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Annually the travel arrangement for the UN climate summit proves slightly embarrassing because of the jets that deliver delegates to a conference seeking to shrink the world’s carbon footprint. Next year, COP28 will be held in Dubai, UAE and things may look slightly different, or rather, greener.

Under a memorandum of understanding to be signed at the UN climate summit on Thursday, Etihad Airways PJSC and US biodiesel producer World Energy are committing to effectively decarbonise some air travel by powering aircraft flying out of Los Angeles International Airport with bio-based sustainable aviation fuel made at a nearby World Energy plant. Regular routes for Etihad will continue to be petroleum-based flights since transporting the bio-fuel from California will negate the environment benefits of using it.

The collaboration underscores the potential for sustainable aviation fuel but also the commercial challenges in reaching net-zero flights. Current sustainable aviation fuel is generally biofuel derived from fats and other feedstocks with intensive requirements for nitrogen, land and water. And relatively little of the world’s biofuel is going to aviation.

Abu-Dhabi based Etihad is getting closer to sustainable aviation goals with their Etihad’s Greenliner Programme. The initiative tests new green technologies, including the use of sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) and eco-friendly in-flight products on a Dreamliner fleet, with a specially-themed Boeing 787 at the helm. The first Etihad Airways flight to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) supplied by ITOCHU Corporation and NESTE took off from Tokyo Narita airport on October 27.

Cassie Mackie, Vice President Procurement & Supply Chain, Etihad Airways said earlier this year, “Etihad is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and reducing our 2019 emissions by 50 percent by 2035. The industry must get serious about decarbonisation and this type of collaboration between governments, corporates and the aviation sector, which increases SAF supply and availability at airports, helps pave the way for broader adoption.”