Aviation industry pins hopes on hybrids, offsets and biofuel to decarbonise


The UK aviation industry believes it can achieve net zero by 2050, backing biofuels, carbon taxes, offsets and hybrid planes to deliver the bulk of CO2 reductions.

The Sustainable Aviation coalition of British carriers, airport operators and service companies claims it can decarbonise despite a forecast 70 per cent rise in UK passenger numbers over the next three decades.

Since 2005, the sector has managed to decrease carbon emissions 3 per cent, with passenger numbers rising 25 per cent over that period.

Without adopting its proposed package of measures, the industry would otherwise emit an estimated 71 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2050, around double current levels.

The plans are outlined in a new report, with a breakdown of measures and their potential carbon impact. These include:

  • 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) saving due to carbon pricing impact on demand
  • 1 MtCO2 saving from better air traffic management and operating procedures
  • 5MtCO2 saving from introduction of known and new, more efficient aircraft
  • 4MtCO2 saving from sustainable aviation fuels
  • 8 MtCO2 saving from effective market-based measures

Under the plans, a carbon tax on flights would rise to £221/tonne by 2050, though mostly backloaded post 2035.

UK-produced sustainable aviation fuels would reduce emissions 32 per cent by 2050, according to the report, and the group is calling for £500m in government funding to kickstart the sector.

The report also suggests carbon capture and storage may play a role, but states: “the required investment will be significant, and the potential to accelerate current technologies to meet commercial market demand has yet to be fully assessed”.

The report has met with scepticism from green groups, some of which want the government to impose a frequent flyer levy.

Meanwhile, John Holland-Kaye, CEO of London Heathrow, told BBC Radio 4 that his airport’s plans to add a third runway at his airport would not detract from the coalition’s goals.

See the report here.

Speakers from Birmingham Airport and Luton Airport will outline their approach to cutting carbon across their estates at The Energyst’s free ‘Delivering Net Zero’ conference and exhibition, 22-23 April, Silverstone. Register here.

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Birmingham Airport commits to net zero by 2033

Bristol Airport commits to 100 per cent renewable power

UKPN to build ‘holy grail’ microgrid at London City Airport

Southend Airport goes large on solar

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  1. Almost half of these putative signings are apparently due to occur thanks to ‘effective market-based measures.” Whilst your story does not enucleate these, the report itself seems to claim that these measures will mainly require paying others elsewehere to reduce emissions.
    But won’t these “others”, having made the equivalent reductions, be likely to want to claim the savings for themselves? Welcome to the world of double entry bokkkeeping?.


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