As the world seeks to rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic and the financial impact resulting from government measures taken during it, the transport industry is central to the global economic recovery. Estimated to generate between 6 and 12 per cent of the developed world’s GDP, the sector has a positive impact on the labour market and business landscape, directly employing 10 million people in Europe alone and impacting billions of lives positively via the safe movement of people, goods and services.
Yet, the sector is already responsible for more than 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions. It is the fastest-growing source of human-generated global greenhouse gases, expected to rise two-fold by 2050, if no action is taken1. Achieving Net Zero carbon emission targets by 2050 will require the accelerated deployment of both existing solutions (such as always-on connectivity) and emerging low-emission and zero-emission technologies (for example sustainable fuels) across all transport segments.
Research shows that significant carbon emissions reductions across most modes of transport – including aviation, maritime, and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) – can be achieved in a much shorter timeframe by embracing existing digital technologies in addition to sustainable fuel solutions. In most cases, sustainable outcomes can be enjoyed alongside a considerable reduction in operating costs and improvement in profit margins.
“Meeting our climate goals by achieving Net Zero is the biggest and most urgent challenge the world faces,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat. “To have a fighting chance of achieving Net Zero, we must continue improving the efficiency of ‘conventional’ modes of transport while facilitating market penetration of zero-emissions solutions, such as electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles, more commonly known as ‘flying taxis’. The combination of the two will help reduce congestion while continuing to improve global mobility and consumer choice.”
Considerable sustainability gains can be achieved across the existing and emerging transport segments in the following ways:
- Aviation: Today, the sector is responsible for 2.5 per cent of annual global, human-generated CO2 emissions. Yet, 5-10 per cent of these carbon emissions – largely resulting from inefficient routes and ‘stacking’ in the air over busy airports – are avoidable, according to Inmarsat’s most recent “Plotting the route to a greener future” report. It outlines how Europe’s CO2 emissions can be reduced by 15 million tonnes per year from 2024 – comparable to the entire pre-pandemic emissions of countries such as Lithuania or Luxembourg. Technologies such as the Iris next generation communication system deployed with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the Inmarsat ELERA network, would allow the sector to fly far more environmentally optimised routes. Iris offers an immediately viable option to bring a reduction in carbon emissions from 2023, whereas electrification, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels will all take many years at least to mature.
- Maritime: Responsible for more than 90 per cent of world trade, it also accounts for 2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, left unchecked, maritime emissions could rise by as much as 250 per cent in the period to 2050 according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMO has set a target to cut CO2 emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050. According to some analysts, a 38% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved by 2050 with implementation of digital solutions enabled by satellite connectivity at just one tenth of the cost required to support the alternative fuels infrastructure, according to the most recent ‘The Optimal Route’ report, produced by Inmarsat. The report argues that always-on connectivity is effectively putting the segment in pole position for carbon neutrality – which would be otherwise unattainable. One recent example is of a shipping company using an energy efficiency management tool with high frequency data extraction via Inmarsat Fleet Data, resulting in a 9% CO2 reduction in 2021.
- Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): With more than 660,000 deliveries by UAV in the last three years, and 3.8 billion parcel deliveries in the UK alone in 2019, the number of automated deliveries are set to skyrocket. It is projected that there will be 10 million commercial UAVs flying in mixed airspace by 2030. Of these, an estimated 600,000 will be flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and these will rely on constant connectivity. To put that in context, today there are approximately 23,600 airliners in service, carrying both passengers and cargo. A recent Inmarsat report with Cranfield University found that using UAVs for freight delivery reduces urban transport CO2 emissions by up to 47%. The greatest challenge to achieving this is the regulatory environment – which will rely on industry and government commitments to modernising Air Traffic Management (ATM). Making this a reality is reliant upon satellite networks with global coverage to enable that modernisation to realise emissions reductions and the future of flying vehicles.
Zero emissions transport: Furthermore, the future of zero emissions transportation – including electric vehicles (EVs) and advanced electrical air mobility vehicles (such as flying taxis) – depends on smart, resilient clean energy-powered electrical grids. With 86 per cent of power generation set to come from renewable sources by 2050, such smart grids will be enabled by the connectivity delivered by solutions such as the Inmarsat I-6 satellites.
Suri continued: “The rapid reduction of the combustion of fossil fuels while enabling ongoing growth of global mobility is a priority for humanity. As reliance on digital solutions within the transport sector grows – and the climate resilience of terrestrial networks remains challenged – always-on satellite connectivity can be a missing part of the sustainability puzzle, unlocking the potential of Net Zero transportation.
“As a leading communications network provider for the world’s maritime industry and the most respected airlines, aircraft manufacturers and business aviation globally, Inmarsat is well positioned to help reduce the impact of human-driven emissions while remaining a catalyst for the growth of these sectors and innovation in developing ones. While no single solution can make Net Zero happen, we are confident that by working with our customers and partners we can make a big difference is in the broader ecosystem, with satellite communications helping reduce emissions for enterprises across the global transport sector.”