Chris Stark (CCC) on how aviation needs to cut its emissions, only using CCS – which it must pay for – as a last resort

The Head of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Chris Stark, has given evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the aspirations of the aviation sector to get to “net zero” by 2050, and the government’s “jet zero” plan. He said aviation, unlike other transport sectors, was unlikely to meet targets for net zero by 2050.  The sector should pay for costly engineered carbon removal technologies (CCS) rather than rely on using the planting of trees to claim they are reducing CO2 emissions.  And these offsets and removal technologies should only be used as a last resort, after direct cuts of carbon and emissions by the industry itself. He said carbon removal technologies are not a “free pass” for the industry. Removals are expensive, and the sector should pay for them themselves – which would put up ticket prices. It was regrettable that the DfT’s transport decarbonisation plan had not mentioned the necessity of reducing air travel demand. There is a danger that the tech does not deliver. The plans need to be assessed every 5 years, and though that is a difficult choice for government, demand management may have to be considered in future.



Airlines need to do more than plant trees to hit net zero, MPs told

Climate Change Committee head says firms must invest in ‘scaleable’ offsets such as carbon capture

By Sandra Laville (The Guardian)
Thu 22 Jul 2021

Chris Start was a witness, presenting evidence to the inquiry by the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, on net zero plans for aviation and shipping, on 21st July. The session can be seen here

Chris is speaking, relevant to aviation, from around 14.55 to 15.29 – well worth watching.

The aviation industry must pay for costly carbon removal technologies [CCS – carbon capture and storage] rather than rely on using the planting of trees to claim they are reducing emissions, the head of the Climate Change Committee has said.

Chris Stark said aviation, unlike other transport sectors, was unlikely to meet targets for net zero by 2050. He said instead the industry had to use “scaleable” offsets that matched ongoing emissions into future decades, but that these should be used as a last resort after directly cutting emissions.

“We are not just talking about planting trees … I would prefer to see engineered removals matched with those residual aviation emissions,” Stark told MPs on the environmental audit committee.

The processes Stark wanted to see aviation engaging in included investing in growing bioenergy crops to create alternatives to fossil fuel and techniques to capture and store carbon. He said carbon capture was a very expensive process but resulted in genuine negative emissions.

“It is something the aviation sector itself should pay for and therefore will increase the cost of aviation if those offsets have to be managed and paid for,” said Stark. “These are not free passes for getting to net zero … We think that aviation should incur these costs directly and indeed that their commercial interests in those negative emissions will grow if there is a way to bring down the costs of those key technologies overall.”

The government’s “jet zero” policy claims it will deliver net zero aviation within a generation. But Stark said it was heavily reliant on technology to deliver this and the Climate Change Committee believed that the sector would not reach net zero by mid-century. Instead it needed to pay for genuine processes to mop up emissions.

He said the reliance on technology and the lack of any focus on reducing demand for aviation was something that would please the industry. “But obviously a big risk is that the technology doesn’t deliver. It is notable that demand management doesn’t get a look in.”

The jet zero plan, which is out for consultation, is being driven by a council made up of government ministers and leading figures from the aviation industry. The government claims it can cut emissions to zero without affecting the scale of passenger travel.

The consultation document says: “It is a strategy that will deliver the requirement to decarbonise aviation, and the benefits of doing so, whilst allowing the sector to thrive, and hard-working families to continue to enjoy their annual holiday abroad; we want Britons to continue to have access to affordable flights, allowing them to enjoy holidays, visit friends and family overseas and to travel for business.”

EAC call for evidence

Net zero aviation and shipping

Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “sustainable aviation fuels” (spoiler…crazy over-optimism)

The DfT’s consultation on reducing aviation carbon emissions, “Jet Zero” places a lot of faith in finding novel, low carbon fuels, so people can continue to fly as much as they want. These are called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). The consultation says SAF “could play a key role in decarbonising aviation, whilst also representing an industrial leadership opportunity for the UK.” The economic opportunity aspect, and producing jobs, is key for the DfT.  They say “Many experts view SAF as the only alternative for long-haul flights up to 2050, which are the flights with the biggest climate impact.” The DfT is hoping SAF could “result in over 70% CO2 emissions saving on a lifecycle basis and could deliver net zero emissions with the addition of greenhouse gas removal technologies.” SAF would either be biogenic, non-biogenic (from wastes) or made using zero-carbon electricity.  There are huge problems, glossed over by the consultation. A key problem is that “there is currently no comprehensive global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability. The UK is therefore active at ICAO in negotiating for a full set of sustainability criteria for SAF.” The DfT “will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake.”

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Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “Influencing Consumers” – keep flying, depend on techno-optimism

The DfT has launched its consultation, called “Jet Zero” on how the UK might decarbonise flights, by 2050. One really effective way to do that would be to reduce the demand for air travel, which is what the Climate Change Committee  (CCC) recommended. The CCC said (24th June) “Lack of ambition for aviation demand management would result in higher emissions of 6.4 MtCO2e/year in 2030 relative to the CCC pathway for aviation emissions.” But the Jet Zero consultation just says “We want to preserve the ability for people to fly whilst supporting consumers to make sustainable travel choices.” And “This Government is committed to tackling the CO2 emissions from flights, whilst preserving the ability for people to fly.” And “we currently believe the sector can achieve Jet Zero without the Government needing to intervene directly to limit aviation growth” and cut aviation CO2 by as much as the CCC says is needed, but by other means – SAF, hydrogen, electric planes etc. It then says it will “seek to address residual carbon emissions through robust, verifiable offsets and additional greenhouse gas removals.” And it acknowledges that these are all “currently at a relatively early stage of development and [their deployment] requires collaboration and commitment across all parts of the sector if it is to succeed.” It also considers carbon information for flights, but only so people can still fly, but choose different airline options.

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DfT Decarbonising Transport plan – various consultations to come on aviation carbon

The DfT has produced its transport decarbonisation plan. There is a lot of aspiration for aviation, depending on future increased use of “sustainable aviation fuels”, hydrogen and electric planes – as well as carbon capture and storage. ie. dependence on technologies that do not yet exist on any scale, and which would take years/decades to develop. The aspirations for aviation are for “net zero” (ie. allowing offsets) for the sector by 2050, and net zero for domestic aviation by 2040. [Also plans for zero carbon airports, but they contribute only a tiny amount of total aviation carbon].  So lots of hopes. Nothing specific.  And absolutely no mention of the need to reduce demand for air travel, as their climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee, had recommended. The DfT consultation on the Jet Zero strategy – for aviation net zero by 2050 – has now been published, and runs till the 8th September. Also there will be consultations on making domestic aviation net zero; airport carbon; and on a UK sustainable aviation fuels mandate.  The DfT is supporting the development of new aircraft technology through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and hopes to further develop the UK ETS.

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Government is keen to tell people they can continue to fly, with a clear conscience – and the aviation sector can continue with “business as usual” for the time being.

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