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China Sees Tangible Progress in Green Aviation

Mar 14,2024

China's aviation strategy has made significant progress since the release of the Green Aviation Manufacturing Industry Development Outline (20232035) last year. This outline proposes achievements in both pilot and business applications in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), electric aircrafts as well as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL).

"China's strides in green aviation have been nothing short of remarkable, aligning seamlessly with the goals outlined in the document," said Dr. Changmin Jiang to China.org.cn on Friday, referring to the Green Aviation Manufacturing Industry Development Outline (20232035).

The document formulates China's development plan for a green aviation system between 2023 and 2035. New energy-powered aircrafts are expected to be the core project of such developments. 

"In the dynamic realm of eVTOL, China has emerged as a beacon of innovation and untapped market potential," Jiang said. As a low-noise, zero-emission air transportation, eVTOL will promote the three-dimensional development of urban transportation, changing people's way of traveling. 

Now, a cadre of aviation technology enterprises have not only engineered eVTOL prototypes but also executed successful test flights. "For instance, EHang, a trailblazer in this field, secured the globe's inaugural airworthiness certificate for an unmanned autonomous eVTOL aircraft and has already commenced commercial deliveries," Jiang added. 

All these achievements underscore a monumental advancement in China's eVTOL capabilities. Moreover, Chinese cities like Shenzhen are not mere spectators. "They actively nurture the low-altitude economy by establishing integrated low-altitude flight demonstration zones, fostering the growth of related industries," he continued. 

Shifting gears to another crucial domain, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) takes center stage as the vital tool for aviation decarbonization. SAF, derived from resources such as forestry residue, agricultural waste, used cooking oil and urban solid waste, has the potential to slash carbon emissions by up to 85% over its lifecycle compared to traditional aviation fuels. 

Jiang stressed that China has laid down significant policy guidelines to accelerate this green transition. In the aviation industry chain, Sinopec took the lead in 2022 by mass producing SAF and earning the CAAC's endorsement via an airworthiness certificate. Not to be outdone, Junheng Biology achieved a similar milestone, becoming the first Chinese private enterprise to receive this certification. 

"In our quest to enhance national aviation capabilities, strategic evolution within aviation management is imperative to align with the nation's development goals," Jiang said. 

"This entails investing in and supporting research in eVTOL, SAF and advanced air traffic management systems," he explained, highlighting innovation in aviation technology.

To this end, international collaboration stands as another vital pillar. By collaborating closely with global aviation bodies, foreign governments and multinational corporations, China can contribute to and benefit from the exchange of ideas, cutting-edge technologies and internationally recognized standards. "Active participation in global research initiatives, adherence to environmental and safety norms and forging cross-border partnerships for innovative aviation technologies are all avenues to explore," he stressed. "By doing so, China will not only contribute significantly to the global drive for sustainable aviation, but also bolster its competitive edge as a leading aviation powerhouse."

In the pursuit of carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals, there remains ample opportunities for enhancement in other domains besides SAF and eVTOL. For instance, optimizing air traffic management measures and the introduction of market-based procedures, such as carbon emission trading schemes, both offer other avenues for emission reduction. "Specifically, integrating the aviation industry into China's pilot carbon trading schemes, which currently are only implemented in Shanghai, and broader inclusion in the national carbon emissions trading scheme could drive innovation and scalability in the aviation sector to better achieve carbon peak."

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