Grant Shapps: Aviation emissions should never return to pre-pandemic levels

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Aviation emissions should never return to pre-coronavirus levels, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has declared.

The Cabinet minister set out a series of commitments to achieve “guilt-free flying”.

His Jet Zero strategy requires UK domestic aviation and English airports to reach net zero for carbon emissions by 2040.

Airlines operating in the UK must ensure sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) makes up at least 10% of their jet fuel by 2030.

The Government’s ambition is for at least five commercial-scale SAF plants to be under construction in the UK by 2025.

Pioneering SAF projects can apply for support from a new £165 million advanced fuels fund.

SAF production reduces carbon emissions by around 80% compared with traditional jet fuel, but is currently more expensive.

It can be blended with standard aviation fuel at up to 50%.

The Government is proposing for passengers to be given environmental information about specific flights at the time of booking from this autumn, to help them make more sustainable choices.

On a visit to the Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, Mr Shapps said: “We want 2019 to be remembered as the peak year for aviation emissions.

“From now on, it should all be downhill for carbon emissions – and steadily uphill for green flights.”

In an interview with the PA news agency, he insisted he would not be comfortable with passengers paying higher fares due to the drive for greener flying.

“I’m not somebody who thinks that we solve these problems by demand limitations or jacking up the prices on people,” he said.

“What we’ve got to do is find a way using technology to enable people to be able to fly and to do it guilt-free.”

Mr Shapps said the industry must find a way to lower the cost of SAF production.

“I think we can both make (flying) guilt-free and price-competitive, but the market needs to understand that’s where we’re headed.”

The cost of not taking action to reduce aviation emissions is “hugely high”, he added.

“We will essentially lose permission to be able to fly if we don’t do this.

“It will be basically unacceptable to have an entire sector of the economy where people are just pumping out CO2 without any thought.

“Over time that’s just going to become less and less socially acceptable.

“It’s not like there is an option of doing nothing. We do have to address this.”

Grant Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ‘it should all be downhill for carbon emissions’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the shift to cleaner forms of flight “represents a huge opportunity to secure growth and jobs for the UK”.

“The UK stands ready to capitalise on first-mover status, seizing the economic benefits of a green aviation revolution,” he said.

Warren East, chief executive of aerospace engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, said his company is “committed to working across industry and with Government to decarbonise aviation”.

He went on: “We welcome the ambition set out in the Jet Zero strategy and the framework that will support the sector to deliver the technologies and innovation required to achieve our collective net zero aviation ambitions.

“This strategy positions the UK Government as a global leader in the journey towards more sustainable flight, and we will play our part in pioneering the technical solutions that will make this vision a reality.”

Kevin Craven, chief executive of aerospace trade body ADS, described the Jet Zero strategy as “a welcome step forward towards net zero aviation by 2050”.

He said: “The UK aerospace community is committed and ready to deliver on the promise of sustainable aviation.”

Emily Armistead, programme director for Greenpeace UK, claimed the strategy to decarbonise aviation “consists of hoping someone else will solve the problem with some shiny new technology, and that any residual carbon can be offset”.

She added: “Vague aspirations to technological innovation will do nothing significant to cut emissions in the short to medium term, so what this strategy amounts to is letting aviation pollute as much as they want and then doing a lot of offsetting.”

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