Gold Standard approves aircraft contrails methodology concept
Originally published on SATAVIA’s website
Gold Standard provides approval of SATAVIA methodology concept to deliver credits for mitigating climate warming caused by aircraft clouds, pioneering a new global market focused on short-lived climate forcers
- SATAVIA has pioneered aircraft contrail management since 2021, tackling a climate challenge accounting for up to 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) impact each year.
- Approved for progression by Gold Standard (GS), SATAVIA’s contrail management methodology will enable issuance of provisional Certified Mitigation Outcome Units (CMOUs) for non-CO2 aviation emissions avoided via contrail management activity, with in-sector rules-based usage e.g., against declared non-CO2 emissions inventories.
- SATAVIA aims to achieve full GS Approved Methodology status by late 2023, positioning CMOUs as incentives for aircraft operators to undertake contrail management and accelerate progress towards lower climate impact flying.
Geneva 7th August 2023, Switzerland – Gold Standard, the world-leading carbon and sustainable development standard, has granted approval for SATAVIA’s contrail management methodology concept. The decision paves the way for the future issuance of non-CO2 “Certified Mitigation Outcome Units (CMOUs)”, providing an incentive for aircraft operators to reduce the climate impact associated with aircraft contrails.
Aircraft-generated condensation trails, or contrails, are short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs) that cause surface warming which may amount to over 60% of aviation’s climate impact, around double that of direct CO2 emissions from aircraft emissions. SATAVIA predicts the conditions that lead to persistent warming contrail formation with world-leading accuracy, enables aircraft operators to optimise flight plans for contrail avoidance, and verifies the avoided climate impact for each flight. The Gold Standard decision fundamentally recognises the correspondence between contrail-generated radiative forcing and carbon dioxide equivalency (CO2e) for the calculation of aviation’s non-CO2 emissions, which could pave the way towards a credit-based incentive for aircraft operators implementing contrail management.
“Short-lived climate forcers are an important and growing field of climate impact mitigation, pioneered by Gold Standard in 2015,” said Owen Hewlett, Chief Technical Officer at Gold Standard. “It is clear that in order to combat the climate crisis we need to couple a serious conversation about the volume and necessity of flights, with a significant reduction in the impact of flying. SATAVIA’s methodology is an example of a novel activity addressing short lived climate forcers and will provide aircraft operators with a clear incentive to implement contrail management in day-to-day activity, making a tangible reduction of aviation’s climate impact.”
SATAVIA will now proceed with developing the methodology, aiming to get approval from the experts on Gold Standard’s Technical Advisory Committee, and could achieve Design Certification as soon as late 2023 or early 2024. This will enable the issuance of contrail CMOUs against declared aviation non-CO2 climate impact inventories, thereby ensuring their use in support of contrail management activity. CMOUs will also be subject to sector-specific rules and restrictions, limiting their use to in-sector stakeholders. In parallel, GS will also develop registry functionality to allow CMOU trading. Additionally, SATAVIA will seek CMOU recognition from CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), with the aim of bringing contrail management incentives to the widest possible market.
“This exciting development will supercharge industry progress towards greener flight operations,” said Head of Sustainability and Business Excellence at Etihad Airways, Mariam Musallam Al-Qubaisi. “By implementing small navigational changes to a minority of flights, Etihad can use SATAVIA technology to prevent contrails and generate CMOUs to support new and more sustainable business models.”
The Gold Standard announcement follows SATAVIA’s early engagements with leading operators Etihad, KLM and KLM Cityhopper, and Emirates, in addition to multiple operator demonstrations supported by European Space Agency through the Business Applications programme. Contrail management offers operators the ability to rapidly reduce their climate impact on near-term timescales, compared to multi-year or decadal timelines for development of new fuels and propulsion systems.
“Our practical approach to contrail mitigation offers an incentive for aircraft operators to immediately start cutting their non-CO2 climate footprint, which we hope will drive rapid adoption across the industry”, said SATAVIA CEO, Dr Adam Durant. “As a software solution incorporating the excellent and decades-mature atmospheric science available to us, contrail management provides the airline sector with an immediate and tangible option to reduce the climate impact of flying. With the incentive provided by Gold Standard CMOUs, aviation could reduce its non-CO2 impact by perhaps 50% before 2030. All we need is a willingness to adopt this approach, which importantly doesn’t require any changes to regulation and could be deployed at scale today.”
UK-based ClimateTech company SATAVIA applies cutting-edge tech and atmospheric science to make aviation smarter and greener. Rooted in scientific acumen and working with leading players ranging from Microsoft to Etihad and from AWS to the University of Cambridge, SATAVIA embodies an entrepreneurial mindset with the ambition to transform the relationship between aviation and the environment. Nominated for the 2023 Earthshot Prize, SATAVIA is currently offering demonstration trials to new operators with European Space Agency support, building on beachhead engagements with Etihad, KLM, and KLM Cityhopper.