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Today's News

Indian navy follows air force in use of biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:09pm

In India, the Hindu newspaper reports that the country’s navy is following in the footsteps of its air force and the US Navy by introducing 5% biodiesel into its High Speed Diesel for its naval fleet. The navy will replace around 315,000 liters of fossil diesel annual as a result of the shift. Biogas plants to process organic waste will also be installed at naval bases in an effort to reduce LPG consumption. The push towards biofuels is in line with the navy’s wider strategy to switch toward more renewable energy consumption.

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Decision on lifting anti-dumping tariffs on Argentine biodiesel imports may be taken in September

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:08pm

In Argentina, La Nación reports that the US will decide whether to lift its anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel imports by September which currently total about 150%. Last November, President Trump said during a visit to Argentina that the country was willing to take another look at the anti-dumping duties lobbed onto biodiesel imports despite the 2017 decision to implement them were meant to be in place for five years. Before the US market was shut in 2016, it accounted for about $1.2 billion worth of biodiesel exports.

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University of North Florida researcher awarded USDA grant to study switchgrass for biofuel

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:07pm

In Florida, an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Florida, was just awarded nearly half a million dollars from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture to study switchgrass as a viable plant-based biofuel.

The study aims to provide new insight into the factors that regulate the productivity and sustainability of switchgrass and will be funded for three years from a grant awarded to UNF totaling $462,500.

As a native, wild species, switchgrass doesn’t require many resources like fertilizer. But given that the species has a huge range—Mexico to Canada, East of the Rockies—there’s tremendous genetic variation within the species, says Aspinwall.

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Trump to visit Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant on June 11

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:06pm

In Iowa, local press reports that President Trump’s visit to the state has been confirmed with a visit to the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant in Council Bluffs on June 11. Currently in the UK, he will return to promote the recent approval of year-round E15 by touring the plant before attending a private Republican fundraiser in West Des Moines, the latter of which was reported last week. The visit will be at least his fourth to the state since taking over the White House.

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E Pluribus Zillions: As climate change gets a drubbing at the polls, what next?

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:04pm

In Australia, the center-right Liberal/National party coalition won the Federal election this week, and the center-left Labor Party finds itself without office, without a federal leader, and without much of a clue how the polls predicting Labor victory got it so wrong, and why their urgent climate change action program failed to connect with voters.

Here’s the standard takeaway:

1. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison managed to reposition himself as a safe, conventional, trustworthy manager of the economy for a nation that’s had 27 years of consecutive growth on the back of the China trade and where voters are getting very skittish about future growth.

2. Despite a terrible bushfire season attributed to climate inaction, the voters found themselves more by fears over costs than by ghoulish scenarios about a climate run amok.

But, let’s look deeper, for Australia is a mixed lesson.

Former PM Tony Abbott lost his seat over climate change concerns to an independent, and Morrison’s victory wasn’t exactly a resounding thump of the center-left, more like status quo in the face of a presumed drubbing with very few seats changing hands. but surely the concerns over shifting to government-fiat climate combatting programs and the fears over costs resonated with voters, as they did in 2014 when the Labor government fell in Australia over the carbon tax. And we’ve seen the same theme expressed elsewhere.

Abbott gave a thoughtful analysis — noting that where the message over climate is a debate over morality, the center-right polls poorly. if the debate becomes one about cost, voters tend to shy away from government-based action.

It’s not as simple as you’ll see argued elsewhere — that climate change action spooks voters and it’s a losing policy, and that supporters of the Green New Deal ought to re-think.

Fears over climate change costs spook voters, as do fears over health care costs, food costs, mortgage costs and (Fill in the Blank with Anything You Like) costs. Cost fear is real, universal, has been with us since the dawn of time and when the sun finally swallows up the Earth in about 4 billion years, someone will be worried about doing something about it and probably citing costs.

And, the Green New Deal isn’t much of a climate action plan. First of all, it’s hardly a plan, it’s more like an Airing of Grievances and a wish list. Secondly, it has a lot more to do with social engineering than climate engineering, if you look into it, and has an affection for “all the eggs in one basket” solutions the like of which we haven’t seen since Lenin called for the transfer of “All Power to the Soviets!” in 1917.

So, let us ask ourselves, what should we do, how should we think, where can we act in an era where voters fear government fiat, are edgy about costs, and yet where we have entrenched non-economic barriers to transformative that markets are woefully inefficient at removing?

