Airport groups write to the Prime Minister to say the taxpayer should not have to pay for the decarbonisation of aviation
A number of airport community groups have written to the Prime Minister, in response to a letter that he has been sent by the lobbying body, “Sustainable Aviation. The UK aviation industry leaders are asking the Government to co-finance the sector’s decarbonisation. The community groups are pleased the industry is starting to realise that it must address its climate change effects and other adverse environmental impacts. Instead of yet more aspirational words, the industry should now start taking decisive and long-overdue action. Regrettably, however, its willingness to do so appears to be conditional on the taxpayer bearing the cost of the transition it needs to make. That should not happen: there is no economic or social case for public investment in aviation’s decarbonisation. Most flights are for leisure purposes; a high proportion are by frequent flyers; in any one year, about half the UK population does not get into a plane. The sector already receives an effective subsidy, by not paying VAT or fuel duty. Government’s role should be to regulate the industry’s emissions and other adverse environmental and health impacts properly, by setting and enforcing challenging targets and defined timescales. Aviation’s decarbonisation should be paid for by the industry, not by the taxpayer.
Aviation Communities Forum (ACF)
Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC)
Heathrow Association for the Control of Air Noise (HACAN)
Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN)
No 3rd Runway Coalition
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE)
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
19 November 2020
Dear Prime Minister
Regulating aviation decarbonisation to deliver a green economic recovery
We are writing in response to the recent letter to you from UK aviation industry leaders, which asks the Government to co-finance the sector’s decarbonisation. [ Letter copied below ].
We are pleased the industry is beginning to acknowledge that it must address its climate change effects and other adverse environmental impacts. Its track record to date is dismal. UK aviation’s CO2 emissions grew by nearly 16% between 2010 and 2018 (and by 124% since 1990) and reached a new record high in 2019. The Climate Change Committee project that aviation will account for 35% of the UK’s residual emissions by 2050, placing a restrictive burden on other areas of the productive economy, perhaps most particularly upon regions of the UK requiring further development.
Encouraged by the absence of effective regulation of its adverse environmental impacts, aviation has adopted a “words not actions” strategy, periodically announcing, then missing, a series of aspirational environmental targets. Instead of yet more words, the industry should now start taking decisive and long-overdue action.
Regrettably, however, its willingness to do so appears to be conditional on the taxpayer bearing the cost of the transition it needs to make. That should not happen: there is no economic or social case for public investment in aviation’s decarbonisation.
UK aviation overwhelmingly provides leisure flights to a small and relatively wealthy sector of society: government data shows that 80% of UK passengers travel for leisure purposes and that 15% of people take 70% of flights. The industry already benefits from extensive public funding and tax advantages. Requiring the general taxpayer to cross subsidise further the low-margin high-volume business model the industry has chosen and the lifestyle choices of a small minority of the population would be wrong in principle. It would also perpetuate the current moral hazard in which the industry pollutes with impunity but expects others to bear the consequences and clean up after it.
Instead the Government’s role should be to regulate the industry’s emissions and other adverse environmental and health impacts properly, by setting and enforcing challenging targets and defined timescales.
The current regulatory vacuum, including the lack of any legal requirement on airlines to reduce emissions (in contrast to the requirements imposed by the Climate Change Act on other sectors), creates uncertainty that airlines will be willing to pay the premium that low carbon technologies and fuels will incur and is holding back the development of those markets. By contrast, effective regulation that obliges the industry to decarbonise would incentivise the market to develop, and the industry to adopt, low carbon solutions without the need for public funds. Reforming regulation of the industry’s environmental impacts should therefore be at the top of the government’s aviation action list.
Investment to decarbonise aviation and reduce its other adverse impacts is essential, but the costs and risks of that investment must be borne fully by the polluter – the industry and its customers – not by the taxpayer.
