The UK aviation industry has united behind a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as part of a drive to combat the growing climate crisis.

The Sustainable Aviation coalition said the goal is based on a review of the opportunities to cut the industry’s emissions and forms part of its new “Decarbonisation Road Map: A Path to Net Zero”, which was published on 4 February.

The road map sets out where such reductions can come from, including through more efficient flight operations, new aircraft and engine technology, modernising the UK’s airspace, the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAVs) and high-quality, market-based policy measures.

According to the group, the plan could see the aviation industry grow passenger numbers by 70 per cent while reducing net emissions from 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year “down to zero” by 2050.

The group is also asking the UK government to support the road map by backing aerospace research and accelerating technology development through increased investment in the Aerospace technology Institute, as well as assisting the use of SAVs by matching public/private funding totalling £1 billion over the next five years, establishing a government department for SAVs and introducing new regulations that could incentivise the use of more sustainable alternatives.

In addition, it is looking to the government to ensure that the ongoing air space modernisation programme is delivered. There are also calls for “a clear, long-term CO2 target for global aviation” to be set and for Parliament to support the Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

The “Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road Map” has also been published, outlining the role that sustainable alternative fuels can play in meeting the industry’s target. The coalition claimed such fuels could meet 32 per cent of the UK’s demand by 2050.

Neil Robinson, chair of Sustainable Aviation, commented: “Climate change is a clear and pressing issue for people, businesses and governments across the world. We know aviation emissions will increase if decisive action is not taken, and that’s why UK aviation today commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, through an international approach, working with governments around the world and through the UN.

“The UK is well positioned to become one of the leaders in the green technologies of the future, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in the process, and we look forward to working in partnership with ministers to help realise these opportunities.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: “The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector’s commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future. Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international cooperation through the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, we’ll be able to strike that balance, creating a greener and cleaner future.”

Sustainable Aviation’s council members include Airbus, Airlines UK, British Airways, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, Manchester Airports Group and Rolls Royce, among others. Its membership consists of several airports across the UK such as Birmingham and Edinburgh, Boeing, Easyjet, Tui Group and Virgin Atlantic, among others. Signatories include Flybe, GE Aviation and Bombardier.

Find out all the ways stakeholders across the industry are working to develop ways of making travel more sustainable.

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