The Renewable Fuels Agenda

For some time, it seems to me that the proper argument for renewables is really about providing an opportunity for rural communities and farmers to participate in energy markets, which help diversity farm income and stabilize food prices, for one. It’s good for food security and energy security, and potentially good for export income.

The drive toward renewable fuels certainly represents doing something with respect to climate change that is sustainable, affordable, reliable and available. And, it’s good for forest management to have markets for forest waste so that’s it affordable to manage down the risk of fires near urban areas. ,

Friend, renewable fuels are only part of a basket of transport energy technologies, some of which will include fossil fuels, for a long time to come. Let’s be realistic about the scale of energy demand. Also let’s be leery of “one platform” solutions — one technology, one political party, one airline, one phone company, one beer, one potato chip. Monopoly caused the trouble with fossil fuels in the first place.  Choice is the driver of our civilization.

We certainly will do better for ourselves by encouraging waste-based and forest-based advanced biofuels (cellulosic, MSW, animal, forest) with a low carbon fuel standard that is paid for by the market (LCFS credits would be worth zero if oil companies simply invested in and produced advanced biofuels at economically-viable scale). Why wouldn’t we all be positive about getting two bites of the carbon cherry. I mean, who’s for waste?

The Renewable Fuels Challenge

We really have to find a stable bipartisan coalition for any industry trying to enter new markets where there are substantive non-economic barriers. And I think that dictates avoiding pitching any technology wave based on an appeal to the left, only.

At the same time, rural development isn’t going to have broad appeal any more than Farm Bills have appeal with urban voters unless they have urban-friendly outcomes.

We might be very wary of single technologies that “solve” climate change, or “replace the need for petroleum”, or “address the rural problem”, or the income gap, the cost of health care or education, or even the problems of managing a professional baseball club with small-market revenues. Why not focus instead on baskets of technologies, baskets of sources?

E Pluribus Zillions

The problem is not fossil fuels in our society, though they are a terrible symptom of our times. The problem is the belief for single solutions, and easy fixes, and fast action — something that Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham once described as “the wish for kings”. We ask too much of our technologies, our Presidents, our markets, supply-chains, our voters, our companies — we are too in love with miracles, and dangerously attracted to demagogues who promise easy solutions to tough problems.

Though miracles appear, they are too rare to count on and nothing to be planned in reliance of. The old Chinese proverb warns and encourages us: “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives” Are we ready for what our solution will look like, really? Distributed, chaotic, non-linear, a garbage-can punch rather than a single malt?

Tying anything to “fixing the climate” is like, to me, tying a country to one energy source, investors to one stock, or chaining young people to the first person they ever dated. Diversity pays, diversification is right, better the many than the few, or the one. E pluribus zillions: out of many, the solutions we need.

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Protein Power: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Codexis

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/05/2019 - 6:02pm

The Digest’s new “Stocks Worth Tracking” Multi-Slide Guide Series highlights hot companies that are making strides in the bioeconomy. Today’s “Stock Worth Tracking” is Codexis. Codexis is wielding a leading edge protein engineering platform technology, CodeEvolver and is enhancing proteins to deliver unique and value-creating performance.

Codexis gave this engaging presentation with how they are driving protein function, how CodeEvolver works and its protein possibilities, what world challenges proteins can solve, protein catalysts for pharma and their partnerships in that industry, their work with industrial enzymes and food, novel biotherapeutics, and more.

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Avril’s profit bounces back after strong 2018 for biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:27pm

In France, Reuters reports that Avril’s full-year 2018 results improved significantly with a 26% increase in profit on the back of stronger biodiesel thanks to European policy that restricted the import of Argentine biodiesel and confirmation that 7% crop-based biofuel will be allowed to continue in the EU market through 2030. The company went from 56 million euros of losses in 2017 to 16 million euros in profit the following year. Having a ready biodiesel market help improved the efficiencies of its oilseed processing business, the company said.

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RFA to host webinar to help fuel retailers understand year-round E15

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:25pm

In Missouri, now that the EPA has approved E15 for year-round use in conventional gasoline markets, the Renewable Fuels Association will host a webinar to help retailers and others in the supply chain learn how this decision impacts the marketplace and how retailers can now engage in year-round sales. The webinar will be at no cost to participants and all are welcome to join. Participants will learn all about efforts to educate consumers on E15. The one-hour webinar will take place starting at 10 a.m. CT Thursday, June 6.

