Aviation sector spells out plans to be at heart of UK's green recovery
The chief executives from some of the largest organisations in the aviation sector have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver legislative and financial support to create a sustainable aviation fuels industry that would help the sector reach net-zero emissions and assist with a national green recovery.
The aviation sector has been one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has confirmed that the industry is expected to lose more than $84bn in 2020.
With the Prime Minister set to publish a 10-point plan to boost green jobs in the UK by accelerating action towards the 2050 net-zero target, members of the UK Sustainable Aviation, including Boeing, Virgin Atlantic and London City Airport, have called on the sector to be part of the green recovery.
The coalition is calling for the creation of a world-leading sustainable aviation fuels industry in the UK, while also making progress on introducing electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered aircraft into fleets.
On sustainable fuels, which are produced from a range of feedstocks, from municipal waste to ethanol, and can have carbon savings of up to 70% compared with fossil fuels, the coalition has called for a national industry to be created at key industrial clusters at Teesside, Humberside, the North West of England, South Wales, Southampton, St Fergus and Grangemouth. These clusters are currently exploring ways to reach net-zero emissions through carbon capture and storage utilisation.
Members of the aviation industry are calling for targeted loan guarantees and the provision of capital grants to help build 14 sustainable fuel plants in the UK. It is hoped these plants would generate low-carbon fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s.
The coalition claims that a UK sustainable aviation fuels industry could deliver around £3bn in GVA and 20,200 jobs by the 2030s. Production would also save 3.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Flying to net-zero
Earlier this year, members of the UK Sustainable Aviation pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the sector by 2050, to assist with the UK's overall net-zero strategy.
A roadmap to accompany the launch suggests the sector believes it can accommodate a 70% increase in passengers by 2050, while reducing carbon emissions from more than 30 million tonnes a year to net-zero. New aircraft and engine technology and smarter flight operations have been heralded as some of the solutions to support the transition.
The use of “robust carbon offsets and investment in innovative carbon removal solutions” will be vital to address residual UK aviation emissions by 2050, the report notes.
Despite the commitment, it has been suggested that if the UK is to meet its 2050 net-zero target, Ministers must develop sector-specific strategies with time-bound, numerical targets for decarbonising the international aviation and shipping (IAS).
The Committee on Climate Change recommends that the Aviation Strategy should include measures to continually support the development of innovations to decarbonise the sector, such as electric planes and alternative fuels, alongside measures to limit airport expansions and the growth of demand for international flights to and from the UK.
As the UK’s aviation industry continues to face the greatest crisis in its history resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the letter highlights the once in a generation chance for the UK to seize the opportunity to lead the world in delivering net zero flight whilst enabling UK aviation to benefit from and support the UK’s economic recovery, through the high skilled jobs, supply-chain and export benefits that investment now in new green aviation technology will bring.