Written by: Thomas Rötger
Every three years in February, the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) holds the plenary meeting of its Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). Normally, this meeting gathers about 200 aviation experts representing the States and international organisations at the ICAO Headquarters for two weeks in snowy Montréal. Not surprisingly, the 2022 meeting was held virtually, and the meeting time was compressed to six afternoons, to accommodate participation of delegates from all continents – not too much time to discuss all burning topics of aviation’s environmental impact, such as climate impact, noise, pollutant emissions, sustainable fuels, and carbon offsets. Efficiently led by the CAEP Chairman, Swiss CAEP member Urs Ziegler from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA/BAZL), the Committee achieved its work programme in time.
The most important achievement was the adoption of the final report of CAEP’s Long-term aspirational goal task group (LTAG-TG), which investigated the feasibility of a globally valid long-term climate goal for international aviation. For two years, a team of over 280 international experts studied how much carbon emissions reduction could be obtained by new aircraft technologies, sustainable fuels, and improved operations (see figure) under different scenarios until 2050 and beyond. Within the technology area, Thomas Rötger from ZHAW’s Centre for Aviation was leading, together with Richard Wahls from NASA, a sub-group investigating the emissions reduction potential of advanced aircraft concepts and energy storage, such as electric and hydrogen aircraft, blended wing bodies and similar radically new concepts. The LTAG-TG report will now be submitted to the ICAO Council for approval of publication and further to the ICAO Assembly in September / October 2022, who will have the final decision upon setting an international aviation climate goal.
Further major outcomes were, amongst others, an exploratory study on noise and emissions of future supersonic aircraft, an updated assessment of aviation environmental trends accounting for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and, already launched at the COP26, a set of sustainability criteria for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). A comprehensive future work programme was adopted, which will keep CAEP experts busy for the next three years until they will meet for the next CAEP plenary meeting, hopefully again face-to-face in the Canadian snow!