Aviation and Climate: an assessment of transition scenarios for sustainable aviation compatible with the Paris Agreement

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In 2021, ISAE-SUPAERO researchers Scott Delbecq, Jérôme Fontane, Nicolas Gourdain, Florian Simatos and Thomas Planès published the “Aviation and Climate” repository providing an overview of international scientific publications to offer the scientific elements needed to understand the challenges of decarbonizing air transport.

The researchers have just completed their study, providing a comprehensive review of the latest findings, based on an analysis of over 350 scientific publications in the scientific journal Progress in Aerospace Sciences. "The aim is to provide the key elements needed to assess whether a transition scenario envisaged for aviation could be considered sustainable in the context of the Paris climate agreement, which came into force in 2016," explains Nicolas Gourdain.

Solution maturity and effectiveness

The contribution of their recent work includes the detailed identification of technological levers for reducing CO2 emissions and attenuating non-CO2 effects. In particular, it highlights the degree of maturity of existing solutions and promising avenues, such as attenuated contrails. Future aircraft architecture and associated fleet renewal, along with envisaged energy sources, are studied from the angle of measuring the effectiveness of solutions.

At the same time, prospective scenarios for the transition of aviation are being studied. The researchers conduct a comparison of the methodologies proposed by different academic sources with regard to modeling and assessment of environmental sustainability. Some applications are illustrated using the AeroMAPS tool developed at ISAE-SUPAERO, which researcher Thomas Planès describes as “a tool for modeling transition scenarios, taking into account air transport components, associated impacts and multiple interactions”.

Their analysis highlights the uncertainties surrounding the feasibility of these trajectories, especially those of the most ambitious scenarios, which are based on strong assumptions about technological and political trade-offs. “Our work also includes elements of reflection on the concept of aviation sustainability, and has led us to consider the need for a multidisciplinary approach in future prospective models,” estimates Florian Simatos.

This work represents one of ISAE-SUPAERO’s contributions to the Institute for Sustainable Aviation (ISA). This latter is intended to become a scientific research instrument capable of bringing together multiple disciplinary fields such as economics, law, regulation, and sociology to climate projections for the aeronautical sector.

In a special issue dedicated to sustainable aviation, the scientific journal Progress in Aerospace Sciences, a benchmark in the aeronautical field, has published a scientific article on the enhanced version of the "Aviation and Climate” reference framework.

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