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Formula 1 jumping into 20% biofuel blending by 2021 with an eye on 100% some day

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:25pm

In Germany, Formula 1 is reported to be looking at how to get to 20% biofuel blending by 2021 as part of its efforts to become more carbon neutral, saying that if one is going to get to 100%, they need to start with 20%. Currently, F1 blends small amounts of biofuel into its racing fuels. Reports say that the race car manufacturers including Renault are behind the move to switch to higher biofuel blends.

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Red Funnel backtracks on biofuel use saying supply and legislation not supportive

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:24pm

In the UK, Red Funnel launched its new three-year environment strategy ‘Red Goes Green’ in September 2018, when it announced a raft of new initiatives to help improve and conserve the environment but has since decided that biofuels aren’t a good fit for the ferry company.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said: “Over the coming months we will also be continuing to investigate alternative ways of reducing fuel emissions. Since October 2018, we have been trialing the use of biofuel and whilst we proved that operationally the fuel can be burnt, supply and legislation issues mean that the fuel is not currently viable for us. We will continue to explore alternative fuel and future developments in propulsion in order to shift our fleet away from traditional fuels.

“It’s a cultural shift to “go green” and it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time and we’re going to keep doing the best we can bit-by-bit, because it all adds up. We’d also love to hear of other initiatives that we may not yet have considered.”

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Malaysia barters 200,000 tons-worth of palm oil with China for equipment and services

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:22pm

In Malaysia, the Star newspaper reports that a barter deal for 200,000 metric tons of palm oil has been agreed with China as part of the attempts to strengthen trade between the two countries. Construction services, civilian and defense equipment as well as unspecified natural resources products will be supplied to Malaysia by China in exchange for the oil. The palm oil is currently valued at nearly $147 million. The China Green Food Development Center has recently signed an agreement recognizing the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certificate.

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Brazilian competition watchdog OKs Czarnikow’s 49% of new ethanol venture

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:22pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that competition authorities have greenlighted UK sugar broker Czarnikow’s 49% participation in a new ethanol trading joint venture with Vale do Tijuco Açúcar e Álcool SA and Canápolis Açúcar e Etanol SA. Expansion into ethanol a new move by the British firm that is one of the largest and oldest sugar brokers globally. The new firm hasn’t announced what its trading goals are nor the expected investment, but Reuters did mention the Brazilian partners in the deal have recently decided to expand their mill production capacities.

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Swedish researcher finds potential for Nordic microalgae to produce biomass and treat sewage

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:20pm

In Sweden, a PhD candidate demonstrated the potential of Nordic microalgae for simultaneous production of biomass and municipal sewage treatment in the Nordic climate. She has also studied how microalgae and bacteria work together and how this impacts the composition of microbial communities in open algae cultures.

Several Swedish microalgae strains that were able to grow in municipal wastewater were isolated and genetically classified. Eight strains were characterised on the laboratory scale as very effective in removing excess nutrients from wastewater; four showed signs of rapid growth, a high biomass production and lipid content; three of them also gave proof of effective adaptation to low temperatures or conditions with limited access to light.

In a pilot study, she used a DNA-based method called metabarcoding in order to investigate seasonal changes in an algae pond in Dåva (10 km from Umeå), which was inoculated in 2015 with a control strain of microalgae (i.e. not from our Nordic collection), which was allowed to grow from May to the beginning of November. The results indicated that the original microalgae was outcompeted by other algae and zooplankton, which caused a reduction in the biomass production and reduced the elimination of nitrogen and phosphorous, especially in the later part of the growing season.

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Brazilian mills to be allowed direct ethanol sales to fuel retailers

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:19pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that the government has decided to allow ethanol producers to market ethanol directly to fueling stations, a move pushed by many mills who have argued that it would increase efficiencies and lower costs while improving margins for mills. The economy ministry needs to develop some underlying tax regulations that could take as long as six months to get together but the CNPE energy council has approved the move, putting the new policy into motion.

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From feedstock to by-products: Using blockchain to trace biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:18pm

By Peter Vincent, Chief Technology Officer, Grain Discovery

Special to The Digest

There has been a lot of buzz recently around blockchain, with most of the talk centering around Bitcoin and on cloak and dagger stories about collapsing cryptocurrency exchanges. But lost in this high-drama debate is the fact that blockchain’s most interesting use-case is much more down-to-earth: tracing agricultural products, including biofuels, back to their origin.

