What if flying reduced your carbon footprint?

Wind power pioneer Henrik Stiesdal tells climate conference the technology is nearly here

Imagine a scenario where flying on planes reduced your carbon footprint. Wind power pioneer Henrik Stiesdal is developing an aviation fuel from agricultural waste and green hydrogen that actually removes carbon from the atmosphere.

He told the Dublin Climate Dialogues conference that his new SkyClean fuel is produced by burning agricultural waste in a pyrolysis oven and combining some of the components with green hydrogen to create biomethanol, which can then be synthesised into aviation fuel.

The end product is a fuel that is chemically the same to the A-1 jet fuel currently used by airlines but produced in a way that removes carbon from the atmosphere, which means its carbon negative.


"You could completely decarbonise aviation – there's enough agricultural waste in the world to fuel aircraft several times over," Mr Stiesdal said.


"So you could say, be a good citizen, take some more holiday trips to Thailand, " he said

The technology is on track to be commercialised by 2025 and promises to be the most climate-friendly option to clean up the aviation industry, which is viewed as one of the hardest to decarbonise. It could also lead to an expansion in aviation, Mr Stiesdal said.

The former chief technology officer at Siemens Wind Power told the conference that wind and solar were the only renewables with scale needed to quickly move away from fossil fuels.

Mr Stiesdal also spoke about the gap between government pledges on climate and their actions.


He said a legal case taken in Germany, which found the government's climate change laws were insufficient and violated fundamental freedoms by putting the burden of curbing emissions on the young was a template that's likely to be used by activists more and more.

Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled in April that the country’s 2019 climate protection act is in part unconstitutional.

“The regulations irreversibly postpone high emission reduction burdens until periods after 2030,” the court said, while adding that the the law did not explain in enough detail how greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced after 2031.

The judges gave the government until the end of next year to draw up clearer reduction targets.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times