Dubai's aviation industry makes firm strides towards a more sustainable future

- Dubai's commitment to sustainability in the aviation sector has been guided by the far-reaching vision of its leadership
- Dubai Airshow, to be held from 13-17 Nov 2023, will showcase solutions and strategies for achieving net-zero emissions in the aviation industry
- Dubai has taken the lead in establishing collaborations that advance the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
- Emirates is at the global forefront of embracing sustainable aviation with groundbreaking SAF test flights and $200m R&D fund
- Dubai Airports continues to invest in energy efficiency, green transportation and waste management excellence
- Dubai Aerospace Enterprise achieves an impressive score of 14.4 in a recent ESG Risk Rating review

In recent years, Dubai has emerged as a global leader in championing sustainability within the aviation industry. With a resolute commitment to mitigating its carbon footprint and shaping a more eco-conscious future for the sector, the emirate has become a trailblazer in the quest for sustainable aviation solutions.

The Dubai Airshow, one of the world's premier aerospace events, stands as a testament to this dedication, providing a platform for innovation, collaboration and the exchange of ideas geared towards a more sustainable future for aviation. The 2023 edition of the Dubai Airshow, set to be held from 13-17 November 2023 at the Dubai World Central (DWC), will shine a spotlight on sustainability as a key theme.

Against the backdrop of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) commencing in Dubai at the end of November, the Dubai Airshow is a showcase for the latest sustainable solutions from industry leaders. Under the theme, ‘The Future of the Aerospace Industry’, the Dubai Airshow will feature dedicated conference tracks on sustainability, including topics such as hydrogen-powered aviation, SAF, COP28 forecasts, efficient engines, and hybrid and electric aircraft. Leading industry experts will convene to discuss pressing sustainability challenges and opportunities.

Addressing aviation’s carbon challenge

The aviation industry is facing a critical challenge related to carbon emissions. Recognising the urgency of the situation, Dubai has been at the forefront of pioneering initiatives to address these issues.

Dubai's commitment to sustainability in the sector is guided by the far-reaching vision of its leadership for a more eco-conscious future. As it strives to achieve the target outlined in the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050 to generate 100% of the emirate’s total energy production from clean energy sources by the middle of the century, the emirate has continued to raise its role as a global leader in shaping the future of sustainable aviation.

SAF: A game changer
The adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a key driver of sustainability in the aviation industry. It is currently the optimal solution for airlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional fossil aviation fuels. The industry is working to increase SAF production capacity, with the goal of reaching over 30 billion litres by 2030 and 450 billion litres by 2050. However, the supply of this fuel is extremely limited at the moment. Estimates from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicate that the global supply only met 0.1%-0.15% of the total demand for aviation fuel in 2022.

Dubai has taken the lead in establishing collaborations that advance the use of SAF. Emirates Airline, the world's largest operator of wide-body aircraft, has successfully conducted demonstration flights powered with SAF and has pledged substantial funds for research and development into advanced fuel technologies aimed at reducing environmental impact.

The airline's first flight powered by a blend of sustainable and traditional jet fuel took off from Chicago O'Hare Airport to Dubai in November 2017, using a Boeing 777 aircraft. Since then, the airline has increased its use of sustainable fuel on flights departing from Stockholm and has expanded operations to include flights from Paris, Lyon and Oslo using blended SAF. In December 2020, Emirates received the first of three Airbus A380 aircraft operating on a blend of sustainable and conventional jet fuel.

As part of its commitment to meet supply requirements in Norway, Sweden, and France, Emirates provides sustainable fuel to support its operations in these markets. The airline is seeking opportunities to utilise SAF at more airports in the future.

In January 2023, in a milestone achievement, Emirates operated its first demonstration flight on a Boeing 777-300ER, powering one of its engines with 100% SAF. The initiative was aimed at driving progress towards the use of 100% SAF in the future. According to its March 2023 financial report, Emirates used 179 tons of SAF in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Key SAF collaborations
In the first week of October, Emirates Airline forged a significant partnership with Shell Aviation to further accelerate the adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Under the agreement, Shell would supply Emirates with 315,000 gallons of blended sustainable aviation fuel for use at its hub in Dubai. This is the first time SAF is supplied to Dubai International’s (DXB) fuelling system.

The airline also agreed with Neste to supply sustainable aviation fuel for departures from Amsterdam and Singapore in 2024 and 2025. Emirates is set to operate its first test flight with an Airbus A380 using 100% sustainable fuel in one of its four engines, further contributing to industry advancements in this area in late November.

In another significant move, Emirates Airlines launched a landmark $200 million Aviation Sustainability Research and Development Fund, a testament to its commitment to sustainable innovation. Announced in May, the fund is poised to finance an array of research and development projects dedicated to advancing innovation in fuel technology.

Emirates participates in a series of industrial and governmental working groups in the UAE, and is pursuing efforts to expand the production and supply of sustainable fuel. Last year, in collaboration with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, the airline contributed to the development of a roadmap for converting power to liquid (PtL), a new alternative fuel production pathway from renewable energy sources, water and carbon dioxide in the country, led by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the World Economic Forum. It also participated in the national roadmap for sustainable aviation fuel in the UAE, launched by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority in January 2023.

Another Dubai airline flydubai is also exploring the use of SAF to reduce its environmental footprint. The airline is seeking to increase collaboration with the government to make it possible.

Sustainable airport operations
Another key stakeholder that has made significant strides in catalysing sustainability in the aviation industry is Dubai Airports, the operator of DXB, the world’s biggest airport for international passenger traffic, and Dubai World Central (DWC). The airport operator has earned several accolades for its sustainability initiatives, including the prestigious Best Aviation Sustainability Programme award at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Global Aviation Awards.

Dubai Airports has replaced 150,000 traditional lights with LEDs at DXB, reducing energy use and carbon emissions, and introduced eco-friendly ground service vehicles. A solar array at DXB’s Terminal 2, the largest at any Middle Eastern airport, highlights its commitment to renewable energy.

As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, Dubai Airports has also initiated an ambitious waste management plan to divert 60% of DXB's waste from landfills, utilising innovative food waste treatment to compost over 2,000 tonnes annually, thus reducing landfill waste and harmful emissions.

Meanwhile, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), a global aviation services company, continues to demonstrate its commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) responsibility through its recent ESG Risk Rating review by Morningstar Sustainalytics.

Achieving an impressive score of 14.4, DAE has maintained its leadership in sustainability practices among industry peers. In a move toward enhanced transparency and disclosure, DAE has also made significant strides by providing inaugural voluntary disclosures through platforms such as CDP and the S&P Corporate Sustainability Assessment.

Dubai's commitment to sustainability in the aviation industry serves as a beacon of hope for the sector's future. As global aviation strives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, Dubai is demonstrating that collaboration, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of eco-conscious solutions are the keys to success. The Dubai Airshow 2023 promises to be a milestone event, where the world's aviation leaders come together to shape a more sustainable future for air travel, setting an example for the industry.

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