Traceability in the supply chain

A blockchain is really just a simple tool which “chains” together “blocks” of data in a way that can’t be changed. Everybody has a copy of the same chain and agrees about its content, and you can prove mathematically that it hasn’t been tampered with, so it’s a chain you can trust.

It’s no coincidence that one of the best uses of blockchain technology is another type of chain: the agricultural supply chain. The crop’s journey from seed to feedstock to fuel is the “chain”, and each stop along the way is a “block”.

Using this technique you get a map of the product’s journey: a “digital passport” that is stamped (by adding blocks) by all the participants it passes through. This stamp cannot be forged and it’s always in the correct sequence. The participants can “stamp” it with anything from receipt date and shipping time, to more detailed data like sugar content, seed varietal, fertilizer application, and mycotoxin levels.

Traceability through a chain of custody is not a new concept in the agricultural industry. For instance, the familiar concept of Identity Preservation, whereby the identity (origin, unique characteristics, traits, genetics) and journey (handling, shipping, storage) of the agricultural product are recorded in a paper trail at every step in the supply chain, is in many ways the precursor to a modern blockchain. Blockchain takes this solid foundation and makes it electronic, adds tamper-proof security, distributes a copy to everyone, and gives everyone control over their own data, and the result is huge gains in efficiency and more reliable traceability.

However, blockchain doesn’t solve every problem. Though data already on the blockchain cannot be changed, the data originator can still write false data to the blockchain as easily as they can write false data on paper. The difference is, with blockchain, each participant uses a digital signature unique to them, which means everyone can tell who wrote the false data to the blockchain. Reputations can only be destroyed once, so the stakes are higher on a blockchain where there is no plausible deniability. Further, with the rapid shift to automation underway in the agricultural industry, much of the writing to blockchains will be done by tamper-proof sensors and this will also raise the overall level of security and trust in the system. And in stark contrast with paper systems and standard databases, data can never be erased, modified, overwritten, or deleted. It’s there, permanently. There is no liquid paper for blockchain, and when you sign something, there can be no doubt that the signature happened at this point in time, and by this authorized person.

How might this impact the Biofuels industry? Let’s look at two specific examples: biofuels by-products such as DDGS, and carbon-intensity (CI) tracking.

DDGS and other by-products

Last season, farmers across Canada and the US experienced abnormally wet conditions and this led to a serious outbreak of DON, or vomitoxin contamination, in the corn harvest. While vomitoxin does not make it into the ethanol itself, and so the primary product is unaffected, it survives the production process, and is concentrated into the feed by-products. DDGS contaminated by DON become unmarketable, and a significant revenue stream for the ethanol plant is lost.

How could blockchain help in this instance?

Canadian blockchain start-up Grain Discovery may have a solution. They use blockchain as part of an online marketplace that allows farmers and buyers to market their grain in real time and complete their trades through blockchain, resulting in secure and instant payment with built-in traceability.

This April, Grain Discovery, in partnership with the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) successfully completed a first-of-its-kind pilot using blockchain to follow Certified soybean seed through production and processing, ending with fresh-packed tofu on store shelves. This was achieved by recording every step the soybean took in real-time onto a blockchain, from seed to shelf, creating a digital food passport that could be accessed by scanning a QR code on the final packaged product.

In the same manner, the Grain Discovery platform could be used to tackle the DON problem in the ethanol supply chain. The corn seller could attach test data to the crop’s “digital passport”, which could include DON levels from labs, DIY test kits, or from an elevator where their load was rejected. Rather than discovering the high-DON corn during sampling at the weighbridge, the ethanol plant could plan “contaminated by-product” operations in advance and target high-DON corn at a significant discount while the plant is discarding DDGS.

Conversely, during normal operations, the plant would target uncontaminated corn and reduce the number of loads rejected at the weighbridge. Meanwhile, the DDGS buyer can be given access the blockchain to get an instant and accurate picture of the quality of the feed they are buying, including the vomitoxin levels of the feedstock and any other data that the ethanol plant chooses to add to the “digital passport”.

This is especially handy when exporting. When export markets are closed off by fear of contamination, blockchain is the simplest, safest and more secure way to verify claims.

