AEF RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT’S ‘JET ZERO’ STRATEGY
In July, the DfT set out its “jet zero” strategy – with the intention of bringing down UK aviation CO2 emissions to “net zero” by 2050, (after allowing an increase) with sub-targets to make domestic flights and airports “net zero” by 2040. Environmental groups are distinctly unimpressed, as the strategy has very low ambition or real measures to cut the CO2. The groups say there should be detailed policy proposals on how the strategy’s ambitions will be achieved, with specific policy mechanisms to create incentives for the development and deployment of “zero emission” aircraft and “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF). There also needs to be a clear decarbonisation pathway to cut emissions by 2035, compared to 2019, not by 2050. It needs to cut air travel demand, which is the only sure way to cut emissions, but the strategy studiously avoids doing that. There should be no airport expansions allowed. And the non-CO2 impacts should be included, which they are not. The AEF considers that the near term policies are too ineffective – just using the UK ETS and more SAF, and the cost of decarbonisation measures should be borne by the aviation industry, not the taxpayer.
AEF RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT’S ‘JET ZERO’ STRATEGY
15th August, 2022
From the AEF – Aviation Environment Federation
In July, the Government launched its plans for delivering net zero aviation. According to Transport Minister Grant Shapps, the plans will allow for “guilt free flying” .
The ‘Jet Zero’ strategy sets out how the Government plans to meet its commitment that aviation emissions from the UK will, like those from every other sector, be brought down to net zero by 2050, with sub-targets to make domestic flights and airports net zero by 2040.
Prior to publication, AEF, Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Possible and Transport and Environment set out five tests for measuring the effectiveness of the strategy in meeting climate targets for 2035 and 2050. We said:
- It should be published alongside detailed policy proposals on how its ambitions will be achieved, with specific policy mechanisms to create incentives for the development and deployment of zero emission aircraft and sustainable aviation fuel.
- It should develop and adopt a decarbonisation pathway that has a significant reduction in emissions by 2035, compared to the pre-pandemic baseline
- It should introduce a framework to manage emissions by reducing passenger demand, since technological solutions may not deliver emissions reductions at the rate necessary to meet the decarbonisation pathway, and no airport expansion should be permitted in the interim.
- It must include specific policies to address the significant non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation.
- It must ensure the polluter pays principle is applied across all carbon emissions from flying, and the full costs of aviation decarbonisation measures should be borne by the aviation industry, not the taxpayer.
So how does the strategy measure up?
Things AEF likes:
- There is at least – at last – a strategy. Relying on the industry to deliver carbon reductions on its own hasn’t, historically, gone well. 2019 (pre-pandemic) saw the highest ever level of CO2 emissions from aviation, both in the UK and globally.
- There is also a planned trajectory for aviation emissions to fall between now and 2050, with 2019 being regarded as the peak year. NGOs had criticized earlier plans to allow emissions to grow back post-pandemic before falling after 2030.
- There’s a commitment to reviews every five years to see if the industry’s on track to deliver planned emissions cuts.
Things AEF is less impressed by:
- The policy measures are minimal and flaky. Near-term policies are limited to strengthening the UK emissions trading system and introducing a mandate for sustainable aviation fuels.
- A target of net zero domestic flying by 2040 might sound ambitious, but domestic flights only account for 4% of total UK aviation emissions. Similarly, the target to make airports net zero by 2040 only applies to ground emissions from airport sources like heating and lighting requirements and on-site vehicles.
- A commitment to providing better consumer info about the CO2 from flights is a good idea. But claiming at the same time that people can fly “guilt free” instantly undermines that idea of personal responsibility and agency.
- The pathway and reviews are only worth having if there’s some way to enforce them, but there are no penalties proposed for emissions which exceed the Government’s trajectory. It’s not clear what levers the Government will pull if emissions turn out to be higher than they hoped.
