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.



Department for Transport.

Decarbonising Transport

The section on aviation is from P 116 to 127


Summary of the commitments on aviation:

Accelerating aviation decarbonisation

We will consult on our Jet Zero strategy, which will set out the steps we will take to reach net zero aviation emissions by 2050.  [Consultation now live, till 8th September 2021].

We will consult on a target for UK domestic aviation to reach net zero by 2040

We will consult on a target for decarbonising emissions from airport operations in England by 2040

We are supporting the development of new and zero carbon UK aircraft technology through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI)

We will fund zero emission flight infrastructure R&D at UK airports

We will kick-start commercialisation of UK sustainable aviation fuels (SAF)

We will consult on a UK sustainable aviation fuels mandate

We will support UK airspace modernisation

We will further develop the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to help accelerate aviation decarbonisation

We will work with industry to accelerate the adoption of innovative zero emission aircraft and aviation technology in General Aviation

We will aim to agree an ambitious long-term global emissions reduction goal in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO – the CORSIA)  by 2022.


Below are a few extracts from the DfT’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, relating to aviation.

P 116

UK aviation has grown significantly since 1990, with passenger numbers increasing threefold to reach 296 million in 2019.116 Aviation has been one of the sectors most severely impacted by COVID-19. While we expect air travel to recover, the speed of recovery and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector are uncertain. However, by 2050 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) expects the sector to be the second largest contributor to UK GHG emissions unless significant action is taken.117

We are already taking decisive action. Last year we launched the Jet Zero Council, a pioneering partnership between the Government and the aviation sector to fast-track zero emission flight and the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in the UK. This was supported by an initial £21 million investment in SAF and R&D into airport infrastructure upgrades for zero emission flight.118 Earlier this year we also launched the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which will be the world’s first net zero carbon cap and trade market

The Jet Zero Council

The Jet Zero Council is a partnership between industry and government that brings together senior leaders in aviation, aerospace, and academia to drive the development of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions. Its aim is to deliver zero emission transatlantic flight within a generation. The Council is considering how to: develop and industrialise clean aviation and aerospace technologies; establish UK production facilities for SAF and commercialise the industry; and develop a coordinated approach to the policy and regulatory framework needed to deliver net zero aviation by 2050. The Government will continue to work closely with industry on our Jet Zero ambition and provide information in a transparent and timely manner.

Alongside this publication, we are publishing a consultation on Jet Zero – a draft strategy to reach net zero aviation by 2050. Delivering this will require ambitious action across a number of key areas: the development of new zero emission aircraft, accelerating the supply and uptake of SAF, modernisation of our airspace and airports, and the development of trusted and verifiable markets to offset residual emissions. Information also needs to be made available to consumers which allows them to choose the most sustainable routes and travel providers when planning and undertaking their journeys. We need rapid progress in each of these areas to put aviation onto a credible and sustainable pathway to achieving net zero.

Through our plan and draft Jet Zero strategy, not only will aviation reach net zero by 2050, but we will look to move even sooner in certain areas such as domestic aviation and airports.

[The Jet Zero Strategy] will set out our approach to accelerating efficiency improvements of aircraft, airports and airspace, positioning the UK as a global leader in zero emission flight and SAF, and will explore how we can support consumers to make more sustainable travel choices when flying.

Following the CCC’s recommendation, we will consider whether UK domestic aviation should aim to achieve net zero earlier than the UK’s share of international aviation emissions, which could support our wider ambitions by driving innovation and early technology adoption in the UK.

Airports represent a small but material share of emissions from aviation. Several airports including Manchester and Gatwick have already achieved carbon neutrality;127 and many are now setting more ambitious targets, including Bristol, which is aiming for net zero emissions by 2030.128 We will consult on introducing an ambitious target across all airports.

The ATI Programme [Aerospace Technology Institute Programme ] provides £150 million of funding per year, matched by industry, for mid-stage collaborative R&D projects from 2013 to 2026.129 This includes the ATI led FlyZero study – the first essential step in setting out a detailed plan for how the UK might best contribute to a zero emission aircraft by 2030.130 As of May 2021, 327 R&D projects valued over £2.9 billion involving 352 unique organisations (including 218 SMEs) have been supported by the UK Government through the ATI Programme.131

We will invest £3 million in 2021/22 through the Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure programme to accelerate R&D into infrastructure requirements at airports and airfields to handle new forms of zero emission aircraft.132 This will help UK airports and airfields to adapt more quickly to handle these exciting new technologies.

