out of reach.  

Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, Qatar Airways chief executive officer (CEO), Akbar Al Baker, hinted that the industry will not be able to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Al Baker argued that while everybody is “talking about it”, aviation stakeholders need to be realistic. 

“There is not enough production of sustainable aviation fuel [SAF]. The hydrogen project is in its infancy,” he continued, adding that the way hydrogen will behave when aircraft are flying at high altitudes is still unclear.  

He continued: “In addition to this, as Dave [David Calhoun, the President and CEO of Boeing – ed. note] just mentioned, the hydrogen technology will mature in the second half of this century, which means we will not achieve what everybody is being promised that it will happen.” Al Baker noted that he was very skeptical of the technology. 

Meanwhile, Calhoun, who was part of the same panel, added that while aircraft manufacturers have been able to achieve double-digit emission reductions between aircraft generations, “the only thing that achieves net zero is sustainable aviation fuel”. 

In April 2023, the European Commission (EC) signed a law that will mandate an ever-increasing usage of SAF at European Union (EU) airports. This will rise incrementally up to a minimum share of 70% by 2050. Meanwhile, in the United States, Congress introduced the Sustainable Skies Act in May 2021 with incentives to boost the usage of SAF, while the Biden administration introduced a goal to produce at least three billion gallons (11.3 billion liters) by 2030 in September 2021. 

But the share of SAF compared to regular jet fuel has been minimal, with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) stating that “current supply remains low at less than 0.05% of total EU aviation fuel use”. 

Another argument is that SAF is much pricier than regular jet fuel. According to Argus Media, as reported by the Financial Times (FT), the price of the alternative fuel was $6.83 a gallon, while jet fuel was priced at $2.34 on May 19, 2023. 

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