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Sustainable aviation policy – one year on from the publication of the Jet Zero Strategy 

Written by


Olivia Choudhry

Published


This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Jet Zero Strategy. Forming part of Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the strategy outlines plans over a five-year span which would support the delivery of net zero aviation by 2050.  

Hailed by the Government as going further to reduce aviation emissions than the levels called for by their climate advisors, the strategy prioritised largely underdeveloped technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and zero-emission flights. It also committed the Government to work alongside industry through the forum of the Jet Zero Council a partnership between industry and government to deliver innovative ways to cut aviation emissions – and other entities to support and develop new emission-cutting solutions.  

The strategy emphasised that the decarbonisation of the sector would allow people to keep flying, predicting that plans set out in the document would see passenger numbers across the UK increase by 70% from 2021 to 2025, representing an additional 200 million passengers. This narrative has been consistent from Government, with Transport Secretary, Mark Harper MP, stating in April 2023 during his keynote speech at the Sustainable Skies World Summit that the onus has always been on…

‘Flying greener’ not ‘flying less’.

In order to ensure aviation’s steady recovery following the pandemic through the realisation of its net zero targets, the Government set out commitments to have at least 5 commercial SAF plants under construction by 2025, a mandate which will see at least 10% of UK jet fuel demand met through SAF by the end of the decade and the launch of an Advanced Fuels Fund which would provide a total funding of £165m to stimulate the commercial SAF production facilities in the UK. 

After the publication  

In the period following the strategy’s publication, the government has announced further measures to help tackle the sector’s reliance on fossil fuels. These include:  

  • Advanced Fuel Fund 

In December 2022, the Government announced the winning proposals for the Advanced Fuels Fund (AFF) competition, which saw the £165m funding pot go towards five commercial and demonstration-scale projects which will develop SAF production plants in Teesside, Cheshire, Lincolnshire and South Wales.   

  • SAF Mandate Consultation  

The Government’s response to its consultation on mandating the use of SAF in the UK was released in conjunction with the Jet Zero Strategy last year and confirmed its commitment to mandate at least 10% of jet fuel to be made from sustainable sources, with the mandate operating as a greenhouse gas emission reduction scheme with tradable certificates.  

A secondary consultation was launched in March 2023, which sought views on the more detailed design of the mandate and will determine the targets and incentive levels to 2030 and beyond.   

  • Jet Zero Council Action Plan  

During the Farnborough Sustainable Skies World Summit, the Jet Zero Council launched its two-year plan where it committed to continue working to speed up the design, manufacture, and rollout of zero emission aircraft and vital infrastructure at UK airports. This included confirmation that the first UK SAF Clearing House is due to launch in July 2023.  

  • The Philip New Report  

In October 2022, the Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned former CEO of the Energy Systems Catapult and BP Alternative Energy, Philip New, to assess what conditions are necessary to create a successful UK SAF industry. In April 203, the report was published and the Government issued its initial response to the report’s recommendations. The Government acknowledged that many investors are looking for longer-term revenue certainty, which the SAF mandate is unable to provide, and committed to working with the aviation industry to explore additional revenue for a UK SAF industry.  

  • The Paris Air Show Announcement  

During the 2023 Paris Air Show, Government announced a £218m joint funding package with the industry which will help develop green aviation technology, including innovative landing gear, and lower carbon and more efficient aircraft wings, engines, and sensors. 

So what’s next?  

The Government’s Biomass Strategy is expected to be published later this July, which will outline its vision for the role that biomass will play in the UK’s energy system. The Government has also committed to publishing a response to the second mandate consultation between September and October 2023, as well as a Low Carbon Fuels Strategy, which will be published by the end of 2023.  

Industry will look to all to provide clarity on how to achieve policies laid out within the Jet Zero Strategy – a clearer direction on which feedstocks to prioritise, how to scale up production and above all, provide a much-needed security blanket to private investment.  

Whilst a mandate and ambitious net zero targets incentivise the use of SAF, there have been calls from the aviation industry to publish plans for a price support mechanism which would drive investment. To mandate the use of SAF, we need to have enough alternative fuels readily available – the UK currently does not have this capability and the pipeline of SAF plant developments is barely enough to fulfil even half of the proposed SAF mandate. 

Nonetheless, the UK ought to view SAF within a global market context. It’s important not be a net importer to ensure that a UK SAF industry can be well-established, but also in recognition that feedstock limitations mean the UK cannot rely on domestically manufactured SAF to fulfil its demand. 

With domestic and international aviation accounting for around 8% of CO2 emissions in the UK and projections showing a rise in flights over the next decade, aviation may well be the largest contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, it’s worth noting that between 2005 and 2019, the number of UK passengers increased by 30% but CO2 emissions only increased by 1%.  

One year on from the Jet Zero Strategy, there is still much work for Government and industry to do to  prioritise the decarbonisation of the sector, but tangible progress is being made.  

Cavendish has extensive experience working with airport and aviation clients on the opportunities and challenges facing the industry. Our unrivalled insight into the sector and the political agenda on aviation sets us apart. To find out how we can support your sector please contact us below:

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