Sarah Clayton, AirportWatch Charles Lloyd, Aviation Communities Forum
Anna Hughes, FlightFree UK
Peter Barclay, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign
John Stewart, Heathrow Association for the Control of Air Noise
Andrew Lambourne, Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise
Paul McGuinness, No 3rd Runway Coalition
Martin Peachey, Stop Stansted Expansion
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Huw Merriman, Chair, Transport Committee
Chris Stark, Chief Executive, Climate Change Committee
Karen Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive, Airlines UK
Dr Andy Jefferson, Programme Director, Sustainable Aviation
The letter to the Prime Minister from Sustainable Aviation
and is copied below:
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
16 November 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
Putting aviation decarbonisation at the heart of a green economic recovery
As leaders of the UK’s world-leading aviation industry, we know that our future must be environmentally sustainable. That is why in February this year UK aviation collectively committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in a world-first for our sector.
This steadfast commitment has not changed, even as the world has changed around us. But to deliver net zero, partnership between Government and industry is now more vital than ever. The creation of the Jet Zero Council, bringing industry and Government together with the goal of making zero-emissions flight possible, has been a welcome and exciting step forward.
There is now a once in a generation chance for the UK to seize the opportunity to lead the world, both in delivering net zero flight, and to enable UK aviation to support our economic recovery through the high skilled jobs, supply-chain and export benefits that investment in new green aviation technology will bring.
To achieve this, support is critical in three areas. First, we urge the Government to take the next step and enable the emergence of a domestic UK Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) industry, principally through targeted loan guarantees and the provision of capital grants. Utilising the UK’s unique skills and capabilities we have identified seven UK industrial clusters which have the potential to generate thousands of highly skilled green jobs and help to level-up the UK.
SAF is essential as the primary and only envisaged pathway to decarbonise long-haul flight, and as existing technology can make a difference this decade. Early support is critical to the delivery of first-of-a-kind plants, the foundation for up to 14 plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the mid-2030s.
Second, Government should increase its support for technological innovation through the Aerospace Technology Institute – helping deliver those ground-breaking electric, hybrid and hydrogen powered aircraft which have the potential to revolutionise regional and short-haul travel and deliver net zero aviation, building on this year’s ground-breaking zero-emissions electric and hydrogen flights from Cranfield. Investment will be needed in infrastructure to support these electric and hydrogen planes, once operational.
Third, the UK must maintain its commitment to delivering airspace modernisation, a critical nextstep on the path to net-zero. It will eliminate inefficiencies, shorten journey times and reduce carbon emissions, so we urge the Government to support the short term funding request from ACOG that would progress this through the Airspace Masterplan.
We look forward to working with Government to build a sustainable recovery for our sector and the UK economy, and maintain the UK’s proud tradition of aviation and aerospace excellence.
Karen Dee Chief Executive Airport Operators Association
Sir Martin Donnelly President, Boeing Europe, Managing Director Boeing UK and Ireland Paul Stein Chief Technology Officer Rolls-Royce plc
Nick Barton Chief Executive Birmingham Airport
Alberto Martin CEO London Luton Airport Dave Lees CEO Bristol Airport
Henrik Wareborn CEO Velocys PLC
Tim Alderslade Chief Executive Airlines UK
Mark Tanzer Chief Executive ABTA
Charlie Cornish Chief Executive Officer Manchester Airports Group
Paul Everitt Chief Executive ADS
John Holland-Kaye Chief Executive Officer Heathrow Airport Ltd
Peter Mather Senior Vice President, Europe and Head of Country, UK bp plc
Stewart Wingate Chief Executive Officer London Gatwick
Dr. Jennifer Holmgren Chief Executive Officer LanzaTech
Sean Doyle Chief Executive British Airways
Martin Rolfe Chief Executive Officer NATS
Johan Lundgren Chief Executive Officer EasyJet
Robert Sinclair Chief Executive London City Airport
Alex Doisneau Managing Director Dnata
Katherine Bennett CBE Senior Vice President Airbus in the UK
Stephen Heapy Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Jet2 plc