The UK government’s “jet zero” plan to eliminate carbon emissions from aviation relies on unproven or nonexistent technology and “sustainable” fuel, and is likely to result in ministers missing their legally binding emissions targets, according to a report from Element Energy.
The study from Element Energy says instead of focusing on such unreliable future developments, ministers should work to reduce the overall number of flights and halt airport expansion over the next few years. It comes as five regional airports are in the process of seeking approval to expand. In addition, Gatwick and Luton have announced they will be submitting major applications later this year, while Heathrow has not abandoned its plans for a third runway.
The report adds weight to concerns about the viability of the government’s plans, stating that it is unclear how the Department for Transport would “deliver the technological improvements” it was relying on in terms of sustainable fuel and aircraft efficiencies. It concluded that ministers should instead aim to reduce the number of flights now – halting airport expansion plans, expanding carbon pricing and taxing frequent flyers and kerosene.
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) policy director, Cait Hewitt, said the findings showed the government’s plan amounted to “sitting back and allowing both airports and emissions to grow in the short term while hoping for future technologies and fuels to save the day”.
“These expansion plans will generate millions of tonnes of additional CO each year,” she added. “Until the government sets out a realistic net zero trajectory for the sector, and the industry is on track to outperform it, additional airport capacity should be off the agenda.”