Davos pushes 'greener' fuel for private jets leaving World Economic Forum

Business aircraft at the airport in Zurich on Jan 20, 2020. A so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel will be available at Zurich airport for private jets flying into Davos this week for the World Economic Forum. PHOTO: REUTERS

DAVOS (BLOOMBERG) - Private jets flying into Davos this week for the World Economic Forum will be able to fill their tanks with fuel designed to lower carbon emissions, as the annual global talk shop aims to beef up its green credentials.

The so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF will be available at Zurich airport, according to a statement on Monday (Jan 20) from a coalition of groups representing business jet operators, manufacturers and fuel suppliers.

A 30 per cent blend with conventional jet fuel can lower CO2 emissions by about 18 per cent on a comparable 1,000-nautical-mile flight, the group said on its website.

Private jets - a staple of Davos - have become a lightning rod for the flight-shaming movement, with the global elite criticised for spewing unnecessary emissions by avoiding commercial flights.

Promoting alternative fuels could help ease the pressure mounting more broadly on the aviation industry, as the European Union considers ending tax exemptions for jet fuel.

Carbon output from international aviation has more than doubled since 1990 and the United Nations has said the industry is set to overtake power generation as the single biggest CO2 producer within three decades.

The Davos initiative also comes with an offsetting plan.

Jet operators using conventional fuel at airports in or around New York, Boston and Washington where the SAF variety isn't available can opt for an equivalent amount to be used on flights leaving from Van Nuys airport near Los Angeles, according to the statement.

The SAF fuel blend typically costs more than the petroleum-based alternative.

"Business jet operators and their stakeholders around the world can and should request SAF when fuelling their tanks," said Kurt Edwards, Director General for the International Business Aviation Council.

Airlines have criticised attempts to impose new taxes in Europe, arguing that reducing emissions requires a global solution.

Carriers are embracing biofuel-kerosene blends, though penetration has been slow due to high costs and limited supply. A switch to hybrid and electric propulsion isn't expected to be feasible until the mid-2030s, and then only for smaller airliners.

Find out more about climate change and how it could affect you on the ST microsite here.