Charles Perry, Founder Sustainable Future For All and consultant to the United Nations’ Climate Change Champions team, on the challenges facing aviation in its race to build fully decarbonised air transport solutions.

by | Jan 27, 2021

Charles Perry has been in the sustainability business almost three decades. His current role as a consultant to the UN COP26 Climate Champions team – with a particular focus on aviation – has seen him over the past 12 months galvanising business and civil society behind the Herculean task facing the industry: the development of zero emission aircraft and a fully ‘Net Zero’ sector by mid-century.

COP26 will take place (physically, if the state of the pandemic allows) in Glasgow, Scotland, this November, and will intensify focus on the pathways set out by the UNFCCC for cross-sector decarbonisation – this to keep global temperatures within the limits set by the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015: 2 degrees C, and ideally 1.5 degrees, above pre-industrial levels by mid-century.

No one is in any doubt that aviation, amongst all sectors, has the toughest hill to climb. Here, Charles discusses the pathways to decarbonisation – technological and other – that are on the table – and, of particular interest to our Call To Action, the cultural changes that will need to take place across the aerospace ‘ecosystem’ to enable it to adapt at speed (whilst still maintaining a rigorous eye on safety) to its two major current disruptors: resilience to present and future crises and the need to go fully carbon net zero.

Although the majority air transport industry view is that a net zero sector is unachievable before 2060, a number of airlines have committed to be carbon-free sooner. “We can drive radical collaboration between regulators, governments and industry to bring about a sustainable future,” Charles says. This, he argues, is the only way for aviation to bounce back after the present crisis.

Efficiency strides, sustainable aviation fuels, electric and hybrid-electric power trains, hydrogen, new aircraft designs, government policy and innovative investment models are some of the methods he discusses here that are on option to take it – and us – to new clean, bright horizons.