Will flights between Danish cities soon be 100% green?

Flights rely on fossil fuels and consume a huge amount of energy. Aircraft emissions have a significant climatic impact because they are released high in the atmosphere. According to the BBC, aviation is responsible for about 2.4 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions and combined with various gases and water vapour trails produced by planes, for roughly 5% of global warming. 

Denmark has recently announced that it will join a small group of neighbouring countries in eliminating all fossil fuel-powered domestic airline flights by 2030. If this ambitious goal is met, flying between Danish cities in 8 years time will be much more environmentally friendly than it is today.

In a special New Year’s speech, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen stated that making flying green is part of the government’s wider goal of reducing carbon emissions by 70% from 1990 levels. Similar targets were previously announced by neighbouring Sweden who pledged to eliminate fossil fuels from domestic flights by 2030 and also aspires to make international flights environmentally friendly by 2045.

“When other countries in the world are too slow, then Denmark must take the lead. And raise the bar even more. This also applies to air traffic. To travel is to live, and that is why we fly. But at the same time it is harmful to our climate. Imagine if Denmark could help solve that problem. We need to make flying green,” Frederiksen said in her speech. 

Fredriksen did admit, however, that the solutions to accomplish this ambitious goal were not yet ready, but are being worked on. The means Denmark would rely on in its effort to meet the new target were not mentioned, but the approach known as Power-to-X is often cited as a critical technology that will help the green transition succeed. The process refers to various methods that make use of excess electric power generated by renewable energy sources, most commonly solar and wind.

“If we succeed. Then it will be a green breakthrough. Not just for Denmark. But for the whole world. If there is anything the past few years have taught us, in dealing with major crises, then it is that we must never hesitate,” Denmark’s Prime Minister further stated.

Denmark is definitely not the only country that is trying to make flying more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Last spring, France decided to ban short-haul domestic flights on routes where train options are available in order to reduce carbon emissions. New air travel ban refers to routes that are less than 2.5 hours long and can be substituted by direct High-Speed Trains (TGV), and does not include connecting flights. 

The new legislation was part of a series of climate and environmental measures introduced by France. Later last year, the city of Nice, Air France, TotalEnergies, and the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport also teamed up to operate a flight using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The flight concluded the Transition Forum, a two-day international economic conference held during the Nice Transition Days with the goal of speeding up the transition to a lower-carbon future.

This flight’s biofuel was made from waste and residues created by the circular economy. TotalEnergies created it using spent cooking oils from its biorefinery in La (Bouches-du-Rhône) and plant in Oudalle (Seine-Maritime). The special flight reflected objectives to confront the major  issue of decarbonizing air travel while at the same time preserving economy and tourism. 

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is one of the solutions for achieving significant CO2 reductions in air transport. There are, however, many alternative approaches to making flying more eco-friendly. It remains to be seen which approach Denmark will choose on its journey to a greener and more sustainable future. (photo credit Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay)