Industry coalition Sustainable Aviation has published an updated Net Zero Carbon Road-Map, but stressed that the UK is at risk of falling behind in the move towards sustainable aviation.

The Road-Map is an update to previous plans published in 2020 and 2021. It highlights the vital role and potential for SAF and zero carbon emission technologies such as hydrogen powered aircraft and carbon removal technologies, together with the immediate advances being made in modernising airspace to help UK aviation reach net zero by 2050.

According to Sustainable Aviation, the UK has the right conditions to lead the world in developing sustainable aviation technologies like SAF and zero carbon emission hydrogen-powered aircraft. It has the third-largest global aviation network, a world-leading aerospace and aviation sector, and geographical advantages in both renewable energy generation and carbon capture capacity.

However, the industry warns that this leadership and the opportunity to make the UK home to a low carbon aviation industry is at risk. Without urgent government action the UK may miss out on these industries of tomorrow, Sustainable Aviation said.

The aviation industry is calling on the UK Government to work with it by:

  • Maximising short-term operational efficiencies by accelerating the UK airspace modernisation programme, completing it by the end of the decade. This includes reviewing the governance and processes for the programme, looking at how these can be streamlined in order to speed up delivery, and considering whether a different funding model could bring the delivery date forward.
  • Delivering commercial UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel production at scale this decade, meeting the government’s commitment to seeing five UK SAF plants under construction by 2025, by providing an industry-funded price stability mechanism alongside a SAF mandate, whilst prioritising access to UK sustainable feedstocks.
  • Investing in zero carbon emission flight technology by uplifting matched funding levels to the Aerospace Technology Institute programme through to 2031 – to drive efficiency improvements and the development of zero carbon emission technologies, alongside investing in UK hydrogen supply.
  • Addressing residual aviation carbon emissions by accelerating the rollout of carbon removals, including them in the UK ETS scheme and ensuring aviation’s fair share. 

Delivering accelerated progress towards a UK-wide net zero CO2 emission future requires aligning all of government on a strategic plan, to ensure sufficient low carbon electrical and hydrogen generation is in place, to meet the increased energy demands with UK aviation receiving its fair share alongside other industries. Sustainable Aviation forecasts that UK aviation will require a maximum of an additional 147 Terawatt-hour in additional renewable energy need, set out as follows:

Matt Gorman, chair of Sustainable Aviation, said: “This is the critical decade where aviation must prove it will decarbonise. Our updated Net Zero Carbon Road Map shows that we have a clear, credible path to take the carbon out of flying. Through a combination of sustainable aviation fuel, more efficient aircraft and airspace, zero emission planes and carbon removals, we can protect the huge benefits of aviation for future generations without the carbon cost. 

“But we’ll do it faster, and create more jobs and investment in the UK, with the right policies, working in partnership with Government. The US and Europe are surging forwards in the race to create new industries in sustainable aviation fuels and technology. The UK has all the natural advantages to be able to join them – but we need to move quickly.

Image: Sustainable Aviation