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The government must go further and faster to deliver jet zero

(Adobe Stock)

3 min read

After the devastating two and a half years of the pandemic, our aviation industry is bouncing back and looking forward to a strong summer season and building towards returning to pre-Covid passenger levels.

For millions of people, flying offers a much-needed break to visit family, new places and to do business – it is and will always be an integral part of our economy and is responsible for employing people throughout the United Kingdom.

But we cannot and must not ignore that aviation is one of our significant environmental challenges, responsible for seven per cent of the United Kingdom’s emissions. The government, industry, and consumers are all committed to ensuring that we quickly reduce aviation emissions and it is to the government and industry’s credit that this debate has come a long way in the past few years. In fact, large proportions of the industry have indeed committed to becoming net-zero by 2050 despite facing some of the biggest obstacles to achieve this target.

Later this year, Virgin Atlantic will fly the first-ever net-zero emission transatlantic flight

Later this year, Virgin Atlantic will fly the first-ever net-zero emission transatlantic flight, an approach that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. This shows that through technology and innovation, we can keep Britain flying whilst tackling aviation emissions with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) able to cut a flight’s emissions by around 70 per cent.

Whilst the government have made progress through its Jet Zero Strategy, we still lack the full policy framework to make this a reality. As a result, we risk losing  SAF factories, production, and jobs to rival nations, with president Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act a clear example of how government action can kickstart jet zero innovation.

That is why it is essential that the government works with industry to ensure and deliver commercial UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel production. It must also meet its previous commitment to seeing five UK SAF plants under construction by 2025 through providing an industry-funded price stability mechanism alongside a SAF mandate, whilst prioritising access to UK sustainable feedstocks.

Securing the right investment would speed production, bringing thousands of high-quality jobs to areas like Teesside, Grangemouth, and Humberside furthering our commitment to levelling up the British economy. British SAF production would contribute almost £1bn per annum to UK plc and the export potential is limitless.

But the government’s approach to jet zero must go further and back innovative companies like Satavia who are working to eliminate two per cent of human climate impact by preventing the formation of warming aircraft contrails. Innovative companies across the UK are also putting in place support and funding for the development of zero carbon emission technologies, including electric and hydrogen powered aviation and they must be backed by the government.

The debate around sustainable aviation has come a long way in the last few years, but we must never lose sight of the reality that we face a long journey to net-zero. What Virgin Atlantic’s plans and others like them show is that through a partnership with industry and government we can make this a reality.

To do this, we need the government to go further and faster. We have a real opportunity to make the UK a world leader in sustainable aviation and boost our economy. I will continue to call upon the government to take action now and deliver a global leading sector right here in the UK. 


Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley and chair of the APPG for The Future of Aviation 

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