Carbon neutral aviation: Federal Council adopts report

Bern, 21.02.2024 - At its meeting on 21 February 2024, the Federal Council approved the postulate report on carbon neutral flying by 2050. This sets out technical measures for climate-friendly aviation.

In 2021, the National Council's Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committee instructed the Federal Council via a postulate to produce a report on how flying can be made carbon-neutral by 2050. The Climate and Innovation Act having been approved by the Swiss electorate in June 2023, aviation is now to be included in Switzerland's net-zero target. The postulate report states that this goal, which the aviation industry is also striving for, can be achieved. However, the sector will have to invest considerable resources in research and development of technical measures in the coming years.

The primary technical approach to reducing carbon emissions involves the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). Efficiency savings in aircraft fleets and operations will also play a role. According to the report, hydrogen-fuelled and electric aircraft can only marginally reduce emissions – at least up to 2050.

The report also states that existing instruments, including Switzerland's emissions trading system, already incentivise the reduction of emissions. In addition, the CO2 Act provides for new measures for the aviation industry after 2024, such as making it mandatory to blend SAFs. Defined criteria prevent these fuels from having undesirable effects on the environment and avoid conflicts with food and animal feed production. Furthermore, the federal government will introduce new subsidies to support the aviation industry in its efforts to be carbon-neutral. With the existing instruments and those planned from 2025, the federal government can set a course for a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from Swiss air traffic. However, in order to fully achieve the net-zero target by 2050, carbon sequestration and storage (negative emission technologies) is also required.

The Confederation closely monitors the sustainable development of aviation, incorporates new findings into its activities on an ongoing basis and reports on these. For example, in addition to addressing carbon emissions, the report looks at other climate impacts of aviation, such as contrail formation. These additional effects on the climate are still the subject of research. SAFs can also play a role in reducing these effects.

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