Net Zero Conversations: Heathrow 2.0 - a focused approach to removing carbon from aviation

Javier Echave, Chief Financial Officer at Heathrow, speaks to Jane Goodland, Head of Sustainability at LSEG, in the first of our Net Zero Conversations. Echave outlines Heathrow’s net zero strategy, the importance and history of sustainable aviation fuel, how realistic it is that the aviation industry can decarbonize, and how governments can help.

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Javier, welcome and thank you for joiningus on Net Zero Conversations.Thank you, Jane.Now I understand you are CFO at Heathrow Airportand you've just publishedyour first net-zero strategy recently.Can you tell me a bit more about that?Yes. Well, we started our journey tosustainability back in 2017.At that point in time, our Heathrow 2.0 plan wasa very broad strategycovering sustainability across everything.But what we have learned over the last few years,especially on the back of COP26,is that we needed much morefocus and that's why we publishedour refreshed Heathrow 2.0plan connecting people and planet back in February.As part of that, we are really focusing on two things.One is making sure thatHeathrow remains a responsible business.Unfortunately today there are many cases ofhuman and naturetrafficking happening across borders everywhere.So it's absolutely critical that we do that.But more importantly, it's also critical that weaccelerate our focus to making herea great place to live and work.And importantly even more that we accelerateour action to remove carbon from aviation,which is the unacceptable costthat these days aviation is adding to the environment.And your role as a CFO, how...what does net-zero have to do with your role in finance?I think it has to do with absolutelyeveryone working in aviation.So I, part of my roleas a CFO is to really raise the funds,part of the bonds I'mresponsible for the debt that we have today.One of our bonds, for example,matures in 2058.When that date arrived,we will have to be compliant with existing regulation.Therefore, this is not an ethical challengeonly this is a values issue as well.So we need to make sure that we remain compliant.And therefore, this existential opportunityacross aviation is impacting all of us,obviously, especially myself as CFO,but also chair of the investment committee,I have the accountability to enable all the goals,ambitious goals, but realistic goalsthat we have set in our Heathrow 2.0plan to make that a reality.I also sit in the board ofdirectors and also looking atthe different investors thatare bringing their investment at Heathrow.We are getting their challenge,but also the support tomake that transition happen.So I wouldn't say that that is just my role, absolutelyeveryone working in aviation feelsthat existential threat and that shouldpower our ambition toreally decarbonise aviation at speed.And how realistic is it that air travel canbe decarbonised at the rate that we need it to be?Is it, is it practically possible?It is possible. So when youlook at the, at the numbers today,the world is facing 57 gigatons of CO2 emissions,and aviation is contributing to two per cent of that.So when you really look atwhere those emissions are coming from,95% of them comes fromaircraft burning fossil based kerosene.And our plan Heathrow 2.0 is to reduce thatby 45 per cent by the end of this decade.The way that we're doing that is primarily four things,is changing the airplane,making it more efficient,more dynamic, today we havecleaner aircraft across our, our skies.Second is deploying sustainable aviation fuels,which we'll come back in a second.But this is theproven technology that has been working for70 years that can reduce CO2 emissions by 80 per cent.Obviously, on top of that, there are,we are encouraging and supporting new technologies.So we will see hydrogenbeing deployed in aircraft in the mid-thirties.And then finally, we continue working onimplementing a greenhouse carbon removals.So either nature or technology-driven,they can start shucking carbon from the atmosphere.But the real unsung hero here is sustainable aviation fuels, this is a technology that doesexist has been operating for 70 years.And the biggest advantage of that technology is itcan be blended with existing jet fuel,you don't need to change the engine of the aircraft.You don't need to change the pipelines of the airport.The only problem that we have at this stage is scale.We are, todayHeathrow is the largest consumerof sustainable aviations fuel in the world.But we want to move faster.And I think this is where combination ofpolicies and financial markets with their magic,can help us to reallytransition at an even faster speed.And how could the leadership role that youare taking be replicated across the world?And I mean, there's all airportsall over the place, right?So we need everyone to be doing this.How are you working with airlines,you working with other airport operators?Well, I think I think in terms of our journey here,my probably the most obvious, simple,but also hard first step isto embrace what science is saying.Science is crystal-clear and uncomfortable truthis that we are contributing to global warmth.And if we don't change track,the effects of thatare going to be absolutely catastrophic.So I think step number one is toaccept science on that regard andtherefore accept the responsibilitythat we have, to becomepart of the solution rather than continuebeing part of the problem.This is not something thata single organisation can change.But when you look at Heathrow today,we are the largest consumer of SAFs.We are the only hub airport in the largestaviation market in the world.So if we can fix Heathrow,we can fix aviation.And fixing aviation is importantnot because of the total volumes,because how symbolic it is.There's this perception thataviation will struggle to decarbonise.But we are absolutely confidentthat with the plan that we have in place,we can decarbonise aviation.And that's absolutely critical to give confidenceto other industries to get on with it.And the airline industries as well,are they setting net-zero targets?I think we're very lucky.Airlines, actually, they havean even more critical role to play.At the end of the day,of the 21 million tons of CO2that Heathrow across the scopeone and two and three produced back in 2019,20 of them comes fromairlines and aircraft burning fossil based kerosene.The great thing is that the UK is the first countryand the first, aviation was the first sector inthe world to commit to net zero by 2050.And that was followed by IATA,the international body for airlines,which was the first sectorglobally to commit to net zero.So we are in taking brave and courageous steps.2022 is a critical yearfor us because later in the summer,we are working forthe United Nations' ICAO General Assembly in Montreal to codifyall these pledges into global commitments that willcreate the mandate on supply that we are seeking.At the same time in the UK,we are working with the government to reallygive them the encouragement andsupport to really codify all of that intogreat policies with the creation of the Jet Zero Council,I think that they are well advancedand we expect, also this year, thatthe UK will translate all of that into jet zero policies.So we can really acceleratethe strengthening of investment caseand to attract private investment,to really make this a reality at scale.We are decarbonising aviation, SAFs is nottechnology fiction, it is happeningand has been happening for 70 years.What we're really doing thatis to scaling it up so we canremove carbon from the aviation as quickly as possible.And what's required in order toscale up sustainable aviation fuels.I think at this stage, the two problems that we haveis that there's not enough of it... to,if you fast forward to 2050,aviation will require 450 billion litresof SAFs to really support aviation.And today we are far from there.So to really scale up and to give comfort toprivate investors to really graspthat massive opportunity, we need two things.First of all, it's a mandate on supply.So consistency that there's going to bea strong pipeline so private investorscan put their money behind this proven technology.And the second is contract for differences.When you look at the pricing ofsustainable aviation fuels today,is up to five times moreexpensive than fossil based kerosene.Contract for differences is something that is not new,was exactly the type ofeconomic policy that was required to get offshorewind out of ground and really to accelerate.So what we are encouragingthe government is to really put in placethose two simple but courageous policiesso we can really scale up the use of SAFs.It's fascinating, thanks so much.I have one final question,Javier, if you don't mind. As we look forward to COP27,what's the one thing in your opinion thatwill make the summit as success.I think the key success for me would be to really keepwith the focus that we got inCOP26, science, science-based targets.I think it's absolutely critical,but probably the next stepthat we really need to move intoCOP27 is to move targets earlier enough.Today is fantastic that as a first step,we are all committed to hundredpercent decarbonisation by 2050.But to get that, we need to getspecific things down in the current decade.So I think thatthe fundamental next objective is to reallybring all these great commitments forward.So as someone would say,we move from blah-blah-blah into tangible outcomes.Javier, thank you very much.Thank you.

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