DOHA, QATAR — Qatar Airways' Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker expressed doubts on Tuesday about the aviation industry's ability to attain net-zero emissions by 2050. 

He pointed to the insufficient production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and the nascent stage of alternative hydrogen designs as major obstacles.

"Everybody's talking about achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, but let's be realistic - there's simply not enough production of sustainable aviation fuel," Al Baker stated during the Qatar Economic Forum, an event organized by Bloomberg.

Al Baker's comments, a significant voice in the industry, arrive just days before global airlines are set to discuss implementing the climate pledge at the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting in Istanbul this June.

With aviation emissions regarded as difficult to reduce without radical technological shifts, the focus has largely been on "drop-in" fuels. These are fuels that can be used with the current generation of jet engines, such as SAF derived from plants or waste, and synthetic alternatives.

"The only significant technological change that can contribute is Sustainable Aviation Fuel. It's the only thing that can move the needle between now and 2050," said Boeing's Chief Executive Dave Calhoun at the same Doha event.

As airlines face off with the energy industry over the availability of supplies for aviation, concerns are growing that a supply gap could hinder attempts to achieve the target. Additionally, there's no consensus on who should shoulder the cost of increasing production. Meanwhile, some environmental groups argue the plans aren't ambitious enough.

Airbus is championing efforts to develop a small commercial airplane powered by hydrogen by 2035. However, Boeing's Calhoun believes such technology won't mature until the latter half of the century.

In 2021, countries at a United Nations meeting agreed on a long-term aspirational goal for net-zero aviation emissions by 2050. This lent political backing to a target adopted by IATA and other industry groups, including airports and aircraft manufacturers, in 2019.