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IATA estimates sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will be responsible for approximately 65% of the net zero by 2050 effort, which means production needs to ramp-up quickly. In fact, it must increase a thousand-fold between 2024 and 2050.

An extremely lively debate featuring producers, regulators, and airlines involved pushback on all sides as panellists and contributors from the floor debated the veracity of figures, target setting, and the merits of mandates and incentives.

The balance between the carrot and the stick varies the world over. In the European Union mandates have been preferred, the United States has incentives in place, and Japan has a blend. It is incentives, though, that drive the innovation necessary to ramp up production and create new SAF pathways.

Already, there are many variables in technology and feedstocks that must be considered, and the panel looked at some of the options available. HEFA is established but several other pathways exist, including alcohol-to-jet, which will be used in an Australian refinery that is benefitting from a Qantas investment.

Nevertheless, this complex landscape makes ramping up production a challenge as all stakeholders seek clarity on the best way forward. The panel agreed low carbon fuels could be an important transitional power source. As for the cost of SAF, airlines called for suppliers to be transparent so airlines can understand the economics involved and procure affordable SAF to meet the various mandates and targets around the world.

Overall, SAF production is getting out of first gear and starting to accelerate. Plants are opening up around the world and the regulatory landscape is changing. A clearer path forward is starting to emerge.

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