Sustainable "green-lane flights" between New Zealand and Singapore may soon take to the air.
These 8400km flights, using a percentage of sustainable aviation fuel, will demonstrate the commitment of New Zealand and Singapore to taking a role in de-carbonising the aviation sector.
The surge in interest in sustainable aviation fuel (Saf) has seen trial and regular flights in other parts of the world as consumers and investors in airlines demand greener flying.
Airlines and airports here say efforts to increase the sustainability of the New Zealand aviation sector have been given a major boost by the signing of a Sustainable Aviation Arrangement (SAA) between New Zealand and Singapore.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Singapore the agreement added a key green pillar to an existing bilateral co-operation partnership.
''This arrangement includes initiatives such as information exchanges, engagement with international bodies, and research projects that will support both countries transition to a sustainable aviation sector,'' she said.
'For me personally this arrangement is an acknowledgement of what we have all known for a while, that in a post Covid-19 world, we cannot afford to return to business as usual because that is unsustainable. It also sits counter to our brand as a nation and what many tourists and consumers who visit New Zealand as a market are looking for from a travel experience.''
The prime minister said that was why New Zealand had to work with partners such as Singapore, which also had environmental sustainability as a core part of economic strategy.
''Both our nations have set goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And it's initiatives like this and others that follow that will lay the foundation to our longer term goal of decarbonisation, and environmental sustainability across our economies.''
Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand (BARNZ) executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said despite Covid ravaging their profitability, airlines and airports have remained focused on the four areas of co-operation covered in the SAA.
"Today's announcement is a great step forward for New Zealand's aviation sector. We will be working jointly with Singapore on the policy, investment and the research needed to deploy sustainable aviation fuels, including Saf and hydrogen, as well as next-generation 'novel propulsion' aircraft," Tighe-Umbers said.
Air New Zealand has launched a campaign to highlight work it's doing in alternative ways of powering its planes and chief executive Greg Foran said climate change isn't something that can be solved by New Zealand alone.
''As a small island nation, air travel is critical in keeping our people and economy connected. But it's vital that we find a more sustainable way to do this,'' he said.
"We are working closely with industry partners in Singapore, including Neste on sustainable aviation fuel ambitions and Airbus and other partners on green-hydrogen and electric aircraft, so today's arrangement will provide another important pathway on our journey towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050."
Neste, a Finnish company, is expanding its operation in Singapore to make Saf as part of a goal of producing 1.5 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel by next year.
It has been exploring investment opportunities in new technologies and new sustainable raw materials including forestry and agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, algae oil and power-to-liquids, which refers to the production of fuels from renewable hydrogen and captured carbon.
In October 2020, Neste and Z Energy announced a partnership, introducing Neste's renewable fuels, including renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel into the New Zealand market.
New Zealand's main international airports have welcomed today's SAA signing.
Auckland Airport chief executive Carrie Hurihanganui says climate change needs to be a strategic priority for the industry. The airport has a target of reducing its own direct emissions to net zero by 2030 and was well on track to achieve this.
"Auckland Airport is pleased to be able to support this agreement and we look forward to working closely with our aviation sector partners on how we can reduce emissions across our industry," she said.
Christchurch Airport became the first airport in the world in 2020 to be awarded the highest standard of Airport Carbon Accreditation, "Transformation" of ACA Level 4. This year it has gone one step further going beyond net zero to become climate positive after reducing 90 per cent of its scope 1 emissions and voluntarily supporting permanent New Zealand native forestry restoration that removes GHG emissions from the atmosphere.
Air New Zealand has signed a memorandum of understanding to partner with MBIE on a feasibility study for domestic production of Saf and what Government support might be needed to make that commercially feasible.
Late last year the Government announced a biofuel mandate for Saf would be developed this year, taking in work already underway.
While mandates for land transport are planned from 2023, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials recommended to Cabinet that aviation be given more time, with a regime by 2025.
Establishing production of a sustainable aviation fuel in New Zealand, or even securing reliable imported supply, requires extensive infrastructure investment at an average cost of about $1 billion, a Cabinet paper says.