Aerospace company to issue contrail reduction credits.

Aerospace company to issue contrail reduction credits.

Reducing Aviation’s Climate Impact: Contrails and Mitigation

Plane in the sky

UK-based aerospace software startup SATAVIA has recently received approval from sustainability certification body Gold Standard for its innovative concept of issuing “contrail credits.” Contrails, or condensation trails, are known to contribute significantly to aviation’s impact on global warming. In fact, research suggests that contrails are responsible for almost 60% of this contribution, as they trap heat that would otherwise escape into space. While there has been little incentive for airlines to mitigate contrails, SATAVIA’s methodology provides an avenue for them to address the non-CO2 climate impact of air travel.

Understanding Contrails and Their Climate Impact

Contrails form when specific conditions of altitude, temperature, and humidity are met. SATAVIA, based in Cambridge, UK, has developed a tech platform called DECISIONX that applies data analytics and atmospheric science to help airlines reduce the formation of contrails. Through partnerships with airlines like KLM, Emirates, and Etihad Airways, SATAVIA’s prediction model generates a staggering 1 quadrillion computations per simulation day, aiding in route planning for contrail avoidance.

Dr. Adam Durant, SATAVIA’s CEO, emphasizes that contrail management provides an immediate and tangible option for reducing the climate impact of flying. By incorporating mature atmospheric science into their software solution, SATAVIA enables the airline sector to proactively address the environmental consequences of their operations.

Gold Standard: Ensuring Trust in Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting has faced criticism due to inadequate verification and regulation in the voluntary carbon market. In response to this, Gold Standard, launched in 2003 by the WWF and other environmental NGOs, plays a crucial role in ensuring offsetting projects deliver development benefits beyond emissions mitigation. Their stamp of approval on SATAVIA’s methodology concept opens the door for the issuance of “Certified Mitigation Outcome Units (CMOUs)” to offset the CO2 equivalent of contrail warming effects.

SATAVIA envisions that achieving full GS Approved Methodology status will position CMOUs as incentives for aircraft operators to embrace contrail management. This is especially significant considering that offsetting CO2 will soon become mandatory for international air operators under CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). SATAVIA aims to achieve this official status by late 2023, enabling the industry to achieve a potential 50% reduction in its non-CO2 impact before 2030.

Creating a Market for Climate Forcer Mitigation

SATAVIA’s innovative approach to contrail mitigation may also pave the way for addressing other short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs). As they continue developing the full methodology, Gold Standard plans to establish registry functionality that would allow for the trading of CMOUs, mirroring the trading of carbon credits. This expansion could create an entirely new market for SLCF mitigation, marking a significant step forward in environmental sustainability.

Dr. Durant emphasizes that this approach does not require changes to regulation and can be implemented at scale immediately. By adopting this method and leveraging the incentivization provided by Gold Standard CMOUs, aviation has the potential to reduce its non-CO2 impact significantly.

SATAVIA’s pioneering efforts in contrail management offer an exciting opportunity for the aviation industry to take a proactive stance in addressing its climate impact. By leveraging data analytics, atmospheric science, and the verification and regulation expertise of Gold Standard, airlines can undertake meaningful mitigation efforts. The potential reduction in environmental impact is substantial, and the pathway to a more sustainable future in air travel beckons.