The UK government has set out a new two-year plan to help meet the long-term goal of decarbonising the country’s aviation sector by 2050.
The latest short-term plan, which was revealed at the Sustainable Skies World Summit being held at Farnborough airport on Monday (17 April), includes measures to accelerate the development and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over the next two years.
Actions include the creation of a mandate on the use of SAF by 2025, operating the first transatlantic flight using 100 per cent SAF later this year, and looking at mechanisms to achieve “price stability” for the fuel to drive investment.
But industry group Sustainable Aviation warned that the government needed to take “urgent action” to ensure that it does not miss out on becoming a world leader in low carbon aviation.
UK transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “This government is a determined partner to the aviation industry – helping accelerate new technology and fuels, modernise their operations and work internationally to remove barriers to progress.
“Together, we can set aviation up for success, continue harnessing its huge social and economic benefits, and ensure it remains a core part of the UK’s sustainable economic future.”
This work is part of the UK’s Jet Zero decarbonisation strategy, which is led by a council made up of industry and government representatives.
Emma Gilthorpe, CEO of the Jet Zero Council, added: “The two-year plan published today will ensure we continue to accelerate progress and achieve the Jet Zero Council’s objectives of delivering 10 per cent SAF in the UK fuel mix by 2030 and zero emission transatlantic flight within a generation.”
Global net zero race
Sustainable Aviation, which is made up of airports, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and industry bodies, said that the UK had the opportunity to become the “home of a low carbon aviation industry”.
But it also warned that this opportunity was “at risk without government support” and called for an industry-funded price support mechanism for SAF to help encourage more private funding.
“Today more than ever, the UK is competing in a global race to capture private investment that will drive development of the technologies to power net zero and create the jobs of the future,” said Sustainable Aviation in a statement.
“The US has passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in incentives for low-carbon technologies, including SAF and hydrogen production, and the EU is distributing billions of euros in carbon allowances to help subsidise the higher cost of SAF for its airlines.”
The group is calling for the UK government to help the sector to operate more efficiently through the modernisation of airspace, as well as delivering commercial SAF production “at scale” in the UK within the current decade.
Sustainable Aviation also wants more government investment in new zero carbon emission aircraft, using fuels such as hydrogen, and to accelerate the rollout of carbon removal initiatives.
The group added that the increased cost of SAF and other decarbonisation moves would “inevitably reduce passenger demand”. Although its modelling showed that “even with slightly higher costs, people still want to fly, with overall growth in passenger numbers of almost 250 million by 2050”.