UK aviation commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2050

  • Executives back plan to cut aviation net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, in line with UK Government targets
  • Follows thorough review published today in a new net zero Road-Map which shows where emissions reductions can come from
  • Ground-breaking commitment will cut carbon whilst accommodating 70% growth in passenger numbers to 2050
  • Industry calls on Government to work in partnership to establish the UK as a global hub for green aviation technologies, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight

Today members of the UK Sustainable Aviation coalition have united behind a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. At an event with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP in Central London, aviation industry executives will sign a pledge committing to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

This is based on a thorough review of the opportunities to cut aviation emissions and forms a central pillar of a new “Decarbonisation Road-Map: A Path to Net Zero” also published today by Sustainable Aviation. This sets out exactly where reductions can come from, including through smarter flight operations, new aircraft and engine technology, modernising UK airspace, the use of sustainable aviation fuels, and high-quality market-based policy measures.

With these actions, the UK will be able to grow passenger numbers by 70% – in line with current projections – whilst reducing net emissions from 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year today down to zero.

A “Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map” has also been released today alongside the Decarbonisation Road Map, which identifies the specific role that sustainable aviation fuels could play in meeting this commitment. It forecasts that the UK could become a world leader in developing sustainable aviation fuels, which could meet 32% of the nation’s demand for aviation fuel by 2050.

Neil Robinson, Chair of Sustainable Aviation, said:

“Climate change is a clear and pressing issue for people, businesses and governments across the world. We know aviation emissions will increase if decisive action is not taken, and that’s why UK aviation today commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, through an international approach, working with governments around the world and through the UN.

“The UK is well positioned to become one of the leaders in the green technologies of the future, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in the process, and we look forward to working in partnership with Ministers to help realise these opportunities.”

Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector’s commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future.

“Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international co-operation through the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, we’ll be able to strike that balance, creating a greener and cleaner future.”


Notes to Editors:

Contact information: or 0203 953 6664

Access to the full reports:

To download the full Decarbonisation Road-Map report please click here, and for an infographic summarising the key findings please click here.

To download the full Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map report please click here, and for an infographic summarising the key findings please click here.

Please note that all these documents are under embargo until 00:01 Tuesday 4th February 2020 and that both Road-Maps are subject to final formatting before they go live at that time.

Notes on commitment statement:

This commitment is based on a thorough review of the opportunities to cut aviation carbon emissions. This includes smarter flight operations, new technology, the use of sustainable fuels and significant investment in carbon offset and removal. Delivering against this commitment will require a partnership approach with Government to ensure the opportunities to cut emissions are realised. This needs to be addressed through an international rather than national approach which can lead to competitive distortion and carbon leakage.

Alongside this new commitment, Sustainable Aviation (SA) – the coalition of major UK airlines, airports, manufacturers, air navigation service providers and key business partners – has published its Decarbonisation Road-Map: A path to Net Zero. This shows a route through which UK aviation can cut net carbon emissions to zero, whilst meeting anticipated 70% growth in passenger demand up to 2050.

N.B – The Road-Map is based on all UK-departing flights (i.e. including international carriers, consistent with international practice) and highlights one potential decarbonisation scenario – not a definitive pathway. It is a model for how UK aviation can deliver upon the commitment announced today. SA will continue to monitor and update the Road-Map in the face of policy change and technological developments.

The commitment applies to UK Sustainable Aviation members.

How will net zero carbon emissions for UK aviation be achieved?
SA’s Road-Map shows how under a ‘no improvement’ scenario UK aviation would generate 71 MtCO2/yr in 2050 – approximately equivalent to what all the cars on the UK’s road emit each year today.

Road-Map analysis shows that through the introduction of known and new, more efficient aircraft (saving 23.5 MtCO2/yr by 2050), better air traffic management and operating procedures (saving 3.1 MtCO2/yr), the use of sustainable aviation fuels (saving 14.4 MtCO2/yr) and the global deployment of effective Market Based Measures (saving 25.8 MtCO2/yr), aviation can cut emissions to net zero. A further 4.3 MtCO2/yr is saved due to the carbon pricing impact on demand resulting from the use of global Market Based Measures.

Measures within the Road-Map can be divided into those that prevent carbon from being released in the first place (i.e. technology and impact on demand); those that result in emissions that are significantly lower over a life-cycle than compared to fossil jet fuels (i.e. sustainable aviation fuels); and those that mitigate and offset carbon through effective market-based measures.

Supporting fact: Significant progress has already been made here in the UK – between 2010 and 2016, passenger numbers in the UK grew by more than 25%, while total emissions only grew by under 5% and overall emissions continue to be below 2005 levels.

So, it is possible to continue growing the sector and reduce our environmental impact at the same time.

What support is the sector calling for?
The UK is well positioned to become one of the global leaders in green aviation technologies of the future, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in the process.

Delivering net zero requires significant investment from industry and a partnership with Government, which must also work internationally to ensure UK actions on emissions do not create unintended carbon emissions elsewhere outside the UK.

SA is seeking UK Government support for the commitment in the following ways:

  • By maintaining and enhancing support for aerospace research and development
  • By supporting the commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuels at scale
  • By delivering critical airspace modernisation
  • By working internationally to deliver effective, global market-based policy measures to address residual aviation emissions and to set a clear, long term CO2 target for global aviation.

Continue reading:

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