Transport & Environment (T&E) has called for UK domestic flights to be operated by electric and hydrogen aircraft from 2028 in a policy paper.
On 10 January, the think tank published Reducing UK’s Aviation Climate Impact, where it made the case that electric and hydrogen zero emissions aircraft (ZEA) are the cleanest option for domestic routes. It set out how 2022 is set to be a critical year in climate change policy terms for UK aviation, owed to the UK government being set to consult and decide on how to make the UK ETS net zero compliant, what the specific details of the sustainable aviation mandate are, and lay out a final Jet Zero strategy.
It drew on how while there is collective agreement from civil society, aviation industry and government that the sector must reach net zero by 2050, there is disagreement on how this should be done. T&E called for there to be increased levels of investment directed into ZEA and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), with this increased spending funded by borrowing against future revenues from increased taxes on the industry in the medium to long-term.
It further set out how ZEA and SAF policies should follow a support, regulate, ban pattern. This means a new technology is supported, using public funds in early years, before regulation is brought in to ensure the increasing commercial use of the new technology, followed by a ban on the old technology. As it stands, ZEA and SAF are still in the support stage, with T&E calling for the regulate and ban stages to be agreed on quickly and the design of new rules finalised in 2022, providing policy certainty to the sector.
Its central recommendations, therefore, include a progressive increase of the share of internal flights flown by electric and hydrogen aircraft from 2028. Polluting aircraft should be banned from domestic routes from 2040, with public investment increased in ZEA, funded by a tax on fossil kerosene. This kerosene tax should be announced soon and take effect from 2025.
As for longer flights, zero emission jets will not be feasible in the coming decades, meaning they should only fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuel from 2050, made from waste-based SAF and e-kerosene. Government policies should expressly encourage UK SAF production by providing loan guarantees for first-of-a-kind SAF plants, with an SAF mandate also implemented on fuel suppliers.