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Government’s proposals for delivering net zero aviation incoherent and inadequate

24th September, 2021

Earlier this month, AEF responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into net zero aviation and shipping. The EAC is looking into a range of areas that could play a role in reducing emissions in the aviation and shipping sectors, such as new technologies, alternative jet fuels, demand management, and international action to reduce global emissions.

A summary of our response is below. To read our written evidence in full, click here.

  • The Government is proposing a trajectory for aviation emissions with regular policy reviews. Setting a framework is necessary to support the industry, benchmark the performance of policies and measures, and to create investor certainty in CO2 mitigation options.
  • The proposals for delivering this trajectory are incoherent and inadequate, however, and we hope that the EAC will challenge the Government to reconsider its approach, including undertaking more thorough modelling of a range of likely emissions scenarios using a wider mix of policy instruments; amending its stance on aviation growth; and putting in place clear measures and price signals.
  • The Government is optimistic about the prospects for radical new aircraft technologies. These are unlikely to be operational for long-haul routes until after 2050, however, so offer limited potential for emissions mitigation. Savings from operational changes will also be marginal. 
  • Some alternative fuels may help to cut net aviation emissions. Given the limited time frame for achieving net zero aviation we are concerned, however, that the use of transitional fuels could create the illusion that the sector is on a pathway to decarbonisation at limited additional cost. All liquid fuels will have non-CO2 impacts, none of the existing options offer 100% CO2 emissions reduction, and all are likely to be expensive. The Government’s assumptions in its emissions modelling presented in the Jet Zero consultation that sustainable aviation fuel will be zero cost, and will deliver 100% emissions reductions, are not accurate. 
  • Aviation demand could be limited either directly or indirectly. Internalising the climate cost of flying into ticket prices, through carbon charges and measures to ensure that the industry pays for its own decarbonisation, would naturally suppress demand, and airport expansion should be halted.
  • International measures to limit aviation emissions will be insufficient without strong domestic and regional measures delivered in parallel.