Emirates airline commits $200m to sustainable aviation research


Emirates Airlines has committed $200m to fund research and development (R&D) projects focussed on reducing the impact of fossil fuels in commercial aviation. 

The funds, which will be distributed over three years, will be invested in companies working on low-carbon fuels such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and advanced fuel technologies. Sir Tim Clark, president, Emirates Airlines said carriers face “the biggest impediment” in reducing their environmental impact, a challenge the airline aims to tackle with the fund.

“We looked long and hard at the reality we face in commercial aircraft and engine technology, fuel supply chain and our industry’s regulatory and eco-system requirements. 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,” said Clark.

According to Clark, the industry needs better solutions to reduce emissions. And that is the driving factor behind the firm’s search to partner with leading organisations on R&D. “Our aim is to contribute meaningfully to practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of commercial aviation,” he said.

Emirates said its long-term environmental policy focused on three areas: emissions reduction, responsible consumption and the conservation of wildlife and habitats. 

Emirates completed its first 100% SAF-powered demonstration flight in partnership with Boeing and GE earlier this year. The airline said it continues to use SAF where “feasible”. In July 2022, together with the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority, the airline also contributed to the development of the UAE’s power-to-liquid (PtL) fuels roadmap.

However, commercially available SAF is limited in supply. International Air Transport Association estimates that the entire world’s annual supply of SAF meets less than 0.1% of airlines’ needs. For an airline the size of Emirates, this alone is not enough to reach its goals of decarbonisation.

Emirates added that investing in young and modern aircraft remains its biggest commitment to reducing its emissions. The airline currently has 200 Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft on order, including A350s and 777Xs. 

Until viable solutions can be found, Emirates will continue to implement environmentally responsible practices throughout our business, including uplifting SAF where feasible, ensuring efficient fleet operations and inducting modern aircraft into our fleet,” said Clark.

“Our $200m fund is earmarked for R&D and not for operating costs like the purchase of SAF or carbon offsets to tick regulatory boxes – activities we consider business-as-usual.” 

Emirates’ Environmental Sustainability Executive Steering Group will oversee the disbursements from the fund. 

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