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Is UK's net zero ambition for aviation simply too ambitious?

  • Publish Date: Posted over 1 year ago
  • Author: Steve Walia

​Scientists have said that Britain's net zero ambitions for the aviation industry simply aren't possible and that the UK would need to turn over half of its farmland to clean energy production or double its total clean energy output for 'jet zero' to become a reality.


The Royal Society produced a report that said there was no sustainable alternative currently in existence to jet fuel that could support existing flight demand at its current levels.


The aviation industry and government have set a target date of 2050 to balance out existing carbon emissions. However, enormous difficulties remain around the viability of alternative fuels, particularly in regard to their cost and availability. At the same time, new fuels would require new airport infrastructure and - potentially - new planes, in order to become true long-term solutions.


Scientists also say that significant investment and further targeted research would also be required to assess just how viable proposed new fuels such as biofuel, green hydrogen and synthetic fuels really are.


To generate enough biofuels to meet current flight demand, around half of the UK's agricultural land would need to be turned into fuel crop growth. Municipal waste, the report says, would only be able to deliver a very small percentage of what the industry needs.


To make enough ammonia or green hydrogen to power tomorrow's planes without emissions would mean increasing existing clean energy capacity by over twofold. So-called e-fuels would require even more.


The Royal Society concluded that the challenge of decarbonising the aviation industry is huge and requires a great deal of further work. The industry produced 2.4pc of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, and the UK's industry produced 8% of total emissions so the motivation is there.