UK aviation industry strengthens commitment to achieving net zero and launches first interim decarbonisation targets

Environmental Sustainable fuels Climate solutions Aviation

Today the UK’s leading airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air service navigation providers have reaffirmed their joint commitment to a net zero future for UK aviation, setting out a first set of interim decarbonisation targets that will act as milestones on the path to net zero aviation by 2050.

  • UK aviation announces new interim decarbonisation targets of at least 15% by 2030 and 40% by 2040, having reaffirmed their commitment to net-zero by 2050
  • New interim targets lay foundations for rapid acceleration of aviation decarbonisation in the coming decades, with new data on the impact of Covid-19 on aviation demand
  • Aviation leaders warn that progress cannot be taken for granted and urge Government to invest in clean aircraft technologies, sustainable aviation fuels, and airspace modernisation over the next decade in support of a green post-pandemic recovery

Industry is targeting at least an overall 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030, and a 40% net reduction by 2040, with the pace of decarbonisation ramping up as game-changing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal, and new low and zero-carbon technologies – such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft – become mainstream in the 2030s.

These milestones are reflected on a new chart taking account of the effects of Covid-19 on aviation demand and complement an ever-growing set of voluntary industry pledges to drive down emissions fast. Importantly, today’s announcement also kickstarts detailed work to update by the middle of next year the sector’s Decarbonisation Road Map, first published in 2020, that is expected to demonstrate even faster potential to decarbonise aviation through technology innovation.

Decarbonising aviation is a huge challenge, with significant technology and policy barriers that need to be overcome this decade. With the right support, it can and will be achieved, maintaining the major economic and social benefits of the UK’s air links to the world, and generating new opportunities for tomorrow’s engineers through highly skilled green aviation jobs. However, the UK risks falling behind as other countries including the United States put in place enhanced policies to support innovation and new fuel technologies.

To make sure UK aviation continues to lead the world in aviation decarbonisation, further support is needed in five areas critical to realising net-zero flight:

  1. Key policies this year to deliver a UK SAF industry and commercialise SAF, most urgently by providing a demand signal and price support – the primer for up to 14 UK plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s, supporting at least a 32% reduction in emissions from UK aviation by 2050;
  2. A positive, long-term signal for investment in aerospace technology and the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft through increased and extended funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute;
  3. The completion of vital airspace modernisation generating significant carbon savings through more efficient flying and shorter journey times;
  4. Policies that incentivise the commercialisation of carbon removal technologies that enable carbon neutral or carbon negative aviation fuel, allowing the aviation industry to address any remaining residual emissions;
  5. UK Government to seek a more robust international commitment for aviation carbon reduction at the ICAO Assembly in 2022, ensuring emissions are reduced across the globe and not exported from the UK.
Sustainable Aviation Interim Decarbonisation Targets Infographic Page 001 (1)