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Emirates sets up $200m fund to lower impact of fossil fuels

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark says the cost of sustainable fuels in prohibitive Reuters/Abdel Hadi Ramahi
The demand for Emirates services continues to outpace its ability to get the capacity in place, says Tim Clark

Dubai-based Emirates has allocated $200 million for research and development (R&D) projects focussed on lowering the impact of fossil fuels in commercial aviation. 

The move is the biggest single commitment by any airline on sustainability, with funds to be disbursed over three years, the airline said in a statement. 

Emirates will sign partnerships with top organisations working on solutions in advanced fuel and energy technologies.  

Sir Tim Clark, president, Emirates, said the $200 million being ring-fenced would be invested in finding ways to reduce the aviation sector’s environmental impact.

“It’s clear that with the current pathways available to airlines in terms of emissions reduction, our industry won’t be able to hit net zero targets in the prescribed timeline,” he said. 

Clark added that Emirates will continue implementing environmentally responsible practices throughout its business, including uplifting sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) where feasible, ensuring efficient fleet operations, and inducting modern aircraft until viable solutions can be found.

The airline currently has 200 of the latest Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft on order, including A350s and 777Xs. 

Emirates’ environmental sustainability executive steering group will oversee disbursements from the fund, with support from technical experts. 

In January, Emirates completed the first 100 percent SAF-powered demonstration flight in partnership with Boeing and GE. Since its first flight powered by SAF in 2017, the airline has participated actively in the SAF market and seeks opportunities in its network to use SAF where feasible. 

However, bio-based SAF, currently the only type of commercially available SAF, is extremely limited in supply. 

IATA estimates that the entire world’s annual supply of SAF meets less than 0.1 percent of airlines’ needs, the airline said.  

The boss of Qatar Airways last month called for an overhaul of the SAF market.

CEO Akbar Al Baker labelled the fuel “exorbitantly expensive” and said it is only available in low volumes “because the cost to produce is too high”.

“But they don’t realise that, if they do the volume, then they get the economies of scale and they’ll be able to reduce the price,” he told CNN’s Eleni Giokos in the latest episode of Marketplace Middle East.

The International Air Transport Association defines SAF as “fuels derived from non-fossil sources or feedstock”.

It says SAF is able to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent, and could account for 65 percent of the emissions reductions required for net zero in 2050.