UK's Jet Zero Council gets underway to bring aviation emissions in line with 2050 net-zero target
(photo: Heathrow Airport)
Thu 23 July 2020 – The first meeting of the UK’s Jet Zero Council was launched yesterday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and brought together aviation and aerospace leaders, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) companies, investors, academics and representatives from the environmental sector. The aim of the Council is to tackle aviation emissions in line with the government’s 2050 net zero goal and an ambition to achieve the first ever zero emission long-haul passenger plane. Last week, a cross-party group of MPs called on the government to support investment in aviation decarbonisation and drive a green recovery, including industry-matched funding for early stage SAF facilities. Meanwhile, SAF businesses have been encouraged to take part in a Covid-19 green recovery competition led by government agency Innovate UK to receive financial support for research and development projects.
“We’ve made great strides towards our net zero target over the last year but it’s more important than ever that we keep up the pace of change to fuel a green, sustainable recovery as we rebuild from the pandemic,” said Johnson on opening the virtual Jet Zero Council meeting.
“The UK now has a huge opportunity to cement its place at the vanguard of green innovation, setting an example worldwide while growing the economy and creating new jobs. That’s why we’re backing cutting edge research to cut costs and carbon across our great British industries, and even paving the way for the first ever zero emission long-haul passenger flight – so that our green ambitions remain sky high as we build back better for both our people and our planet.”
The meeting was co-chaired by Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face today and tackling it will require action from everybody. This is why we’re bringing together government, businesses and investors in a ground-breaking new partnership,” said Shapps. “The Council is a huge step forward in making change – as we push forward with innovative technologies such as sustainable fuels and eventually fully electric planes, we will achieve guilt-free flying and boost sustainability for years to come.”
Members on the Council include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Loganair and TUI, with airports represented by Heathrow and Manchester Airports Group, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports. Aerospace sector members include Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Meggitt, GKN and electric plane company ZeroAvia. SAF representatives on the Council include Air BP, Shell, Velocys, LanzaTech and the Renewable Energy Association.
“The creation of the Council is a major milestone in Britain’s move to decarbonise aviation, and the inclusion of a wide range of expertise from Sustainable Aviation members is particularly encouraging. As our Road-Map set out, the adoption of newer, more efficient aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels can help realise the government’s ambition to deliver jet-zero. Sustainable Aviation and our members are committed to delivering net-zero carbon emissions across UK aviation and aerospace by 2050,” said its Chair, Rolls-Royce’s Adam Morton.
“It is exciting to see that establishing UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels is a priority for the Jet Zero Council. We would eagerly welcome government support for rapid commercialisation of this innovative technology to help decarbonise aviation, level up the country with new high value-added green jobs, and fuel a green recovery.”
Also represented at the Council meeting was UK environmental group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), whose Director, Tim Johnson, said: “It was a positive start, with an appropriate degree of ambition and urgency, a technology-neutral stance that will treat all options equally, and recognition that getting new technology and SAF into the fleet requires a regulatory framework that includes carbon pricing. That’s a good platform to work from.”
Henrik Wareborn, CEO of Velocys, which is planning to build a SAF facility in the north-east of England in partnership with British Airways and Shell, commented: “The first meeting of the Council could not have come at a more important time. As we return to the skies, attention must focus on solutions that can deliver meaningful carbon savings not just by 2050 but within the decade.
“Sustainable aviation fuels will play a critical role in achieving the government’s goal of demonstrating flight across the Atlantic without harming the environment within a generation. In fact, our planned waste-to-jet-fuel facility could be fuelling transatlantic flights in just five years’ time without the need to modify aircraft or engines at all. Velocys has the technology, already demonstrated at commercial scale, which cuts lifecycle carbon emissions by 70%. By incorporating carbon capture and storage technology, emissions could be cut further, enabling the facility and others that could follow to produce carbon negative emissions fuel by the end of the decade.”
The letter from the 35 cross-party MPs to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urges the government to “supercharge a green aviation recovery” by taking three actions:
Commit £500 million ($620m) in funding, matched by industry, to support the delivery of SAF production facilities in the UK;
Increase funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute to enable the UK to become a world-leader in developing more efficient engines as well as hybrid and electric aircraft; and
Provide short-term funding towards enabling UK airspace changes that would cut emissions immediately.
Commented signatory Sir Graham Brady MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sustainable Aviation: “Decarbonising aviation is going to be a crucial step in meeting our net zero ambitions, but it also offers an opportunity to make Britain a world leader in new technologies. As we emerge from lockdown, support for the aviation industry can drive a sustainable recovery, so that as the Prime Minister says, we can ‘build back greener’. This means building a sustainable aviation fuels industry in the UK, a here-and-now technology that can create jobs and add billions to our economy.”
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £55 million to fund single and collaborative research and development projects as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund competition, with the aim of supporting sectors to rebuild after the effects of Covid-19. All projects have to be led by a UK-registered business and include at least one SME, are carried out in the UK and the results exploited from or in the UK. Proposals can either be from a single business or a collaboration. The competition is round one of a potential three and the first round closes on July 29.