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Airlines need a variety of solutions to mitigate risks in new sustainability technologies. This is why carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is so important and was the subject of an intense discussion at the IATA World Air Transport Association.

In many other aspects of sustainability, scalability is an issue. But the atmosphere is a virtually unlimited feedstock, which should provide the versatility airlines are searching for long into the future. Direct Air Capture (DAC)—one aspect of CDR—takes carbon from the air and ultimately stores it deep underground.

The ability to combine the captured carbon with green hydrogen to produce power-to-liquid sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will make DAC even more important in the future but it was pointed out that this is an expensive option until the technology matures. Even so, storing the carbon underground is proven and an unequivocal emissions removal.

The panel noted that DAC is a useful tool because it can provide measurable offsets that are recognized by the Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). This is not the case with the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme although efforts to change that are ongoing.

It is estimated that some 500 million tonnes of carbon removal will be needed by 2050, but airlines have already started on the journey and lead the way in advance credit purchases despite a high price compared with other carbon offsets. Airlines are aware of the opportunities on offer and have acted quickly.

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