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The sky is not just a place to fly, but an environment to be protected


The topic of sustainability is more heartfelt and urgent than ever. We already discussed it in a previous article 5 years ago.

During this time, a lot has been and is being done to reach the stable parameters of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

In this context, the aviation industry has often been accused of being one of the main causes of global pollution; yet, the data is clear: only 2-3% of global CO2 emissions are attributable to air traffic.

These values are rather low, if compared to other, much more impacting sectors, but still significant, which have led the aviation sector to start a truly green revolution with new fuels and new technologies that promise to drastically reduce its emissions and ecological impact.

Let’s see what the innovations are and how the sector is adapting to respond to sustainability needs.


  1. Impact and evolution of air traffic emissions 
  2. Fuel innovations: the future of e-fuels in aviation
  3. Towards a zero-emission future: innovations in sustainable aviation



Why is air traffic considered highly polluting?

The reason for this accusation is to be found not so much in the impact of single aircraft – newer models already use less impacting technologies and fuels compared to the past – but rather in the increased demand for flights and, therefore, a higher number of routes than in the past.

The exponential increase in passengers and flight routes in recent decades has practically equalised, in terms of less pollution, the advantages achieved by the use of new technologies and fuels.

Air transport is a strategic sector for economic and social development: a world without airplanes is unthinkable. This is why technological research is so important right now.

But what is the outlook?

According to Our World in Data ( ), global CO2 emissions from air traffic have quadrupled since 1960, going from around 130 million tonnes to over 1 billion in 2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to interrupt air connections, emissions were significantly reduced, but the post-pandemic period quickly returned to the same pre-pandemic values, with further growth expected.

In numbers, we can say that the average annual increase of more than 5% in air traffic has caused an increase in emissions of 25% in Italy.

However, it is important to remember that the aviation sector only contributes around 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. Despite this, it is altitude that amplifies their impact on climate, because the greenhouse gases emitted at high altitudes have a greater warming potential compared to those emitted at ground level.

How are these challenges being addressed?

The industry has begun to explore several mitigation strategies that include the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of flights, and the development of innovative motor and aircraft technologies that promise further reductions of emissions (see also previous article  ).

Furthermore, governments and international bodies are implementing strategies with stringent reduction objectives that encourage more sustainable practices.

Let’s see them together!



The urgency to reduce its carbon emissions and respond to growing environmental responsibilities has led the aviation industry to implement a significant transformation.

One of the most promising solutions in this sense is the development of e-fuels – or synthetic fuels – which are emerging as a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. E-fuels, also known as Power-to-Liquid (PtL) fuels, are produced by synthesising hydrogen (obtained through the electrolysis of water powered by renewable sources) with carbon dioxide captured directly from the atmosphere or industrial processes.

This approach not only offers a closed loop that neutralises carbon emissions – that is, it is Carbon Neutral – but also promises to integrate with existing infrastructure and aircraft engines.

In Europe, the race to develop and commercialise e-fuels is in full swing, with many projects aiming to produce these fuels sustainably.

According to Transport & Environment, around 45 projects are currently underway across the European Union, to achieve more sustainable advanced technology. These projects are vital to achieving the sector’s decarbonisation goals, required by EU regulations.

A significant challenge that aims at using low-cost renewable energy and efficient CO2 capture to make synthetic fuels a viable, competitive and crucial solution for the future of sustainable aviation.

Their potential to dramatically reduce aviation emissions is unquestionable and, with the right support, they could become a key pillar of the aviation decarbonisation strategy.



In addition to studies on alternative fuels, new regulations have been introduced which are pushing towards the acceleration of the decarbonisation of the aeronautical sector.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) plays a crucial role in this change, both promoting the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and overseeing the implementation of regulations such as ReFuelEU.

This initiative is intended to standardise and increase the use of SAFs at key EU airports, thus facilitating a greener transition. SAFs are seen as a key measure to mitigate the current and future environmental impacts of aviation, offering a significant reduction in carbon emissions when used in place of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, EASA is involved in innovative projects exploring the use of emerging technologies, such as electric hybrid and hydrogen aviation, which promise further reductions in emissions. These technologies represent the future of sustainable aviation, to manufacture aircraft that are no longer dependent on fossil fuels.

In parallel, the EU is working closely with member states and stakeholders to develop an environmental labelling system for aviation. This system aims to promote the use of sustainable fuels and achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2050.

The path to fully sustainable aviation is complex but, thanks to the ongoing initiatives and support for research and innovation, aviation is on the right path to becoming a greener and more responsible industry.

These efforts not only improve environmental efficiency but also set new standards for a crucial sector of the global economy.

As an air charter broker, THAT! is naturally interested in this topic, because environmental responsibility is not an option, but an imperative necessity.

Our effort is to propose the most innovative solutions – for aircraft and services – to guarantee that each operation respects emerging environmental standards.


With the commitment of every stakeholder, we can all actively contribute to the global fight against climate change, fly cleaner and respect the environment.

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