Meeting the scale of the climate emergency for the aviation industry

This month, Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Director of the UK Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC) and Deputy Principal (Global Sustainability) at Heriot-Watt University chaired key discussions on Sustainability in Commercial Aviation and Airport Management. You can find out more about it below:



International experts and stakeholders held a high-level workshop on ‘Sustainability in Commercial Aviation and Airport Management’ this month at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus.

The event was coordinated by Heriot-Watt University, the Consulate General of Spain in Edinburgh and the Embassy of Spain in London and with the support of the Cervantes Chair at Edinburgh University, one whose main lines of action will be science and technology.

The workshop subject could not be more pertinent in today’s world. Aviation is one of the hardest sectors to transition to net-zero, accounting for about 2.5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions*, and moreover, one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of emissions.

The experts explored the complexities and potential opportunities for sustainable multi modal transport, with a particular focus on the role of airports as strategic multi-modal transport zero-carbon hubs, hydrogen applications in airports, and Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

Spain and the United Kingdom share an interest on transport and sustainable tourism and are equally committed to the energy transition process. Both countries have a huge potential on renewable energies and look at hydrogen as one of the possible alternatives to hydrocarbons, particularly in the field of transport and transport-related activities.

High-level representatives from civil aviation and airport authorities to airlines and research institutes participated in the event, including Edinburgh Airport, Alicante Airport, Scottish Government, Jet2, Easyjet, AENA, and University of Alicante, as well as the hosts Heriot-Watt University, Consulate General of Spain in Edinburgh and Embassy of Spain.

A report of the discussions will be published in the coming days to engage further business and policy makers all over the world for rapidly advancing solutions that can significantly alter the face of the air travel and highlight opportunities for key investments in infrastructure to reach net zero targets.

Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Director of the UK Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC) and Deputy Principal (Global Sustainability) at Heriot-Watt University, who chaired the discussions, is a global expert in decarbonisation. She commented ‘This is the right moment for information and best practice sharing, in a context where ambitious plans and resolute policies are more necessary than ever to transition to sustainable aviation’.


Mr. Ignacio Cartagena Núñez, Consul General of Spain in Edinburgh.

“Civil aviation, airport management and renewable energies are three key sectors for Spain and the UK. Our relevant institutions, companies and researchers can interact and learn from each other. There is a clear need for urgent actions in the framework of a firm commitment to energy transition, and this seminar could be another step ahead in the good direction.”


Ms. Ana Salazar Lopez-Pedraza, Sustainability Manager, AENA.

“Airports play a crucial role in embracing new aircraft technologies and renewable energy solutions to ensure a sustainable future for aviation. Adapting infrastructure and operations is not only necessary but also an opportunity to lead the way in reducing emissions and fostering innovation and sustainability.”


Mr. Esteban Pachá, Transport and Infrastructure Attaché, Ministry of Transport, Embassy of Spain in London.

“Spain and UK have a strong shared interest in promoting SAF to meet the renewable energy targets. The Roadmap for the promotion of SAF launched by the UK’s Department for Transport with the aim to set the ambition and strategy for the deployment of SAF from 2025 is very compatible with the Safe, Sustainable and Connected Mobility 2030 strategy that will guide the actions of the Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda about mobility, infrastructure and transport, including low emissions mobility. In this context, both ministries are developing new areas of cooperation to jointly promoting SAF in accordance with each country regulatory frameworks, and to strengthen partnerships with the sector and academic research entities to coordinate initiatives and best practices.”


Mr. Terry Shevlin, Head of Aviation Strategy and Sustainable Aviation for Transport Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is committed to working with Scotland’s airports to help restore lost connectivity, and grow international connectivity, while not returning to previous levels of emissions. We are also committed to creating the world’s first zero emission aviation region in partnership with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited. It is therefore very helpful to understand in more depth the actions being taken by airports and airlines to reduce aviation’s emissions, particularly as the Scottish Government continues to develop its own aviation strategy.”


Ms. Jessica Briggs– Head of Sustainability, Edinburgh Airport.

“Airports form critical infrastructure for an island nation like Scotland and direct connectivity is crucial for both bringing Scotland closer to the world and allowing travel between mainland and islands. The application of alternative fuels such as hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) are essential for the sector to realise net zero goals and for Edinburgh Airport to fully decarbonise ahead of the Scottish Government’s 2045 target. Collaborative workshops such as this, hosted by Herriot Watt University and the Spanish Embassy allow us to build relationships with key partners, allowing us all to work towards a low-carbon aviation sector that delivers sustainable growth beside local and national economic growth.”


Ms. Laura Navarro Villanueva, Director, Alicante Airport.

‘‘Developing a culture of sustainability throughout the entire airport community, involving and committing everyone – including employees, airlines, passengers, ground handlers, commercial areas and other stakeholders – is the key to working towards and the only way to achieve zero emissions in 2040”


Ms. Katie Jones, Sustainability Manager, Jet2.

“Concerted action is needed to build a more sustainable aviation sector for the long term, and support for technologies such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel is critical to this. Through working in partnership with government, airports, airlines and research institutions, the right policy conditions can be created that ensure connectivity is sustained for the future.”


Prof John Andresen – Scotland ETP Hydrogen Lead, Heriot-Watt University.

“Aviation is the gateway to prosperity and global connectivity and bringing together high-level representatives across the innovation supply chain is key to fast-track sustainable solutions.  The role of hydrogen and e-fuels is the runway for global net zero growth and national fuel security.”


Prof. Dr. Antonio Sepúlveda-Escribano, University of Alicante.

“Improving the sustainability of the aviation sector is essential for a greener future. By reducing, and even avoiding, carbon emissions we can mitigate the impact of air travel on climate change. Although we have already developed some tools to reach this objective, such as the use of green hydrogen and sustainable fuels, they need to be further improved, and investing in these fields and in technology advancements will pave the way for a more environmentally friendly sector.”


*Source: Climate change and flying: what share of global CO2 emissions come from aviation? – Our World in Data