SAF [Sustainable Aviation Fuels] are expected to play a key role in decarbonising aviation. We are putting in place a comprehensive policy framework that could enable greater SAF uptake than is accounted for within the CCC’s Balanced Pathway if the market develops quickly.133 We have recently launched the £15 million Green Fuels, Green Skies competition134 to support the production of SAF in the UK, building on the success of the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition.135 We will invest £3 million to establish a SAF clearing house, the first of its kind announced in Europe, to enable the UK to certify new fuels, driving innovation in this space.

In 2021 we will consult on a SAF mandate to blend greener fuels into kerosene, which will create market-led demand for these alternative fuels. With government support for the emerging industry, we want to position the UK as a market leader, capturing significant environmental and economic benefits from the emerging global SAF market, potentially worth up to £1.5 billion per annum for the UK economy by 2040.13

We will support airspace modernisation to deliver quicker, quieter, and cleaner journeys, alongside annual carbon savings of up to 0.6 MtCO2 e (based on 2019 figures), for the benefit of those who use and are affected by UK airspace. The CAA’s updated Airspace Modernisation Strategy, due to be consulted on later in 2021, will provide further detail. Meanwhile, the Government is providing up to £5.5 million funding in the years 2020/21 and 2021/22 to ensure the programme remains on track through the global pandemic.

Airspace modernisation has the potential to deliver a reduction in planes queueing in holding stacks over the UK and allow more efficient flight paths to be optimised. These changes will help to bring emissions reductions and potential noise benefits to those living underneath flightpaths, as well as reduce delays.

We will look to improve the system for aviation, for example by reviewing the sector’s free allocation in line with the commitment to a net zero consistent ETS cap trajectory, exploring whether to expand the pollutants covered, and determining how the UK ETS will interact with the global offsetting scheme for aviation, CORSIA

General Aviation refers to the operation of non-scheduled commercial and leisure flights. The sector encompasses a wide range of aircraft and types of flying including private and business flights, flight training, emergency services and medical transfer services. The Government has published the General Aviation Roadmap which states our support for encouraging the adoption of new technology in the sector.138

A long-term climate goal for international aviation through the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is consistent with the global temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, remains a top priority.139 We will build on the success of CORSIA to negotiate for the adoption of an ambitious goal by ICAO’s next Assembly in 2022. A globally co-ordinated, sector-based approach to tackling international aviation emissions reduces the risk that these emissions simply move to other jurisdictions in response to individual countries taking unilateral action. Our focus therefore remains on international action to address emissions from this inherently international sector, alongside bold domestic action.


[Looking at a projection of possible future aviation emissions]:

The upper bound of the projection broadly reflects a continuation of current trends, including annual efficiency improvements of 1.5% and moderate uptake of SAF (5% of total aviation fuel usage in 2050) and the application of a universal carbon price to all flights.

The lower bound is a speculative scenario with some zero carbon aircraft and a very high uptake of sustainable aviation fuels (75% of total aviation fuel usage in 2050) – the feasibility of this will depend on the availability of sustainable feedstocks, blending limits and the extent to which costs fall in future. Any residual emissions in 2050 will be offset to ensure that aviation reaches net zero.


Residual emissions from the aviation sector will need to be offset by credible, verifiable and demonstrable additional offsets that would see an equivalent amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere. Our Jet Zero Consultation will consider how existing market-based mechanisms such as the UK ETS and CORSIA, as well as innovative greenhouse gas removal technologies, can address residual emissions.


See also


DfT transport decarbonisation plan … nice-sounding targets for aviation CO2 .. . details on achieving those still awaited

The Government has put out a statement from Grant Shapps and a page on its website about its transport decarbonisation plan.  On aviation, the plan hopes to decarbonise all UK domestic aviation by 2040.  It hopes all UK airport operations will be zero carbon by 2040. It hopes all UK aviation will be zero carbon by 2050. But there is no detail on how these miracles are to be achieved.  Unless there is serious intention to reduce the total numbers of air passengers and flights, it will not be possible to genuinely make flying zero carbon. So far any ambitions by government for this have been either by remarkable, novel fuels (which either have environmental impacts, or require huge amounts of non-emitting electricity which is unlikely to be available), or hydrogen (likewise requiring electricity) or electric planes. The industry itself acknowledges that neither hydrogen nor electric planes are going to enable even the current level of flying, for many decades, if ever.  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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Campaigners against airport expansion say government’s jet zero plan is a ‘flight of fantasy’

14.7..2021 (GALBA press release)

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has described the government’s Jet Zero strategy, published today, as a flight of fantasy. GALBA says the government has ignored its own expert advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), by putting all its hope in new technology, alternative fuels and offsetting to make flying carbon net zero by 2050. GALBA point out that the CCC’s climate experts have repeatedly told the government that the number of flights must be limited, alongside improving aircraft efficiency, in order to tackle the climate crisis.

Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “Who do you trust to protect our climate: a committee of scientific experts or Grant Shapps and his chums in the aviation industry? Climate science experts have repeatedly told the government that demand for flying must be curbed and airports should not be allowed to expand if the aviation industry has any chance of reaching net zero by 2050. Only a few weeks ago, the CCC said: ‘Government must recognise that planning for an ever growing aviation sector is not consistent with the UK’s Net Zero target…’ And their priority recommendation was: ‘There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity… and a demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s… ‘”

He continued: “Of course, we also need all the technological innovations possible. But the Climate Change Committee describes these as ‘nascent and untested’ and even in the most optimistic scenario, the CCC warns: ‘Zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050.’ It’s deeply reckless and irresponsible of the government to put all its eggs in the technology basket. Electric flight will only be possible for small, short haul planes, there won’t be enough green electricity to create hydrogen fuel for long haul flights, carbon capture technology is only at the drawing board stage and it’s not going to be possible to produce bio-fuels at the scale required.”

Chris added: “Just as we all learned to trust scientists’ advice during the Covid crisis, we must trust their advice on how to deal with the climate crisis. If the government doesn’t listen to its own experts, it will be taking a huge risk with everyone’s future. The climate crisis is already killing people and destroying livelihoods – just look at the north American heat dome. The good news is that we have the power to create a better future if we make the right decisions today.”


Notes to editors

  1. For information about GALBA (Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport): contact Chris Foren, GALBA Chair 07810 546727  or (contact details NOT for publication) and see the GALBA website:

  1. Jet Zero and Transport Decarbonisation Strategies: these were published today. You can read the Jet Zero Strategy here and the Transport Decarbonisation Strategy here

  1. Climate Change Committee recommendations: the CCC has repeatedly warned the government that technological solutions alone will be insufficient to make the aviation sector net zero by 2050 – copies of the following CCC reports can be supplied on request. 

    1. In September 2019, the Chair of the CCC, Lord Deben, wrote to Grant Shapps saying: “Zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050.” 

    2. In the 6th Carbon Budget published in December 2020, the CCC called for measures to constrain increasing demand for flying as well as for the rapid development of new technology and alternative aviation fuels. They also said that the use of international carbon offsetting schemes should not be used to meet the UK’s net zero target.

    3. The CCC reiterated their advice in their Progress Report to Parliament in June 2021. In the recommendations, the CCC said: 

      1. “An assessment of the UK’s airport capacity strategy and a mechanism for aviation demand management should be part of the aviation strategy” (p32)

      2. “Government should not plan for unconstrained leisure flying at or beyond pre-pandemic levels in its strategy for airport capacity and demand management” (p72) 

      3. “Government must recognise that planning for an ever growing aviation sector is not consistent with the UK’s Net Zero target as part of its aviation decarbonisation consultation and strategy” (p74) 

      4. “Our advice from the Sixth Carbon Budget remains unchanged – there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to outperform its net emissions trajectory. Government needs to assess its airport capacity strategy and develop and put in place a demand management framework to assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects” (p184).

      5. “The UK already has more than enough capacity to accommodate the demand increases in our Balanced Net Zero Pathway. Our advice in the Sixth Carbon Budget was therefore that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity, unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand:

• Outperforming the net emissions trajectory means making significant progress on nascent and untested technologies like hybrid electric planes, and developing and scaling up markets for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and greenhouse gas removals.

• It is not possible to have certainty today over the pace of development of these technologies in future. It is therefore difficult at present to justify [airport] capacity expansion on the basis of outperforming the emissions trajectory, particularly given the uncertainty around the permanence of impacts on aviation demand from COVID-19.” (p185)

  1. Priority recommendation: There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2″ (p211)

  1. Climate science and LBA expansion: the Leeds Climate Commission and experts in climate science from the University of Leeds have calculated that LBA’s proposals mean greenhouse gas emissions from the airport would exceed the amount allowed for the whole of Leeds, as set out in the Leeds Carbon Reduction Roadmap, from 2026 onwards. See the report here.

  1. UK’s emissions reduction target includes aviation: the government’s announcement can be found here.

  1. UK-wide airport expansion moratorium call: GALBA has joined with 15 other local and national airport campaigns to call for an immediate halt to all airport expansion plans. Further details and a copy of the letter are available here

Public inquiry decision postponed: on 6 April, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick postponed his decision on whether to call in LBA’s application for a public inquiry. This means that no changes can be made to flying hours at LBA until a final decision is made.