Jet Zero strategy: failing on climate

The UN Secretary General called the latest report on climate change ‘Code Red for humanity’. Scientists have made it very clear that we cannot afford to wait: emissions must be slashed in the next few years.

So why does the government’s ‘Jet Zero’ strategy read as if it were a wishlist from the aviation industry, ruling out any cuts in aviation emissions for at least a decade? Why do they refuse to limit passenger growth or airport expansion, instead gambling on future technologies which will deliver too little, too late?

Take action

The Jet Zero consultation ends on Wednesday 8th September.

A useful guide to responding can be found here,

You can also write to your MP and to newspapers. Find advice on doing that here. There's a Jet Zero factsheet which you can can send your MP.

Why the Jet Zero strategy would be a disaster for the climate

The biggest problem is that it is completely back to front. Aviation expansion is treated as non-negotiable, and everything else, including technology over-optimism, is taken from that.

The attempts to justify this strategy are:

1. That the aviation sector can have preferential treatment, increasing emissions over the coming decade, because other parts of the economy will make additional reductions to compensate. In reality, they are struggling to meet their own targets. The Climate Change Committee warned the UK risks missing its 2035 climate change target by a “huge margin” because only a fifth of the emissions cuts needed are being addressed by effective government policies.

2. That after 2030, new technologies, along with carbon removal from the atmosphere will get us to ‘net zero’ aviation by 2050. However, air travel is extremely difficult to decarbonise. All of these technologies have significant limitations on their potential use and/or will not be commercially available for decades.

Key facts

1. Aviation's climate impact is much more than acknowledged - the latest research shows that it is actually three times the effect from CO2 alone. This is not being taken into account.

2. Technofixes are over-hyped - they get lots of good media coverage but none can deliver the emissions cuts needed by 2050

  • Because of the weight of batteries, electric flights will only be viable for short flights with few passengers.
  • Hydrogen would need significant re-engineering of planes - it is decades away from commercial use
  • There are huge problems with using land to grow biofuels on a massive scale - including the climate impact. Alternatives such as used cooking oil or sustainable feedstocks are nowhere near the quantity required.
  • Creating synthetic fuel from hydrogen and CO2 requires vast amounts of renewable energy - which will be needed to power much more of our economy in future.

3. In the absence of any meaningful government policy, airports are pushing ahead with expansion. Seven UK airports (Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Leeds-Bradford, Bristol, Southampton, Manston have live planning applications seeking permission to expand. Gatwick is set to join them shortly.

Read more

Jet Zero factsheet

Jet Zero and the politics of the technofix

Jet Zero: a one way ticket to climate hell

Photo credit diamond geezer via Flickr