A new report published by WWF South Africa and conducted in collaboration with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and supported by the Boeing Company has found that there is a small, but not insignificant, potential for the production of alternative aviation fuels in sub-Saharan Africa in compliance with the robust sustainability requirements of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). Sub-Saharan Africa could contribute between 30% and 90% of projected long-term global alternative aviation fuel demand in the form of RSB-compliant alternative aviation fuel produced from energy crops on approximately 84 million hectares of prime and good quality land and another 157 million hectares of moderately suitable land.
It’s estimated that by 2050, global aviation could account for over 22% of all global carbon dioxide emissions due to rapid growth in air traffic – and with limited operational and aircraft design options for reducing emissions, there is a need for more low-carbon fuels.
The WWF report, titled “Taking off: Understanding the sustainable aviation biofuel potential in sub-Saharan Africa”, looks into the current and future potential of biofuel feedstock production in sub-Saharan Africa using the strict sustainability criteria of the RSB Standard.
These criteria exclude any crops and biomass residue which would result in negative environmental and social impacts, such as food insecurity, unsustainable use of scarce resources like water, land, the destruction of biodiversity and insufficient reduction of greenhouse gases.
RSB supports the development of alternative aviation fuels that safeguard social and environmental sustainability, including promoting food security and water stewardship. We do this by developing practical solutions and projects, partnering with alternative fuel initiatives worldwide, engaging airlines through membership, and helping companies and entire supply chains achieve RSB’s most trusted certification for alternative aviation fuels. Our approach is highlighted in the RSB Alternative Aviation Fuel publication.
RSB’s Executive Director, Rolf Hogan, had this to say, “As the aviation industry looks to ensure its long-term sustainability and comply with climate mitigation measures, the question of where these feedstocks and fuels are going to come from is becoming increasingly relevant. The industry needs to know that it can procure alternative aviation fuels that can demonstrate real greenhouse gas emission reductions and that don’t negatively impact on social and environmental sustainability. This report, supported by Boeing, proves that sub-Saharan Africa can play a major role in decarbonising the aviation sector, and that this can be done really sustainably and without impacting food security, land rights, water rights, conservation areas and more. There is a huge opportunity for responsible and sustainable economic growth on the continent to support the long-term viability of the global aviation industry. It shows that the potential is there in Africa and, with the right investments and incentives, that potential can become a game-changing reality.”
“Ambitious targets are being set for biofuels around the world, both for land transportation and aviation, without a good understanding of how much we can produce sustainably. Such estimates are not possible without looking at the bigger picture of land availability and its agro-ecologic suitability for the production of energy crops in the context of all competing land uses for food, feed and nature conservation. This study sheds some light on what is realistically possible in terms of biofuel production in sub-Saharan Africa without compromising the region’s food security or critical ecosystems, so that we can set realistic targets and provide the right incentives to maximise the opportunities and minimise the risks of large scale biofuel production.” –Tjasa Bole-Rentel, WWF’s Bioenergy Programme Manager
“The transition to a low-carbon economy with biomass as one of its energy sources will intensify the energy-agriculture linkage and add a new dimension to agricultural systems, heighten resource competition in the food system, and may provide new opportunities for rural communities. As food, feed and energy feedstock markets integrate more closely, both challenges and opportunities arise. Increasing biofuel feedstock production in sub-Saharan Africa, while at the same time meeting food demand targets and strictly following sustainability principles, faces a high degree of complexity. Integrated system analysis such as this helps unpack those complexities and will hopefully contribute to a better informed debate and policy development on the topic.” – Dr Sylvia Tramberend, International Institute fore Applied Systems Analysis
A Sustainable Future Is Taking Off with RSB
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