Government launches strategy to reach net zero aviation

The Government has set new targets to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions and prevent them from increasing above pre-pandemic levels in future – with 2019 set to be remembered as the peak year for aviation emissions.

Launched at Farnborough International Airshow, the Government’s new Jet Zero Strategy commits UK domestic aviation to achieving net zero emissions by 2040, and for all airports in England to be zero-emission by the same year. It also includes a plan for the industry to stay below pre-pandemic levels of carbon emissions through measures focused on everything from delivering system efficiencies to new technologies, with progress monitored annually.

Aviation is currently responsible for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. With the sector contributing £22 billion to the economy and set to grow as it recovers from the pandemic, the Jet Zero Strategy provides the tools to help future-proof the aviation sector, deliver guilt-free air travel, and create thousands more green jobs around the country.

According to the Government, the whole economy will benefit as new, cutting-edge industries develop, and new infrastructure is built to meet ambitious targets, including the Government’s commitment to having at least five commercial scale SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We want 2019 to be remembered as the peak year for aviation emissions. From now on, it should all be downhill for carbon emissions – and steadily uphill for green flights.

“The UK is setting an example of the ambition needed to tackle climate change, and the Jet Zero Strategy provides a clear path to building a greener aviation sector for generations to come. 

“Rather than clipping the sector’s wings, our pathway recognises that decarbonisation offers huge economic benefits, creating the jobs and industries of the future making sure UK businesses are at the forefront of this green revolution.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “This strategy provides the clear vision and leadership required to tackle one of the great industrial challenges of our time, decarbonisation of aviation. Importantly, it is also clear the global shift to cleaner forms of flight represents a huge opportunity to secure growth and jobs for the UK.

“Through the ambitious steps outlined in this strategy and close collaboration with our world leading industrial and innovation base, the UK stands ready to capitalise on first mover status, seizing the economic benefits of a green aviation revolution.”

The six priority areas set out in the strategy are:

  • Improving the efficiency of our existing aviation system, from aircraft to airports and airspace. For example, improving fuel efficiency by 2% every year and providing a further £3.7m in 2022/23 to support airports to modernise their airspace. 
  • Increasing support for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), by creating secure and growing UK SAF demand through a SAF mandate that will require at least 10% of jet fuel to be made from sustainable sources by 2030 and kick starting a domestic SAF industry, supported by the new £165m Advanced Fuels Fund.
  • Supporting the development of zero-emission aircraft, with the aspiration of having zero-emission routes connecting places across the UK by 2030. 
  • Developing carbon markets and greenhouse gas removal technologies to drive decarbonisation and offset any residual emissions, including by enhancing the UK Emission Trade Scheme (UK ETS). 
  • Providing consumers with better information so they can make sustainable aviation choices. We will publish a Call for Evidence on our proposal to provide consumers with environmental information at the time of booking air travel in Autumn 2022.
  • Increasing understanding of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, such as contrails and nitrogen oxides. The effects of these remain uncertain so the Government will work closely with academia and industry to monitor global developments in this area, increase understanding, potential mitigations, and explore a means of tracking these emissions.

The Jet Zero Strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s Net Zero Strategy, the UK’s economy-wide plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as well as the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which outlines the commitments and actions needed to decarbonise the entire transport system. 

As part of the Strategy, the Government has announced today a new mandate for at least 10% SAF to be blended into conventional aviation fuels by the end of the decade.

Made from waste materials such as household waste, sewage, or used cooking oil, these fuels offer, on average, greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel when fully replacing kerosene. 

SAF is a core part of the Jet Zero Strategy, and from today pioneering projects looking to produce SAF in the UK can bid for a share of the new £165m Advanced Fuels Fund. Building on the progress of the £15m Green Fuels, Green Skies competition, this new funding will help us achieve our aim to have at least five commercial SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025. 

Innovative projects will harness engineering expertise to produce millions of litres of SAF every year, supporting thousands of green jobs in our industrial heartlands, improving UK fuel security, and putting us at the forefront of the emerging global SAF industry.

Kevin Craven, CEO of ADS Group, said:  “A clear strategy for the UK that focuses on a broad range of measures through which aviation can decarbonisation is a welcome step forward towards net zero aviation by 2050. The UK aerospace community is committed and ready to deliver on the promise of sustainable aviation.

“This will include the development and realisation of zero emission technologies that will play a central part of the decarbonisation journey, alongside sustainable aviation fuels, and improvements in system efficiencies. ADS and our members look forward to working with partners in industry, academia, and government to solidify the UK’s place as a world-leader in green aviation.”

Julie Kitcher, EVP Communications and Corporate Affairs, Airbus, said: “Decarbonising aviation is a significant challenge, but the Jet Zero Strategy provides a clear goal for the sector whilst driving forward the development of the different technological pathways needed to make net zero aviation emissions by 2050 a reality. The time to act is now. Working together, we will succeed.”

Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc, said: “As a member of the Jet Zero Council and the Zero Emission Flight Delivery Group, Rolls-Royce is committed to working across industry and with Government to decarbonise aviation. We welcome the ambition set out in the Jet Zero Strategy and the framework that will support the sector to deliver the technologies and innovation required to achieve our collective net zero aviation ambitions. This strategy positions the UK Government as a global leader in the journey towards more sustainable flight and we will play our part in pioneering the technical solutions that will make this vision a reality.”

Val Miftakhov, Founder & CEO, ZeroAvia and a member of the Jet Zero Council said: “The Jet Zero Council played a critical role in establishing momentum behind zero-emission solutions for aviation, such as ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric propulsion systems. Today’s strategy is the next step, and will help to ensure the UK remains a global leader in our sector. By the end of this decade, passengers will be boarding guilt-free, zero-emission, hydrogen-electric regional flights for work and leisure, creating thousands of jobs in the process and helping us meet our collective net-zero goals.” 

Manchester Airport Group CEO Charlie Cornish said: “The publication of the Jet Zero Strategy is a key milestone in our sector’s drive towards a net zero carbon future.

“We are proud to play a leading role in the Jet Zero Council, which brings together government and industry to share ideas and innovation to ensure we make this strategy a reality. MAG is committed to delivering on its own Jet Zero pledges, as well as working with collaboratively across our industry to achieve the 2050 net zero target.”

Andy Smith, Head of Sustainability at Loganair, said: “Loganair is pleased to be an active member of the Jet Zero Council which as a cross industry and governmental body, has driven forward the UK aviation industry’s Net Zero strategy and ensured that the UK remains at the forefront of global efforts to reduce aviation’s environmental impact.”

Mark Swan, Head of the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), said: “Airspace modernisation is a critical national infrastructure project for the UK. Our airspace structures – our routes in the sky – have not been updated since the 1950s and as we enter a new age in airspace use, we have a huge opportunity to deliver major efficiencies for the sector. As outlined in today’s Jet Zero Strategy, upgrading our airspace will support the UK to create a future proof, more resilient airspace, helping drive the country towards jet zero through optimised routes that reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to continuing our work with the Government and industry to modernise our skies.”

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Aviation delivers substantial benefits both regionally and internationally, but come with significant environmental impact.

“As an industry we must all continue to work together to reduce carbon emissions and the impact the aviation sector has on climate change.

“The Jet Zero strategy is an ideal opportunity for collaborative work to improve environmental performance in the aviation and aerospace systems for the benefit of consumers, users and the wider community. We’re proud to sign the new charter and commit to delivering net zero.”

Chair of Sustainable Aviation, Matt Gorman, said: “With the world’s third largest aviation network and proud history of aviation innovation, the UK is in a prime position to lead the global transition to a Jet Zero future. Today’s strategy and pledges by Jet Zero Council members are a significant milestone on the path to achieving this ambition, recognising that aviation can grow sustainably, with the right support.

“We are pleased to see a strategy focussed on supporting the technologies that will deliver this ambition. We look forward to working with Government on the commercialisation and scale-up of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) in the UK, investment in technology including zero-emission aircraft, delivery of critical airspace modernisation and supporting carbon removal technologies. We hope this will include policy support to quickly deliver a mandate and the right commercial incentives to enable investment in SAF plants here in the UK whilst ensuring the wider technology solutions are developed and implemented.”

Emma Gilthorpe, CEO of the Jet Zero Council, said: “This is a key milestone on the path to decarbonising aviation, setting the framework for the Jet Zero Council to continue its great progress on Sustainable Aviation Fuels and Zero Emission Flight, and providing key policies to get us there, including a SAF Mandate.

“I also welcome the ambitions for five SAF plants to be under construction by 2025, and zero emission UK routes this decade, and look forward to working with the Council’s dedicated delivery groups to help achieve these.”

Today’s announcements come as the Transport Secretary launches the next phase of his historic challenge to the aviation industry to deliver the first transatlantic flight running on 100% SAF in 2023. Following a call for expression of interest in May this year, companies can now bid for up to £1m of funding. The Government will announce the final successful applicant later this year.  

Today’s announcements support the work of the Jet Zero Council, which met today (19 July 2022) at the iconic Farnborough International Airshow to discuss the Jet Zero Strategy and signed a new Jet Zero Council Members’ Charter. The Charter will ensure the Council remains at the forefront of delivering SAF and zero emission flight, with over 17 Council members having today made new pledges showing their commitment to delivering Jet Zero.

The new Strategy is the next milestone for the aviation sector’s green journey and builds on the UK’s presidency of COP26 in Glasgow, where the UK launched the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, showing the high level of support for an ambitious long-term emissions reduction goal for international aviation to be agreed at the 41st ICAO Assembly this year.

The Government is also working with industry through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which released its new strategy today, “Destination Net Zero”. The strategy will complement the Jet Zero Strategy, driving a reduction in the climate impact of aviation whilst contributing to the economic prosperity and global aerospace leadership of the UK.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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