- The strategy supports what it calls ‘sustainable airport growth’, ignoring CCC recommendations to delay decisions on new capacity until it can be seen if the tech delivers fast enough. Element Energy (EE)’s report for AEF earlier this year concluded that a halt to airport capacity growth and demand reduction measures pose a far less risky approach to hitting net zero aviation by 2050 and the 78% economy-wide emissions cut to which the Government has committed by 2035.
- Although the strategy agrees to increase understanding of non-CO2 effects and potential mitigation options, there is no commitment to address or reduce these impacts.
- When it comes to ensuring the polluter pays principle is applied, it’s looking like the taxpayer, rather than passengers or industry, will shoulder both the cost of decarbonisation technologies and the climate cost of the Government’s refusal to constrain demand.
Tim Johnson, AEF Director said on the day of publication:
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to hold the industry to account for delivering net zero aviation emissions, including a process to review progress and strengthen policy as required. The sector’s historic failure to cut the total emissions despite decades of talk is partly down to the absence of any real penalties for increasing their use of fossil fuels. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 2019 was a record year for aviation CO2 emissions.
“But ministers are not being honest about what it will take to achieve net zero flying. The strategy avoids answering the difficult questions like the need to fly less, and calling a halt to airport expansions.”
Cait Hewitt, Policy Director at AEF said:
“The Government is relying on technological breakthroughs from industry while allowing for continued growth. But some of these plans just don’t add up. For example, to make enough synthetic e-fuel to meet the existing jet fuel demand from the UK aviation sector would require an offshore wind farm the size of Northern Ireland.
“Despite the Government’s support for aviation growth post-pandemic, employment in the sector has become increasingly precarious and unattractive. Given the need to limit passenger demand in order to meet climate goals, the Government must outline how it intends to ensure a just transition to create green, sustainable and secure jobs.”
Inadequate Jet Zero strategy criticised by environmental groups and even pilots
The DfT has produced its “Jet Zero Strategy” which is the nearest thing there is to an aviation policy for the UK. Though, as that, it is entirely inadequate. Leading environmental groups – Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Possible, Transport & Environment and AEF – have explained why the strategy is ineffective, in cutting future aviation CO2 emissions. The Climate Change Committee’s annual report, published in June, found the aviation industry (also agriculture) is unprepared for meeting the UK’s legally binding climate targets for “net zero” by 2050. The Jet Zero strategy needs to have detailed policy proposals on how its ambitions will be achieved, with specific policy mechanisms to create incentives for the development and deployment of zero emission aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels. It should have a detailed decarbonisation pathway that achieves genuine carbon reductions before 2035, not only after then. It needs to have a plan to curb air passenger demand, as novel and untested technological solutions – on which the strategy largely depends – cannot be relied up. Even BALPA, the pilots’ union, has said the strategy places too much faith is future technologies, that may not deliver.
DfT publishes “Jet Zero Strategy” … “so passengers can look forward to guilt-free travel”
The DfT has published its “Jet Zero Strategy”, such as it is. For net emissions, not all emissions. Predictably, it does not propose realistic cuts in aviation carbon emissions, nor any measures to reduce air travel demand. The Strategy says: “We are introducing a CO2 emissions reduction trajectory that sees aviation emissions peak in 2019. [39.6MtCO2]. This trajectory from 2025 to 2050, is based on our “High ambition” scenario, and sets ambitious [sic] in-sector targets of 35.4 MtCO2e in 2030, 28.4 MtCO2e in 2040, and 19.3 MtCO2e in 2050.” The level was about 18MtCO2 in 1990. So it will take 30 more years, to get them back to the 1990 level (by which time, the UK should – miraculously – have become “net zero”. The strategy makes no mention of air travel demand management, which would be the simplest and most effective mechanism to cut emissions. Instead there are hopes of tech solutions of all sorts (none that could become commercially viable for decades) and the intention to have a mandate for jet fuel to contain 10% SAF by 2030. Problem with that is “sustainable aviation fuels” have their own considerable carbon and environmental downsides. The aviation industry will be happy – they can keep on growing …