Roll-out zero emission jets this decade

UK domestic flights could be operated by electric and hydrogen aircraft as early as 2028, a new policy paper by Transport & Environment (T&E) states.

In Reducing UK’s Aviation Climate Impact, T&E recommends the path forward to set UK aviation on a net-zero trajectory, which includes a ban on polluting aircraft for domestic routes in 2040 and a full replacement of fossil kerosene by 2050.

T&E recommends increasing public investment in electric and hydrogen zero emissions aircraft (ZEAS), paid for by a tax on fossil kerosene. Furthermore, there should be a progressive increase of the share of internal flights flown by electric and hydrogen aircraft from 2028 - culminating in polluting aircraft being banned from domestic routes from 2040.

Matt Finch, UK Policy Manager at T&E said: “A ban on conventional aircraft for domestic flights is necessary if the Government wants to fulfil its Jet Zero ambitions. A 2040 deadline for polluting jets will help transform the UK into a global leader on zero-emissions aircraft. Electric and hydrogen aircraft should be supported with taxpayer money in the early years, before airlines are required to use them by law.”

Longer flights, for which zero emissions jets will not be feasible in the coming decades, should only fly on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from 2050, made from waste-based SAF and e-kerosene, T&E said. Government policies should expressly encourage UK SAF production by providing loan guarantees for first-of-a-kind SAF plants, as well as implementing a SAF mandate on fuel suppliers.

Both ZEA and SAF development are in their early stages, and therefore require large sums of taxpayer money to help them become mainstream. To pay for the increase in investment proposed above, a kerosene tax should be announced soon, to take effect from 2025. Contrary to popular belief, jet fuel can be taxed on a large proportion of flights.

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