Press Release

Paying for sustainable aviation fuel should not be funded by UK taxpayers, civil society groups say

June 21, 2024

A group of 21 civil society organisations have submitted a joint response to the government’s consultation on the “revenue certainty mechanism” for sustainable aviation fuel.

15 out of the past 17 years more than half the people in the UK did not take a flight

A group of 21 civil society organisations, including the likes of Transport & Environment, the Aviation Environment Federation and Greenpeace, have submitted a joint response to the government’s consultation on the “revenue certainty mechanism” for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), outlining their objection to any public money going towards SAF and urging the government to stay the course in their intention of making the aviation industry pay.

The revenue certainty mechanism is intended to draw in private investment so that SAF projects can eventually be deployed at scale in the UK. The initial call for views on the revenue certainty mechanism explicitly states its intention for the mechanism to be “industry-funded”.

However, the group notes in its response that this wording could be interpreted in a number of different ways and also notes additional ambiguity to take into account the “affordability to Government”. As a result the group is calling for the Government to clarify and ensure that “industry-funded” means industry-funded in that the costs are solely borne by the aviation industry and the Treasury would not be involved at all.

In 2019, flights departing UK airports were responsible for 38.5MtCO2 and yet the industry paid no tax on the fuel it consumed. With air passenger traffic close to a return to pre-pandemic levels, IATA predicts that the global industry is likely to make a net profit of over $30 billion this year.

By contrast, according to the annual National Travel Survey, in 15 out of the last 17 years, the majority of British people did not fly. Of those that did, most flew abroad only once each year. It would therefore be grossly unfair for the taxpayer to cover the funding costs of the future scheme, as the majority of British citizens travel by plane either rarely, or never. This is especially true in a cost-of-living crisis.

The civil society organisations also note that the consultation makes specific reference to the environmental principles that are set out in section 17 of the Environment Act 2021 and says the Government should pay heed to the “rectification at source” principle and the “polluter pays” principle, which in this case suggests that any future revenue certainty mechanism does two things:

  • Not encourage the use of problematic SAF feedstocks.

  • Ensures that the costs of pollution (e.g. additional NHS costs caused by air pollution from planes) should be borne by those that cause it.

Matt Finch, UK Policy Manager at Transport & Environment, said:

“It would be grossly unfair to put the burden of reducing emissions from the aviation sector on taxpayers. Other sectors have stepped up to decarbonise without taxpayer money, so there’s no reason why aviation can’t. Furthermore, not only do the vast majority of the Brits rarely fly, every driver has paid more in fuel duty than the whole aviation sector ever has. It’s time that changed.”


Notes to editors:

If you would like to speak to a spokesperson or have any questions, please contact Alexander Killeen via or on 07806431577.

Transport & Environment UK is the UK national office of clean transport NGO Transport & Environment whose aim is to achieve a zero-emission mobility system that is affordable and has minimal impacts on our health, climate and environment and is accessible to all.

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