UK pledges to deliver guilt free flying

The UK has launched its Jet Zero Strategy which is says will allow passengers “to fly guilt-free” in the future.

Launched at Farnborough International Airshow, the 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.

The Department of Transport (DoT)  said Aviation is currently responsible for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“With the sector contributing £22 billion to our 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,” the DoT added. “The whole economy will benefit as new, cutting-edge industries develop, and new infrastructure is built to meet our 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 added: “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.”

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, we will improve fuel efficiency by 2% every year and are providing a further £3.7 million 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 £165 million 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 our understanding of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, such as contrails and nitrogen oxides. The effects of these remain uncertain so we will work closely with academia and industry to monitor global developments in this area, increase our 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 a new mandate for at least 10% SAF to be blended into conventional aviation fuels by the end of the decade.

“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 £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund,” added the DoT. “Building on the progress of the £15 million 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.”

The news has been welcomed by many in the industry.

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.”

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, added: “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.”

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.”

“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.”

Grant Shapps, UK Transport Secretary