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Expert view, Industry outlook, Sustainability

Listen In: Cirium’s Jeremy Bowen on the power of data and sustainability in aviation

March 23, 2023

Learn how Cirium created the most accurate data-driven methodology for calculating emissions and more importantly, why it matters.

Jeremy Bowen

Cirium CEO, Jeremy Bowen, talks sustainability in aviation with Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, in the latest installment of Sustainability in the Air, a brand-new podcast out now.  Listen in to learn how Cirium is empowering the industry to deliver on its sustainability promise with the most accurate data-driven methodology for calculating emissions and more importantly, why it matters.  Read on for six key insights from the podcast.

Q: What is the key challenge facing the aviation industry in operating sustainably?

A: The industry is expected to grow substantially but faces challenges in decarbonizing as the world moves to net-zero emissions. Without action, the industry would contribute to significantly higher global CO2 emissions by 2050 and could face restrictions that could be detrimental to its revenues and jobs, such as the banning of flights less than 500 miles.  The industry has been making progress to reduce indirect emissions.  However, the key challenge is that it is particularly hard to decarbonize. We don’t have proven solutions to tackle aviation yet.

Q: How does Cirium’s strategy align to the idea of an emissions free industry?

A: Cirium has an opportunity to make a significant play in Sustainability. Cirium’s vision is to become the industry’s trusted partner in sustainability, leveraging our unique data assets and independence to deliver the most accurate source of both historic and predicted carbon emissions data for the aviation industry; empowering the industry to deliver on its sustainable promise and future.

Q: What role is Cirium playing in helping the industry to address this challenge?

A: As corporations around the globe sign pledges to align with the universal goal set forth by the Paris Agreement (become Net Zero by no later than 2050), inaccurate calculations and reporting can lead to businesses and travelers making the wrong decisions about strategies, practices, and purchases.

Our emissions calculations methodology is unrivalled in the industry. We’ve taken a data-driven approach to emissions; fusing data from varied sources and all angles of the aircraft to deliver more accurate and precise estimates.

Q: How is your emissions calculator different and what problems can it solve that can’t be solved by other carbon calculators that exist?

A: Cirium has prioritized accuracy in its sustainability offering so that we earn trust from the industry. Leveraging our vast data sources, we consider significantly more inputs in our carbon calculation reflecting airline investments in operating efficiently. A less accurate methodology does not account for improvements in operational efficiencies and do not incentivize the airlines to make these investments.

There are six key differentiators in Cirium’s methodology:

  • We utilize fuel burn models on aircraft master series, engine master series and winglet type, giving us 170+ different fuel burn models based on the aircraft operating the flight.
  • Our flight emissions methodology is flight time-based as opposed to other carbon calculators using flight distance based. By using taxi time and airtime, emissions are calculated based on the operational efficiency of the flight.
  • When allocating carbon to a given seat/passenger, Cirium recognizes it’s not as simple as dividing the flight carbon between the number of seats on the aircraft. We use our aircraft cabin data to accurately reflect the occupied cabin space for each seat class and allocate the carbon accurately.
  • By predicting fuel use and carbon emissions for each passenger operated flight, we are not reliant on airlines submitting us data. This positions Cirium as a neutral party within the industry in comparing performance.
  • We have validated our carbon methodology through data sharing with our strategic airline partners. These validation exercises showed our fuel estimates can achieve 98-99% accuracy against reported fuel use.
  • Cirium methodology uses seat-level vs. flight-level data.  Flight-level emissions data conveys the emissions generated by the operation of a flight.  Seat-level emissions data is calculated by taking flight-level data and removing emissions associated with the weight of cargo transported, leaving the portion of the flight emissions associated with the passengers transported.  We then take the passenger portion and distribute it across the total number of seats on the aircraft based upon the dimensions of each cabin seat. This is an important differentiation for Cirium as most methodologies apply standard weighting factors that limit transparency.

Q: Why Cirium?  What are Cirium’s competitive advantages?

A: Cirium has four key advantages over others in the field:

  • Cirium is a trusted market leader with decades of providing comprehensive industry data – including fleet, schedules, flight status, etc.
  • Cirium has accurate and granular data – tracking all aspects of the flight. Cirium also actively maintain and update the data ingredients that go into our emissions calculations, so our customers are sure to get continuous transparency into emissions as the entire ecosystem continues to take actions to improve fuel and operational efficiency.  Our coverage includes nearly all commercial passenger flights globally.  This gives us flight emissions for 800+ airlines globally.
  • Cirium maintains neutrality in the market and as an independent provider, we can provide unbiased data and insight.
  • Cirium expertise includes deep industry knowledge and unparalleled experience.

Q: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges on the horizon?

A: The biggest opportunity for the industry is to continue to grow and provide safe, efficient transportation to people around the world while reducing the impact on our planet.  In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of our climate crisis and the aviation industry has a significant role to play. 

Regarding challenges… there are plenty. But one challenge that immediately comes to mind is changing human behavior. We all need to make sustainability our problem – not just someone else’s problem.  Each of us needs to personally commit to reducing our carbon footprint.  We have become accustomed to convenience and didn’t think twice about jumping on a plane for a quick meeting but that’s changed. We must change our behavior to scrutinize the effect of our actions…big and small, it all matters.

To listen to the complete interview with more questions and insights, visit the SimpliFlying website here.

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