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Denmark pledges fossil-fuel-free domestic flights by 2030

06 January 2022 Cristina Brooks

Denmark aims to reach fully fossil-fuel-free domestic aviation by 2030 while making sure that consumers have a domestic "green" aviation option by 2025.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen made the government's pledge in her annual speech on New Year's Day.

The Nordic state aims to get on track to reach economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. Denmark's government in 2019 agreed to increase the pace of decarbonization, vowing to slash its 1990 emissions not by 40% but by 70% by 2030.

But greener flight requires developing aviation technologies, as currently planes are only allowed to operate on a 50% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and fossil fuel blend, according to BP.

The prime minister noted that Denmark's private sector and universities, like Aalborg University, are working to develop greener technologies and fuels for planes.

The first SAF made from biogas, CO2, and hydrogen can be produced in Denmark and the Nordic countries by 2025, according to a 2019 University of Southern Denmark study.

Denmark's public grant agency is funding the Energy Cluster Denmark consortium to commercialize SAF made from biomass.

Last May Denmark notched an SAF "first" through Shell joint venture DCC & Shell Aviation.

The SAF was made from "sustainably sourced, renewable waste" to allow airline Alsie Express to fly between the Danish cities of Sønderborg and Copenhagen. It was supplied as part of 2020 SAF supply agreement between Shell and Finnish refiner Neste.

For now, however, the prevailing practice to decarbonize aviation in Denmark is to use offsets, Shell said.

Building on past success

But the country hopes to repeat its past green innovation successes when it comes to SAF.

Most Danish electricity comes from wind power, which stands to reason as Denmark is the birthplace of offshore wind technology. It is home to a booming offshore wind sector that will expand yet further following a recent tender round.

Current pilot projects, for example by Danish company Stiesdal, see Denmark at the forefront of the next phase of the technology: floating offshore wind. Denmark also plans an unusual artificial island the North Sea to upscale offshore wind power distribution.

"When other countries in the world are too slow. Then Denmark must take the lead. And raise the bar even more," said Frederiksen in her speech.

Global emissions from aviation accounted for 2.8% of CO2 emissions in 2019.

In November, 20 countries launched the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (IACAC) at the COP26 climate summit to collaborate on reducing CO2 emissions from flights.

In Europe, where EU-wide carbon neutrality proposals would increase carbon taxes for aviation emissions, other countries are moving on separate paths to cut back on aviation's fossil fuel use.

The UK government in 2021 mulled making jet fuel suppliers blend an increasing proportion of SAF into their aviation fuel in 2025. Recently, the UK also announced the design of an experimental zero-carbon liquid hydrogen plane that might one-day allow "guilt-free flying."

Last May, France's parliament passed a bill that foresees a reduction of domestic airline emissions, in line with the country's 2050 net-zero target.

France's Climate and Resilience Bill requires passengers to travel by train in lieu of short-haul domestic flights, making it "one of the first countries in the world to prioritize trains over air travel wherever possible." It also ensures that, in 2024, airlines will have to buy carbon offsets that counteract their domestic flight emissions.

Posted 06 January 2022 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate and Sustainability

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