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NEWS Last modified on February 4, 2020

UK aviation industry commits to net zero emissions by 2050

Reducing its carbon footprint appears to be top of the agenda for the UK today with the government announcing plans to ban the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035 and members of the country's Sustainable Aviation coalition announcing that they aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

The latter ambition was revealed at an event in Central London this morning attended by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, and a host of aviation industry executives.

The commitment to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 is based on a thorough review of the opportunities to cut aviation emissions and forms a central pillar of a new 'Decarbonisation Road-Map: A Path to Net Zero' published today by Sustainable Aviation.
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This sets out exactly where reductions can come from, including through smarter flight operations, new aircraft and engine technology, modernising UK airspace, the use of sustainable aviation fuels, and high-quality market-based policy measures.

It claims that with these actions, the UK will be able to grow passenger numbers by 70% – in line with current projections – whilst reducing net emissions from 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year today down to zero.

A 'Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map' has also been released today alongside the Decarbonisation Road Map, which identifies the specific role that sustainable aviation fuels could play in meeting this commitment.

It forecasts that the UK could become a world leader in developing sustainable aviation fuels, which could meet 32% of the nation’s demand for aviation fuel by 2050.
Neil Robinson, chair of Sustainable Aviation, said: “Climate change is a clear and pressing issue for people, businesses and governments across the world. Plane field
"We know aviation emissions will increase if decisive action is not taken, and that’s why UK aviation today commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, through an international approach, working with governments around the world and through the UN.

“The UK is well positioned to become one of the leaders in the green technologies of the future, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in the process, and we look forward to working in partnership with Ministers to help realise these opportunities.”

Shapps said: “The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector’s commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future.

“Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international co-operation through the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, we’ll be able to strike that balance, creating a greener and cleaner future.”
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Sustainable Aviation's roadmap to carbon emissions has been welcomed by the CBI, which called todays news "an important step for a sector that has a critical role to play in meeting our [the UK's net-zero target".

Indeed, Tom Thackray, CBI infrastructure and energy director, said: “The roadmap demonstrates how we can deliver a long term future for aviation while at the same time reducing emissions to net-zero.

“To make this a reality, we need to unlock further investment in new technologies, from sustainable aviation fuels to airspace modernisation.

"This requires working closely with the Government to deliver the policies business needs. The upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow is a golden opportunity for the UK to lead the world in demonstrating sustainable aviation technologies and growth can go hand in hand.”

While sustainable fuels technology company, Velocys, believes that  the report shows "how commercialising sustainable aviation fuel production will be a game-changing industrial, economic and environmental opportunity for the UK."
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Velocys CEO Henrik Wareborn, said: "Of all modes of transport, aviation is the most challenging to decarbonise because the energy density and performance of battery and fuel cell technologies cannot come close to matching liquid hydrocarbon fuel, particularly over longer distances.

"Therefore, if we are to reach net zero emissions and continue flying, innovative fuel-based solutions like ours will be essential.

"Sustainable aviation fuel produced at the Immingham facility will be used in existing aircraft engines without any modifications and deliver a net CO2 saving of around 70%.

"With CCUS technology it will be able to go one step further – producing negative emission fuels.

"To do this we need the UK Government to establish a CCUS investment framework and ensure projects like ours can link into a CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network in the region.”

Members of Sustainable Aviation include Heathrow and Gatwick, MAG, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports in Scotland as well as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Bombardier and Boeing and jet engine giants GE and Rolls Royce.

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