UK airline industry calls on government to spur sector to net-zero

British Airways’ (BA) parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) became the first airline group to commit to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 last week. [Tomás Del Coro / Flickr]

The industry body for UK airlines believes that a renewed partnership with the government can help the sector achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as long as investment opportunities into green technologies are created. EURACTIV’s media partner reports.

Airlines UK has called for greater interaction between government and the industry, noting that substantial investment from the latter would push the sector towards net-zero in the same timeframe as the Government’s legislated target of 2050.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “Through a renewed partnership between Government and industry, the UK is uniquely placed to capitalise on the opportunities of green aviation technology, whether that’s more efficient engines or hybrid-electric aircraft. However, these remain some years off which is why support for sustainable aviation fuels and airspace modernisation in the here and now remains so vital.

Airlines UK members, which include British Airways, EasyJet, TUI and Virgin Atlantic, have already funnelled billions into new aircraft that are up to 25% more carbon-efficient than traditional models.

The industry body is calling on its members to work with Government to create transitions that enable the uptake of certain low-carbon technologies.

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British Airways’ (BA) parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) became the first airline group to commit to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 last week. The commitment included a $400m (£332m) funding pool for sustainable aviation fuels that will be deployed over the next 20 years.

Airlines UK believes that sustainable aviation fuels can cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2050 and has called on the Government to provide financial support to upscale and reduce the costs of commercialisation. Satellite-based navigation and direct routes can cut carbon emissions by 9% to 14%, the body added.

From 2020, CORSIA, the international UN-backed agreement comes into force that will attempt to mitigate around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon from international flights. This will generate around $40bn through offset costs to be set aside for climate-mitigation projects between 2021 and 2035. The industry body wants the UK Government to be part of discussions that set more ambitious goals beyond 2035.

UN agency vote complicates EU’s aviation emission efforts

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations agency, decided on Friday (4 October) to press ahead with plans to make its emissions offsetting scheme the only global option available to its 193 member states, teeing up a dilemma regarding the EU’s own system.

“Aviation is, of course, an international sector and in addition to our own efforts, Governments across the globe must continue to support the UN offsetting scheme that will capture any growth in aviation from next year, and continue to work on developing a long-term target through to 2050 that crucially is consistent with limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees,” Alderslade added.

Aviation currently accounts for 2% of all global carbon emissions, and 12% of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the need to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation is clear, with recent research revealing that flights will generate around 43 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050 – more than 4% of the world’s entire remaining carbon budget.

Flight shaming

While growth projections are in place, the International Air Transport Association (Iata), has this week warned that “flight-shaming” could limit industry growth.

Citing HSBC research, Iata found that more investors are discussing climate change with airlines now than compared to between 2013 and 2017.

European airline chiefs push back against flight shaming, carbon taxes

The heads of some of Europe’s largest airlines hit back on Wednesday (10 July) against efforts to discourage Europeans from flying, arguing the industry was making huge strides in cutting its carbon footprint and that there was no shame in air travel.

Renowned public figures including Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough have led the growing calls that individuals and businesses need to limit flights to combat climate change.

Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, added: “The fight against climate change is the greatest and most pressing challenge facing the modern world and aviation has a crucial role to play in tackling it. This commitment by the aviation industry is very welcome and absolutely vital if we are to reduce carbon emissions.

“The government has recently invested £2bn in aerospace research and development and sustainable fuels, and is continuing to look for opportunities to support the creation of greener, cleaner transport.”

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