Documents to download

Key points 

  • Aviation is responsible for 7% of the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
  • Reducing aviation emissions is difficult, because of the long lifetime of aircraft and a lack of zero-carbon alternatives. 
  • Technologies which could reduce emissions include new aircraft and engines, electric aircraft and alternative (low-carbon) fuels. They will not bring emissions to zero, and further mitigation will be required. 
  • Low-carbon aviation fuels are perceived as promising solutions by the industry. 
  • Reducing demand for flying faces social and political acceptance challenges. 
  • Emissions offsetting is a key but highly debated approach to mitigating emissions. 
  • Aviation policy is agreed globally, but the UK can reduce its own emissions through domestic policy. 

Burning jet fuel releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-CO2 emissionsCommercial flights departing from the UK account for 7% of national GHG emissions. Aviation is likely to be the largest contributor to UK emissions in 2050.  

Aviation is the most difficult transport mode to reduce emissions from. There are a wide range of technologies that help reduce emissions. Many technologies lack the required investment under current policies. The coordination of reducing aviation emissions is managed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Other emissions reduction measures are implemented by the EU. The UK’s has committed to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, but the UK Government has yet to clarify how emissions for air travel will be accounted for.  

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC, an independent body that advises the UK government on climate issues) and others have suggested that the UK increase efforts to mitigate emissions from aviation. There are several approaches to doing so, including new technologies, more efficient operations, demand reduction and emissions offsetting. 

Acknowledgements: 

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders, and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

  • ADS Group*
  • Dr Simon Weeks, Aerospace Technology Institute*
  • Sarabpal Singh Bhatia, Airbus
  • Aviation Environment Federation*
  • Boeing
  • Leigh Hudson, British Airways
  • Carbon Engineering
  • Dr Stuart Capstick, Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation, Cardiff University*
  • Steve Westlake, Cardiff University*
  • Civil Aviation Authority
  • Owen Bellamy , Committee on Climate Change*
  • Prof. Ian Poll, Cranfield University
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Aerospace division
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Emissions Trading division
  • Department for Transport*
  • Government Office for Science
  • Greenpeace
  • Dr. John Andresen, Heriot-Watt University
  • Prof. Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Heriot-Watt University
  • Dr. Bing Xu, Heriot-Watt University
  • Prof. Peter Bearman, Department of Aeronautics, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Emile Greenhalgh, Composites Centre, Imperial College London*
  • Dr Marc Stettler, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London*
  • International Air Transport Association
  • Jonathon Counsell, International Airlines Group
  • Dr. Dan Rutherford, International Council on Clean Transportation*
  • International Emissions Trading Association
  • Prof. David Lee, Centre for Aviation, Transport and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University*
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Leo Murray, Possible*
  • Robert Thomson, Roland Berger Ltd*
  • Rolls-Royce*
  • Dr John Green, Royal Aeronautical Society
  • Dr Matt Watson, Sheffield University
  • Dr Andy Jefferson, Sustainable Aviation
  • Bill Hemmings, Transport & Environment
  • UK Research and Innovation Future Flight Challenge*
  • Prof. Andreas Schafer, Energy Institute, University College London
  • Dr Simon Blakey, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham
  • Prof. Piers Forster, Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds*
  • Prof. Alice Larkin, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering, University of Manchester*
  • Dr Emma Harvey, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays

(* denotes contributors who externally reviewed the POSTnote)

 

 

 


Documents to download

Related posts

  • POST has published 20 COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) for the UK Parliament. ARIs were identified using the input of over 1,000 experts. They were then ranked in order of interest to UK Parliament research and select committee staff, following internal feedback. Each ARI comes with a series of questions aiming to further break down each broad area. The ARIs focus on the impacts of the global pandemic and range from economic recovery and growth, to surveillance and data collection, long-term mental health effects, education, vaccine development, and the NHS.

  • Over 350 experts have shared with us what they think the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the next 2 to 5 years. This work was done to inform the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee inquiry on Life beyond COVID, and is based on 366 expert responses. Areas of concern include work and employment, health and social care, research and development, society and community, the natural environment, education, arts, culture and sport, infrastructure and crime and justice.

  • A heat network provides heating and hot water to an apartment, commercial site or series of buildings close together. It can also provide cooling. There is interest in using them to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings. This POSTnote looks at the technology of heat networks and their sources of heat. It looks at considerations when building new networks. It also outlines a potential future market framework.