The UK government has introduced a new Jet Zero strategy committing UK domestic aviation to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and for all airports in England to be zero-emission by the same year.
The strategy, launched at Farnborough International Airshow yesterday (19 July), sets a clear timeline for delivering what the UK government describes as ‘guilt-free air travel’ as per the and marks a milestone in future-proofing the aviation sector, which currently contributes £22 billion to the UK economy and is responsible for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Jet Zero builds upon the existing Net Zero strategy (the nation’s economy-wide plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as well as the move to decarbonise the entire transport system) with fresh targets for cutting aviation’s carbon emissions and preventing them from rising above pre-pandemic levels in the future.
As part of the strategy, a new mandate for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been set to ensure at least 10% of jet fuel is SAF by 2030, with the government’s ambition to have at least five commercial-scale SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025.
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.
In a welcome boost for the industry, eligible SAF projects in the country can now apply to the £165 million Advanced Fuels Fund.
“We want 2019 to be remembered as the peak year for aviation emissions,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“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 and making sure UK businesses are at the forefront of this green revolution.”
Looking at the fuller picture, the Jet Zero strategy outlines six priority areas, including: improving the efficiency of the existing aviation system (for example, by improving fuel efficiency by 2% each year); ramping up support for SAF; supporting the development of zero-emission aircraft, with the goal of having zero-emission routes connecting destinations across the UK by 2030; developing carbon markets and greenhouse gas removal technologies to drive decarbonisation; providing consumers with improved information to help them make informed decisions regarding sustainable aviation choices; and delivering environmental information to passengers at the time of booking air travel from autumn 2022.
The industry’s progress will be monitored annually.
The new Jet Zero strategy has been welcomed by industry stakeholders including Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – owner and operator of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports – which announced five new pledges to support the charter and propel the Group towards the goal.
These include investing in education materials for use at its Aerozones and Airport Academies, a competition offering five years of free landing fees to the first zero-emission aircraft operating transatlantic flights from its airports, and a financial incentive as part of its charging arrangements to encourage airlines to go beyond the UK SAF mandate on flights from its airports.
“Decarbonisation is one the most important issues facing our society and at MAG we are committed to playing a full role in the aviation industry achieving Net Zero,” said MAG CEO Charlie Cornish.
“The publication of the Jet Zero Strategy is an important recognition by Government of the commitments made by our industry for a more sustainable future.
“With the pledges we have announced today [19 July], we will be working even more closely with our industry partners and the UK Government through the Jet Zero Council, to make real and measurable progress against the targets we have in place.
“MAG has always taken a proactive and ambitious approach to decarbonisation for over a decade, and I am proud of the work we have delivered over that time. Our landmark partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy UK on SAF and the important progress we are making with airspace modernisation at our airports shows that we are committed to playing our part in achieving net zero by 2050.”
More support comes from stakeholders including Scottish regional airline Loganair and Airbus, among others.
“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,” commented Andy Smith, Head of Sustainability at Loganair.
“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,” added Julie Kitcher, EVP Communications and Corporate Affairs, Airbus.
“The time to act is now. Working together, we will succeed.”