We want to preserve the ability for people to fly whilst supporting consumers to make sustainable travel choices.
3.39 Flying is a social and economic good, and one that we wholeheartedly support
as a key part of building a Global Britain; our strategy will focus on decarbonising
aviation and delivering sustainable flying for everyone. This Government is
committed to tackling the CO2 emissions from flights, whilst preserving the ability for
people to fly.
3.40 COVID-19 has devastated passenger numbers over the short-term, and we do not yet know what the longer-term effects on demand might be. Only as the pandemic continues to come under control and consumer confidence returns, will we begin to understand how it will affect the sector over the longer-term.
3.41 Nonetheless, even if the sector returns to a pre-COVID-19 demand trajectory, as we have assumed in our analysis, we currently believe the sector can achieve Jet Zero without the Government needing to intervene directly to limit aviation growth. The industry’s need to rebuild from a lower base is likely to mean that plans for airport expansion will be slower to come forward.39
Our analysis shows that there are scenarios that can achieve similar or greater CO2 reductions to those in the CCC’s Balanced Pathway40 (which limits growth to 25% by 2050 compared to 2018 levels compared to a baseline of 65% growth) by focussing on new
fuels and technology, with the knock-on economic and social benefit, rather than
3.42 We recognise that net zero 2050 must be achieved and we must ensure that
any growth in aviation is compatible with our emissions reduction commitments.
The approach we intend to set out in our Strategy will prioritise in-sector reductions
through technological and operational improvements, then seek to address
residual carbon emissions through robust, verifiable offsets and additional greenhouse gas removals.
It relies on the rapid scaleup and deployment of technologies that are currently at a relatively early stage of development and requires collaboration and commitment across all parts of the sector if it is to succeed.
3.43 We also recognise that as a responsible government, we will need to keep our
Strategy under review. As such we intend to assess progress on the sector’s
CO2 emission reduction pathway and our strategy for delivering through our
3.44 We expect the approach set out in this draft strategy could impact demand for
aviation indirectly. Where new fuels and technologies are more expensive than their
fossil-fuel equivalents, and where the cost of CO2 emissions are correctly priced into
business models, we expect, as with any price rise, a moderation of demand growth.
3.45 We have recently consulted as a government on changes to Air Passenger
Duty (APD), including seeking views on a potential increase to the number
of distance bands, in order to align the tax more closely with our environmental
objectives. Airlines ordinarily pass the cost of APD onto the passenger and therefore
those passengers who fly more will pay more tax. [ie. they do not accept the principle of the Frequent Flyer Levy. AW note]
3.46 And there are ways in which we can provide consumers with greater opportunities to make sustainable, informed choices on their travel plans, and in turn incentivise industry to decarbonise. For example, by providing better information on the climate impacts of travelling on different routes, or on different airlines. A study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) suggests that emissions per passenger can differ by up to 63% on the same transatlantic route.41
3.47 The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are planning to consult on environmental information provisions later this year and we intend to work with them to explore whether mandating the provision of such information to passengers at the time of booking could enable better progress in this area. We will also work with the CAA to ensure that that any future requirements for environmental information provision does not have any unintended consequences such as distorting competition.
CAA environmental information provision case study
The CAA, in partnership with BritainThinks,
recently launched a research project to explore
the feasibility and utility of sharing carbon
information with consumers, to enable better
The most significant findings were:
• Most participants thought that emissions
information should be universally provided
across all sectors.
• Participants thought that information
provision should both inform the public
about the relative impacts of flying and
encourage airlines to reduce emissions.
• Participants thought that information design
should be standardised, easily accessible,
and have third-party vetting to encourage
trust and reliability.
The research indicated there is a broad
spectrum of how responsive consumers
would be to this information and concluded
that better information provision could provide
an opportunity for consumers to pick more
sustainable flight options.
Our new policy proposals:
• We will work with the CAA to explore whether mandating the provision of environmental information to customers at the time of booking flights could influence consumer
decision-making when presented with standard, reliable and accurate flight comparisons.
• We will look at other ways to support consumers to make sustainable choices when booking flights and reward those parts of the aviation sector that move more quickly to decarbonise.
13 Do you agree or disagree with the overall focus on influencing consumers?
14 What more can government do to support consumers to make informed, sustainable aviation travel choices?
4.1 Tackling the climate impact of aviation is not just about reducing CO2 emissions.
Whilst the long-life span of CO2 in the atmosphere makes tackling it of critical
importance, there are other non-CO2 impacts that also affect the climate and
local air quality: in particular contrails and NOx emissions.
4.2 Contrails – or condensation trails – form from the initial emission of water vapour
and soot particles in the exhaust of aircraft. In high humidity regions of the atmosphere
these contrails can persist and create cirrus clouds. This is understood to create a net warming effect in addition to any CO2 emissions, though the exact scale of the effect has a large degree of uncertainty.
The contribution from any individual flight also depends on factors such as the time of day, as well as the atmospheric conditions.
4.3 NOx emissions increase the levels of ozone (leading to warming) and decrease ambient
methane in the atmosphere (leading to cooling), which is understood to contribute to a net warming effect. Again, confidence in the magnitude of the effect is low.
4.4 Local air quality impacts from aviation occur in areas around airports, accounting
for a small proportion of emissions e.g. 1% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 0.1% of particulate emissions43. Aircraft NOx emissions have therefore long been regulated for air quality purposes, which is also understood to have climate benefits.
The UK played a leading role in the recent adoption by ICAO of the first scientifically
based certification standards for aircraft non-volatile particulate emissions, which
will again have local air quality and climate benefits.
4.5 We are working to address non-CO2 impacts in the following ways:
• Many of the measures to improve efficiencies, rollout SAF, and accelerate zero emission flight are expected to have a positive impact on reducing non-CO2 impacts. Where there is
evidence to the contrary, we will carefully consider the overall impact on the climate.
• We are improving our understanding of non-CO2 impacts and will ensure that the latest scientific understanding of aviation non-CO2 impacts is used to inform our policy.
• ICAO now has standards in place to regulate all aircraft emissions with significant climate effects. We will continue to negotiate for these to be improved over time as well as
consideration of other measures such as operational guidance and regulation of fuel composition.
• We will consider the outcomes of EUROCONTROL’s Contrail Prevention Trial and whether it would be beneficial to undertake similar trials in the UK in the future.
And there is much more in the consultation document.