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Val Miftakhov
May 24, 2022

This week, I am attending the World Economic Forum in Davos with one goal in mind: advancing true zero-emission aviation.

It is already alarmingly late to stem the warming of our planet. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that, without greenhouse gas emissions reductions from a 2019 baseline of 27% by 2030 and 63% by 2050, we will overshoot a 2 °C increase in global temperatures. Without reductions of 43% by 2030 and 84% by 2050, we will overshoot a 1.5 °C increase.¹ Those are longshot targets if you consider that the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 12% between 2010 and 2019. A reduction of the depth needed seems unlikely, and we are now at risk of overshooting both targets and facing a world that is dangerously hot.

And, a review published just last week indicates that, in addition to contributing to climate change, pollution is responsible for one in every six deaths around the world. Air pollution alone causes 75% of that harm.² Aviation, with its significant near-ground emissions during takeoff and initial climb out, contributes to that, especially around large airports that tend to be near large population centers.

Aviation accounts for just under 3% of carbon emissions today, a figure that is rapidly growing as aviation expands. However, carbon is only 30–50% of the total climate impact of aviation. NOx, soot, and high temperature water vapor from combustion are emitted at high altitudes where they have a disproportionate impact on climate. As a result, aviation today is already contributing 5–10% of all human climate impact, a share that is rising rapidly as the aviation industry grows, and all other industries get cleaner.

I started ZeroAvia in 2017 to develop the most effective and scalable technology available to eliminate aviation emissions—hydrogen-electric propulsion. And we are laser-focused on delivering that technology. In fact, we have already flown the first commercial passenger aircraft powered by a zero-emission hydrogen-electric engine.

So, this week, I could be in Kemble, England, where part of the ZeroAvia teams are on the verge of flying out the largest prototype yet—a 19-seat aircraft powered by a zero-emission hydrogen-electric powertrain. Or in Hollister, CA, where we are preparing our second 19-seat demonstrator to work with Americas-based partners, customers, and regulators.

But I’m not. Instead, I’m advocating for zero emission aviation to world leaders as if human and planetary health depended on it. I’m engaging with policymakers, academics, corporate leaders, and other cleantech entrepreneurs. And my message to all of them is simple: zero-emission aviation is an immediate priority. The technology will be available not in 2050, and not in 2035, but in 2024—so we need to be ready to adopt it.   

ZeroAvia is developing the technology to fly many of those at Davos emissions-free to and from their homes before the end of the decade—whether they are CEOs from London, Paris, Berlin, Rotterdam, or Istanbul.

But, if our tech and other tech aimed at the same zero-emission goal is going to make a difference, we need world leaders to get on board. Governments must support it. Air travelers and cargo shippers must demand it. And aircraft manufacturers and airlines must adopt it.

We at ZeroAvia are fortunate to be leading this transition, and sharing our vision at Davos this week!

¹ Skea, J., Shukla, P., Reisinger, A., et al. Climate Change 2022: Working Group III, Mitigation of Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
² Fuller, R., Landrigan, P. Balakrishnan, K, et al. Pollution and health: a progress update. The Lancet: Planetary Health.
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