Carbon Intensity

Blockchain traceability also has another interesting use-case in biofuels: achieving a lower carbon intensity. The ability of blockchain to trace specific characteristics and traits along supply chain means the ethanol buyer would be able to pursue low-carbon corn grown with reduced nitrogen fertilizer usage and pay a premium to attract sellers that would ordinarily not be compensated for this practice. Farmers would be incentivized by this premium to adopt precision ag strategies to prevent over-fertilization, and to use targeted lower nitrogen technologies such as slow-release nitrogen nanotechnology, and seeds inoculated with engineered nitrogen-producing microbes. These nutrient budgeting practices could help to reduce the estimated ¾ of nitrogen fertilizer that is wasted and lost to the environment and could have a major impact on reducing the carbon intensity of ethanol.

Traceability of sustainable practices is increasingly becoming a requirement for governments around the world, and the ability to accurately calculate, trace and verify the carbon intensity of biofuels and their feedstocks is especially important for exports to Europe.

The bottom line is that the biofuels industry is only getting more complicated: margins are getting thinner, feedstock production is increasingly unpredictable, and regulation is increasing. Additionally, governments, export markets, and consumers are demanding more transparency in the biofuel and by-product supply chain. The adoption of blockchain will be increasingly necessary to address market volatility and meet the needs of the market in the most efficient and transparent way.


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Going Public and Serving the Public: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Beyond Meat

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 4:55pm

The Digest’s new “Stocks Worth Tracking” Multi-Slide Guide Series highlights hot companies that are making strides in the bioeconomy. Today’s “Stock Worth Tracking” is Beyond Meat. Beyond Meat recently had an IPO and sent out this prospectus summary. They expanded their product lines from Beyond Burger to Beyond Beef, Beyond Sausage, and their newest Beyond Beef Crumbles. Their products are available to the public in many grocery stores around the country.

Beyond Meat’s prospectus gives us a detailed close up of their financials, the IPO and stockholders, an insider peek at the numbers behind the company, why this is a company the public loves, and more.

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Vitol renames C&N Ethanol Marketing to Vitol Biofuels Marketing

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:55pm

In the Netherlands, Vitol announced that it has renamed C&N Ethanol Marketing to Vitol Biofuels Marketing. The name change reflects Vitol’s continued commitment to developing its market leading ethanol business, both as part of its growing renewables portfolio and as a key component of its core gasoline offering.

Tom Smith of Vitol Biofuels Marketing commented: “Our new name, Vitol Biofuels Marketing, will enable us to build upon C&N’s long-held reputation for excellence, while simultaneously leveraging Vitol’s established brand. This name change illustrates our commitment to our biofuels marketing business and intention of aligning resources across the Vitol Group to maximise opportunities for our customers. Vitol is one of the world’s foremost gasoline blenders and our biofuel customers will benefit from comprehensive market analysis and expanding marketing opportunities, both stateside and overseas.”

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Attis Industries completes acquisition of Fulton ethanol plant

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:54pm

In Georgia, Attis Industries Inc. announced that it completed the acquisition of the corn ethanol plant and grain malting operation in Fulton, New York from Sunoco LP.  The ethanol plant immediately becomes an essential element of Attis’ current operations and will be pivotal in the Company’s expanding technology portfolio as it develops the site into a state-of-the-art Green Tech campus.

Attis acquired the nameplate 100 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant and grain malting operations for $20 million in cash with non-dilutive financing.  The transaction includes a six-month transition services agreement as well as a 10-year offtake agreement for the ethanol produced at the facility, creating exceptional stability for Attis as it expands the capabilities of the facility over the next two years.

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FEFAC releases report on European biofuel and food production co-products

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:53pm

In Belgium, the European Feed Manufacturers Association released its publication called “Co-products, an essential part of animal nutrition”, which aims to create increased awareness among EU stakeholders and policy makers about the feed industry’s extensive use of co-products. The publication describes how co-products such as brewers’ grains, sugar beet pulp and wheat bran are generated during food and biofuel production, as well as what their value is in compound feed. The use of co-products is an illustration of the role European compound feed manufacturers play in the food chain’s circular economy, creating economic and environmental benefits for both the original production process and the livestock sector.

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IATA overwhelmingly approves carbon offsetting scheme while promoting sustainable fuels

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:52pm

In South Korea, the International Air Transport Association’s AGM overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on governments to continue important work for full implementation of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) agreed through the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

CORSIA is the first global carbon pricing instrument for an industry sector. It will cap net CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels (carbon-neutral growth, or CNG).

The AGM also looked beyond CORSIA to the next commitment in the industry’s climate action strategy—cutting net emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050. The resolution urged airlines to implement all available fuel efficiency measures and to participate fully in a long-term switchover to sustainable aviation fuels.

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