UK aviation reaffirms its commitment to a sustainable future

July 2nd, 2019

With climate change in the headlines and the UK Government committing to a ‘Net Zero’ carbon target for the UK by 2050, today UK aviation has come together to reaffirm its commitment to a sustainable future.

Sustainable Aviation – the coalition of UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers – has set out how UK aviation can meet both its climate commitments and growing passenger demand.

Important progress has been made. While passenger numbers grew by more than 25% between 2010-16, emissions only increased by just over 4%. However, aviation is a challenging sector to decarbonise.

Sustainable Aviation believes that immediate untapped opportunities are the introduction of sustainable aviation fuels – which could reduce emissions in 2050 by nearly 25% and make the UK a world-leader in the technology – and critical airspace modernisation, which is currently underway.

But crucially, carbon reduction is a global issue requiring a global response, which is why Sustainable Aviation is urging Ministers to continue engaging through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to agree a meaningful world-wide long-term emissions reduction target consistent with the requirements of the Paris Agreement.

This will build upon the global carbon offsetting scheme CORSIA which from 2021 will allow aviation to compensate for the emissions it cannot yet eliminate by paying for high-quality, independently verified emissions savings in other areas.

Speaking today at the aviation industry’s annual Aviation Reception, Neil Robinson, Chair of Sustainable Aviation will say:

“Aviation is a UK success story and fully accepts its role in helping the UK meet its carbon targets. Aviation wants to grow but it wants to do so sustainably.

We want to work with Government to see what more we can and should do to enable aviation to go further and faster in reducing our emissions, including through modernising UK airspace, investing in the creation of low-carbon technologies and delivering Sustainable Aviation Fuels at scale.

Fundamentally, aviation is a global industry and needs a global solution. While we can reconcile future growth with more stretching climate goals, this can only work if the UK continues to work with international partners, giving leadership to the international process.”

Baroness Vere, Aviation Minister, said:

“We continue to lead the world through the International Civil Aviation Organisation to develop global measures to tackle aviation emissions. The support of the UK aviation industry is vital to tackling climate change and ensuring the sector becomes one of the greenest in the world.

“With their investment we are modernising our airspace to make flying quicker, quieter and cleaner.”


Sustainable Aviation (SA) is a coalition of the main stakeholders from UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers who have come together to set out a collective and long term strategy to enable a sustainable future for UK aviation.

UK aviation’s progress to date:

• UK aviation is committed to cutting CO2 emissions from all flights by 50% of their 2005 levels by 2050 – and recognises the need to do more.

• We have de-coupled aviation growth from growth in emissions: while passenger numbers grew by more than 25% between 2010-16, emissions only grew by just over 4%. This is thanks to, among other things, considerable investment in the latest aircraft technology as well as improved operating procedures and air traffic management.

• As a result of airlines purchasing new aircraft technology, SA airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 13% since 2005. New aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are up to 30 percent more fuel efficient than the aircraft they are replacing.

• Airspace modernisation has the potential to reduce UK aviation’s emissions by as much as 10% by 2050.

• Sustainable aviation fuels are a ‘bridge’ to fully electric aircraft and deliver at least a 70% life cycle carbon saving compared to using fossil fuel.

• The UK Government, supported by industry, has achieved a world first with a global deal on aviation emissions (CORSIA) at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). No other transport mode has an equivalent deal, which aims for carbon-neutral growth from 2020. This is a crucial step towards SA’s objective of halving net emissions by 2050.

Sustainable Aviation is calling for:

• We need a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (OSAF) to help make the UK a world-leader in the technology. £150m would support flagship commercial sustainable aviation fuel plants being built across the UK.

• Government must continue to prioritise and support airspace modernisation to end wasteful stacking and allow more fuel-efficient flights.

• Government should commit to funding the Aerospace Technology Institute beyond 2026 to help speed up innovation.

• The UK must lead international efforts towards agreeing a global long-term emissions reduction target consistent with the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement.

CORSIA and offsetting:

• International aviation and shipping remain outside of the scope of UK domestic CO2 targets, and so are not subject to the net zero 2050 target – consistent with the international approach to emissions reduction that Government has agreed.

• The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreement on carbon neutral growth, and CORSIA, complements the ambition of the Paris Agreement (where in 2015 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal aiming to keep a global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius) and constitutes the most significant international climate-related agreement by any sector since its adoption.

• CORSIA, plus the technological and operational measures will help UK aviation reach its current 50% reduction goal by 2050.

• However, Sustainable Aviation is urging UK government to continue engaging with member states at ICAO, with a view to ICAO agreeing a meaningful long-term emissions reduction target being adopted at the ICAO General Assembly in 2022 which is consistent with the requirements of the Paris Agreement.