UK airlines call for renewed partnership with Government to fund new clean aviation technology and sustainable fuels

October 17, 2019

UK airlines invest in cleaner aircraft and carbon reduction –
call for a renewed partnership with Government to fund new clean aviation technology and sustainable fuels

As part of the Airlines2050 conference taking place in London today, UK airlines have renewed their calls for a renewed partnership with Government to support the aviation industry in its efforts to decarbonise by investing in the green aviation technologies of the future.

Aviation is a major UK success story and connects Britain to the world, keeping families together, helping businesses thrive and increase trade. UK airlines are showing that they can deliver all these benefits sustainably.

Parliament has legislated to cut greenhouse gas emissions for the UK economy to net zero by 2050 and Airlines UK – the industry body – believes that through an international approach, with the right Government support, and together with substantial investment from industry, this is within reach for UK aviation by 2050.

Airlines are already implementing carbon reduction measures, with new initiatives and investments designed to speed up progress, but support from Government will be crucial:

  • Cleaner, quieter aircraft – Airlines UK members have spent billions on new aircraft, that are up to 25% more carbon efficient than those they replace.
  • Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) –SAFs can cut carbon emissions by at least 30% by 2050, and generate thousands of new jobs in UK fuel plants. British Airways is investing $400m in such a sustainable jet fuel plant in Humberside. Airlines are calling on UK Government to provide financial support to extend, upscale, reduce costs of development and commercialise SAF.
  • Carbon Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) – From next year CORSIA, the first worldwide agreement signed by the United Nations in 2016, will make growth in international flights carbon neutral by paying to mitigate around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 and generate over $40 billion for climate projects between 2021 and 2035. The UN aims to set an even more ambitious goal beyond 2035. UK Government should continue its excellent leadership role in these discussions at the UN.
  • Airspace modernisation – Bringing UK airspace into the 21st century with satellite-based navigation and direct routes can cut carbon emissions by 9 to 14%. Government should work with industry and the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure plans are delivered on time.
  • Investment in R&D – Investment in new aircraft and engine technology will be critical for delivering future hybrid-electric short-haul aircraft from 2035, and to the deployment of fully electric aircraft in the longer-term. Government should support further R&D.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said: “Airlines are doing everything they can to demonstrate their commitment to decarbonisation – and are making real progress, investing in hundreds of new aircraft which are up to 25% more efficient than those they replace.

“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.  

“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.”

Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “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.”

Contact: Tim Alderslade – tim.alderslade@airlinesuk.org / 0758 4016925

  • Airlines UK is the trade body for UK-registered airlines and other carriers with a UK operation – with members representing all sectors of the industry. Our thirteen members are: British Airways, CargoLogicAir, DHL, easyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com, Jota Aviation, Norwegian UK, Ryanair, Tui Airways, Titan Airways, Virgin Atlantic and West Atlantic.

Background (notes to editors):

  • The ATI Programme supports mid stage R&D projects that deliver the UK’s Aerospace Technology Strategy, while boosting technology spend in the sector and securing manufacturing jobs around the UK. Funding is focused on key technologies to make aircraft quieter, more environmentally friendly and cheaper to manufacture and operate. The Government is investing £1.95 billion in aerospace R&D from 2013 to 2026, which is matched by industry bringing total R&D investment to £3.9 billion
  • Delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the ICSF is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy that focuses on the four grand challenge areas (Future of mobility, Clean growth, AI and Data, Ageing society). ISCF investment includes the Future Flight Challenge a £300m programme (including £125m of Government funding) to demonstrate novel aviation systems unlocked by electric and autonomous technologies.
  • Aviation fuel is now eligible for support under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, and the Government is providing £22m to support the development of advanced low carbon fuels through the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight competition, which also requires matched funding from the private sector.
  • The Government has also committed to setting a clear ambition for the aviation sector and we will publish our position on aviation and climate change for consultation shortly.