UK Aviation Maps Out Route to Net Zero by 2050

Copyright © 2023 Energy Intelligence Group All rights reserved. Unauthorized access or electronic forwarding, even for internal use, is prohibited.

The UK aviation industry has unveiled new interim decarbonization targets on its path to net zero by 2050. It has set goals of at least a 15% reduction from 2019 levels by 2030 and a minimum 40% by 2040. Launched Jun. 22 by the UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps but developed by the Sustainable Aviation (SA) coalition of UK airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air navigation service providers, the new road map takes into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK aviation demand. UK aviation emissions fell by more than three-quarters during the pandemic, from 38.9 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 to 9.1 million tons last year, but are set to rebound as aviation restarts this year. Covid-19 has put a sharp kink in the classic industry decarbonization curve and wiped at least two to three years from air traffic growth and emissions. But if left unchecked, UK emissions from aviation would still reach 41.5 million tons per year by 2030, rising to 53.3 million tons/yr by 2040 and 62.2 million tons/yr by 2050 -- even after taking Covid-19 devastation into account. An earlier SA forecast published before the pandemic had unchecked UK aviation emissions passing 50 million tons/yr by 2030, nearing 60 million tons/yr by 2040 and 71.1 million tons/yr by 2050. The new interim targets now cap UK net aviation emissions at 25 million tons/yr by 2030 and 17.8 million tons/yr by 2040. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is set to do much of the heavy lifting, accounting for at least 32% of the necessary reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Speaking on an industry panel after the launch, the Air Transport Action Group’s Executive Director Michael Gill said UK government support was crucial: “Goals are fantastic but we need real-life action.” Emphasizing the long lead times needed for SAF facilities, Gill suggested the industry ideally needed a decade of policy set out. British Airways’ CEO Sean Doyle said his airline was already committed to 10% SAF by 2030 and has signed a supply deal with LanzaJet and invested in Velocys’ SAF plant at Immingham (JFI Apr.23'21). He called for three separate strands of UK government support for SAF: direct investment in plants; measures to give price certainty; and blending mandates. UK Blending Mandate The EU is expected to announce its SAF blending mandate next month. A UK policy designed to both guarantee a certain level of SAF demand and offer price support is due to be revealed this November after a consultation that should start in the coming weeks. The road map assumes government support will foster between 5-15 plants making up to 1 million tons/yr of SAF from household and industry waste by the mid-2030s. The government has already put £500,000 ($700,000) into Velocys' Altalto plant at Immingham via its Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (JFI Jun.22'20). More than half of the UK's 2030 interim target will have to be met via aviation funding carbon removal in other sectors, primarily through carbon offsets. New technologies, SAF and greater operational efficiencies are expected to save 7.2 million tons/yr of CO2 by 2030. By that time it is hoped UK SAF production will be enough to power all domestic UK flights, some hydrogen-electric aircraft will be in service and UK airspace will have been fully modernized. A further 9.3 million tons/yr of emissions will have to be cut using offsets. By 2040 the balance shifts with direct action by airlines -- including the widespread use of SAF and the launch of zero-emissions aircraft for short- and medium-haul routes -- cutting carbon by 18.8 million tons/yr compared to a 16.7 million ton/yr reduction from a combination of offsets and increasing carbon capture and storage (CCS). Net Zero would be achieved by 2050 when technology, SAF and operational efficiencies would shave 37.3 million tons/yr and offsets/CCS a further 24.9 million tons/yr. SAF alone could account for a 19.9 million ton/yr reduction in emissions by 2050 by SA's reckoning. SA Chair Adam Morton highlighted the progress made despite the pandemic and suggested the next 12 months would be even more frenetic. The UK became the first country to publish a road map to net zero by 2050 in February 2020 (JFI Feb.10'20). Since then it has launched the UK Jet Zero council which is due to deliver its SAF strategy this fall. Planning permission has been granted for Velocys’ Altalto plant making SAF from municipal solid waste (MSW) at Immingham. Two more UK SAF plants have also been agreed in principle with Fulcrum using MSW at Ellesmere Port and LanzaJet using industrial offgases at Port Talbot (JFI Feb.19'21; JFI Apr.9'21) Kerry Preston, London

Carbon Capture (CCS), Low-Carbon Policy, Biofuels (incl. SAF), Hydrogen, Carbon Markets
Wanda Ad #2 (article footer)
A lawsuit filed this week against Delta in the US could make it more difficult for airlines to prove their sustainability credentials are legitimate.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023
Russia's exports of crude oil to India hit a new record in May as its heavily discounted crude undercut competing Mideast Gulf grades.
Mon, Jun 5, 2023
The company is developing the Hackberry Carbon Sequestration project, which would store up to 2 million tons/year of CO2 from the Cameron LNG facility.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023