The UK can reduce its aviation emissions and reach jet zero by 2050 without forcing people to give up flying, according to a new manifesto launched today by members of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN).
The manifesto, Taking Flight: A policy route to achieving jet zero, calls on the government to launch a Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme to grow the UK’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, creating 6,500 jobs, adding £1 billion annually to the economy and cutting 3.6 million tonnes of carbon a year by 2035.
A price support mechanism is needed to compete with tax breaks in the USA and the EU’s sustainable aviation fuel mandate and win investment for British factories. The UK’s SAF industry is also calling for a CfD as they’re only on track to meet half of the government’s target for at least 10 per cent of aviation fuel to be sustainable by 2030.
The move would give investors confidence to develop sustainable fuel plants in the UK and scale production by guaranteeing a fixed price set by auction, which will drive costs down over time. If the global market price dropped below UK-made SAF, the government would subsidise producers. Whereas if the UK price dropped below, producers would pay the profits back.
The proposal calls on ministers to use airlines’ tax receipts from a strengthened UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to pay for the CfD scheme to ensure the aviation industry pays without creating a new tax on the sector. Free allowances allocated to airlines under ETS will be phased out to raise additional revenue. If this funding is insufficient, ministers could look to expand existing flying taxes to cover ETS-exempt long-haul flights.
The manifesto also calls for a £1 million competition for the first zero-emission domestic flight in the UK to spur innovation for the jet zero by 2040. This would replicate the transatlantic competition's success, which saw Virgin Atlantic win funding for the world’s first net zero flight from London to New York to take off this year.
The government should also require all public service obligation routes to be zero emission by 2030 to spur innovation and maintain connectivity across the UK. This new mandate would mean these already subsidised flights, such as between Scottish islands and Glasgow, Cardiff and Anglesey, and Derry and London Southend, help scale up zero-emission flights, bringing investment into regional airports.
If the domestic flight competition and mandate on public service obligation routes prove successful, the manifesto recommends the government considers a target for all domestic flights to be zero emission.
32 Conservative MPs, MSPs and peers signed the manifesto, including former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, former Aviation Ministers Robert Courts MP and Baroness Sugg, and Scottish Conservative Net Zero Spokesman Liam Kerr.
CEN MP Robert Courts, former Aviation Minister, commented: “We can reach net zero without restricting flying if we back the UK’s sustainable aviation sector. They need the confidence to invest here in Britain, bringing thousands of jobs with them and helping us to cut aeroplane emissions.
“Telling people they can't go on foreign holidays or visit family abroad would undermine support for net zero. We need to look to innovation, technology and competition to solve this problem, not restrictions to ground people for good.
“This manifesto shows how we can replicate the Contracts for Difference scheme, which successfully scaled up British offshore wind, to shape the future of flying and ensure the UK is home to this net zero industry.”
CEN MP Henry Smith, Chair of the Future of Aviation APPG, commented: "Our aviation sector supports jobs in every corner of the UK, from places like Crawley near our large international airports to small communities on Scottish islands reliant on plane travel, not to mention the sector supply chain which is represented in every constituency.
"It would be wrong to turn back the clock on aviation, shrink this successful industry, and make it harder to travel within the UK and abroad to achieve our climate goals.
"There is another way to secure the future of aviation through technology, winning the UK a new industry in the process. I urge government to adopt the ideas within this manifesto to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel and other innovative technologies to spur progress toward zero-emission flights."
CEN Director Sam Hall commented: “Aviation must play a full part in net zero and take responsibility for its impact on the climate. But we should prioritise deploying innovative technologies rather than counterproductive attempts to reduce demand.
“The government has adopted the right strategy, but must now firm up their plans and accelerate emissions reductions. The global race for new net zero industries, including sustainable aviation fuels, has begun. With the policies in this manifesto, the UK has the potential to be a world leader and secure the sector’s future.”