Decarbonizing the Air Transportation Sector:

New greenhouse gas accounting and insetting guidelines for

sustainable aviation fuel

July 20, 2021

Smart Freight Centre and MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics launch new greenhouse gas accounting and insetting guidelines for sustainable aviation fuel. The Guidelines aim to facilitate collaboration across air transportation value chains, drive the investment necessary to bring SAF production to scale, and decarbonize the aviation sector. Companies, organizations, and regulatory bodies are invited to download and utilize the guidelines.

“Collaborating on projects like these that bring research results to bear on emerging supply chain challenges is one way we engage with industry to foster positive change,” says Chris Caplice, Executive Director of MIT CTL. “It’s exciting to see the publication of this framework and to see our models being put into practice in ways that can influence entire sectors.”

Barbed Wire Fence
Barbed Wire Fence

“Decarbonizing air transportation is critical to achieving an efficient and zero-emissions global logistics sector,” said Dan Smith, Senior Technical Manager, Smart Freight Centre. “Smart Freight Centre is proud to have collaborated with the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics in developing these guidelines to scale the uptake of SAF and reduce aviation GHG emissions.”

The air transportation industry is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year. Immediately before the COVID-19 crisis, the industry emitted approximately 3% of annual global GHG emissions – with that footprint projected to grow. It is therefore critical to reduce aviation GHG emissions as a part of efforts to meet global climate goals.

Use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), fuels with lower GHG emissions intensity than conventional aviation fuels, is one of the principal options currently available for reducing air transportation GHG emissions.

However, the cost of SAF – which can be several times the cost of conventional aviation fuels – has contributed to SAF’s limited use to date. Insetting, or the purchase of GHG emission reductions within an organization’s value chain, is a tool to spread the cost premium of SAF across the aviation value chain and increase the uptake of SAF.

Smart Freight Centre (SFC) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation & Logistics (CTL) have developed guidelines for insetting in air transportation value chains to facilitate the use of more SAF and help decarbonize the sector.

The guidelines outline an approach to insetting that is flexible enough to drive the long-term value chain collaboration needed to bring SAF use to scale. At the same time, the guidelines include controls to provide entities along the SAF value chain confidence that emission reduction benefits from SAF are of legitimate origin, of a reasonable vintage, and are properly accounted for according to broadly accepted emission accounting methods.

More specifically, the guidelines provide air carriers, logistics service providers, freight shippers, business travelers, travel management companies, and fuel suppliers the details of an accounting and reporting system for SAF insets. There are two key elements to the guidelines:

1. Directions for SAF emissions accounting, based on the Global Logistics Emission Council (GLEC) Framework and aligned with the GHG Protocol.

2. Principles of a book and claim chain of custody system for the clear and transparent tracking and disclosure of the emission reduction benefits of SAF.

Download the new SAF accounting and insetting guidelines here. You can also visit the SFC website for more information on SFC and MIT’s work to facilitate collaboration across air transportation value chains, drive the investment necessary to bring SAF production to scale, and decarbonize the aviation sector.

  1. Aviation, International Energy Agency, Retrieved 13 May, 2021 from
  2. Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders Report (September, 2020),  Air Traffic Action Group Retrieved 13 May, 2021 from 
  3. Aviation could consume a quarter of 1.5C carbon budget by 2050 (8 Aug 2016), Carbon Brief, Analysis, Retreived 13 May 2021 from 
  4. SkyNRG Website, Retrieved 05/13/2021 from
  5. Aviation biofuel demonstrations, Wikipedia, Retreived 13 May 2021 from 
  6. Sustainable Aviation Fuels Fact Sheet (May, 2019), International Air Transport Association (IATA), Retrieved, 13 May 2021 from 
  7. Presentation of 2019 Air Transport statistical results (PDF) , International Civil Aviation Organization, Retrieved 13 May 2021, from
  8. Sinderu, Jon, (Jan 10, 2020) The Promise of Sustainable Aviation Fuel Isn’t for Today, Wall Street Journal, Retrieved from