Aviation is the most climate-intensive form of transport. Green fuels, new technology and demand reduction can put us on a path to cleaner flying.

Emissions are flying high

Emissions from aviation significantly contribute to climate change and the UK’s transport emissions. UK aviation emissions are 7% of all UK carbon emissions and more than a quarter of the country’s transport emissions. Airplanes burn fossil fuel which not only releases CO2 emissions but also has strong warming non-CO2 effects due to nitrogen oxides (NOx), vapour trails and cloud formation triggered by the altitude at which aircraft operate.

These non-CO2 effects contribute twice as much to global warming as aircraft CO2 and are responsible for two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact.

The UK Government’s Jet Zero Strategy is inadequate to successfully decarbonise the sector in order to align with net-zero targets. It overly relies on technological solutions that will not make the impact they need in time to help the sector reach its own targets. 

The aviation industry, in direct contrast to all other sectors of the economy, does not pay for its pollution and pays no fuel duty.

32Mt of CO2 produced by the UK aviation section in 2023

7% of all UK emissions come from aviation

25% of all UK transport emissions come from aviation

Over half of the UK population did not fly for 15 out of the past 17 years

Paying for pollution

To ensure that the industry starts paying for its pollution, it’s essential that fuel duty is applied to kerosene to ensure that there is a fairer application of fuel duty across all sectors and that the industry is being charged for the amount it pollutes. Alongside this, the emissions trading scheme (ETS) must be extended to all departing flights.

Clean tech: hydrogen and e-fuels

While Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) will be an important part of decarbonising aviation in the UK, it needs to come from the right sources. The SAF mandate has been announced but is not up to scratch. It's not nearly as ambitious as the mandate our European neighbours are implementing which could stymie both SAF use but also the development of zero-carbon fuels of the future like e-kerosene.

Flying without emitting

The development of zero-emission aircraft is also vital to ensure that the aviation industry can continue operating in the age of net zero. Policy is needed to help reinforce efforts to produce the aircraft of the future and ensure their delivery is aligned with carbon budgets and net-zero targets.