Alumni lecture 12 October 2021: Transforming aviation to serve a climate neutral society

As the latest IPCC report has reinforced, more and more urgent action is needed to limit global warming to the levels committed by the 194 states representing over 97% of global CO2 emissions that have ratified the Paris Agreement. The European Union’s Green Deal and EU Climate Law under political negotiation will aim to make Europe a ‘climate neutral continent’ by 2050. And to do this all sectors of economic activity will need to undergo a fundamental transformation. So is a ‘net zero’ or climate-neutral (European) aviation system by 2050 feasible, or a utopia? Or do we need to consider flying as an activity that will need to be strongly reduced to achieve our climate goals? 

Ron van Manen, TU Delft Aerospace Engineering alumnus and head of Strategic Development at the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking shared his perspective on the progress made and future steps needed. He showed how far aviation has already come in terms of energy efficiency, and shared innovations developed and supported by the Clean Sky programme which shows the potential to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment by a further 30% compared to today’s aircraft. 

Furthermore, he highlighted the scale of the challenge that lies ahead, and how the next research and innovation programmes under development in the EU’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme will need to support a systemic transformation, involving bolder and more disruptive steps in aircraft technology, coupled to a fundamental reconsideration of the ‘energy chain’ and onboard fuel/energy source, and reinventing air transport operations and networks. He argued that only by reinventing aviation in this manner can future generations continue to enjoy the huge benefits of air travel, and that through this reinvention the European aeronautics and aviation sectors can set the global standard for sustainability and drive a new revolution in flight. 

Watch the recording of this event

Curious to see the recording of this event? Watch the video of this event and the keynote of Ron van Manen at our alumni portal TU Delft for Life. 

go to TU Delft for Life portal