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UK aviation industry outlines plans for achieving net zero carbon emissions


The UK’s leading airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air service navigation providers today reaffirmed their joint commitment to a net zero future for UK aviation, setting out a first set of interim decarbonisation targets that will act as milestones on the path to net zero aviation by 2050.

Industry is targeting at least an overall 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030, and a 40% net reduction by 2040, with the pace of decarbonisation ramping up as game-changing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal, and new low and zero carbon technologies – such as electric and hydrogen powered aircraft – become mainstream in the 2030s.

The milestones are said to reflect on a new chart taking account of the effects of COVID-19 on aviation demand, and complement an ever-growing set of voluntary industry pledges to drive down emissions fast.

Importantly, says the UK’s aviation leaders, today’s announcement also kickstarts detailed work to update by the middle of next year the sector’s Decarbonisation Road Map, first published in 2020, that is expected to demonstrate even faster potential to decarbonise aviation through technology innovation.

They note: “Decarbonising aviation is a huge challenge, with significant technology and policy barriers that need to be overcome this decade.

“With the right support, it can and will be achieved, maintaining the major economic and social benefits of the UK’s air links to the world, and generating new opportunities for tomorrow’s engineers through highly skilled green aviation jobs.

“However, the UK risks falling behind as other countries including the United States put in place enhanced policies to support innovation and new fuel technologies.”

To make sure UK aviation continues to lead the world in aviation decarbonisation, industry argues that further support is needed in five areas critical to realising net-zero flight:

– Policies this year to deliver a UK SAF industry and commercialise SAF, most urgently by providing a demand signal and price support – the primer for up to 14 UK plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s, supporting at least a 32% reduction in emissions from UK aviation by 2050;

– A positive, long-term signal for investment in aerospace technology and the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft through increased and extended funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute;

– The completion of vital airspace modernisation generating significant carbon savings through more efficient flying and shorter journey times;

– Policies that incentivise the commercialisation of carbon removal technologies that enable carbon neutral or carbon negative aviation fuel, allowing the aviation industry to address any remaining residual emissions;

– UK government to seek a more robust international commitment for aviation carbon reduction at the ICAO Assembly in 2022, ensuring emissions are reduced across the globe and not exported from the UK.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Today’s announcement demonstrates the sector’s commitment to delivering Net Zero emissions by 2050 despite the impacts COVID has had on our industry.

“We know that flying is not the enemy – carbon is – and this roadmap illustrates how it can be removed. Our goal should be that 2019 is the peak year for carbon emissions from aviation, and that from now on, we are adapting our industry so that future generations can enjoy the many benefits of flying, in a world without carbon.”

In response to industry’s commitment to achieving the decarbonisation targets, the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, noted: “As the first major economy in the world to commit to net zero by 2050, we are leading the charge to cut aviation emissions through the Jet Zero Council.

“The commitment shown here by industry today builds on that work, embodying the forward thinking attitude we need to decarbonise the sector and put the UK at the forefront of green aviation.”

Karen Dee, chief executive of the UK’s Airport Operators Association, commented: “Despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, airports remain committed to tackling the climate crisis.

“As the AOA set out in our Airport Recovery Plan, we can and must return to 2019 passenger levels without 2019 environmental impacts.

“Airports will play their part in achieving the goals set out by Sustainable Aviation today, including by modernising UK airspace to reduce noise and climate impacts, ensuring airport infrastructure is ready for sustainable aviation fuels and reducing ground-based emissions of buildings and vehicles operating on and around airports.”




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