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Sky is the Limit for London To Achieve Sustainable Aviation

Thursday 7 September 2023

In the latest report on sustainable aviation, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called on the Government to accelerate and prioritise the transition to clean jet fuels to remain globally competitive.

The report titled ‘Green Skies’ which has been launched today highlights the urgency to expedite the plans for developing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) plants in the UK. This includes working with aviation industry experts and public bodies to rapidly upscale domestic production of SAF to avoid becoming a net importer of SAF fuels.

SAF will be the primary way to reducing aircraft carbon emissions, as they currently present the only viable solution for long-haul flights and for short haul flights for the foreseeable future. LCCI believes that Contracts for Difference could help to unlock the next wave of investment into SAF. Therefore, through the report, the chamber urges the Department for Transport and HM Treasury to work together on implementing a scheme that protects passengers from higher costs.

London’s global status relies on a significant flow of visitors who add immense value to the capital’s cultural and economic prosperity. The number of inbound tourists to the UK totalled 21.6 million in the first three quarters of 2022.

The profitability and indispensability of the London aviation sector cannot be ignored from a sustainability point of view. The report highlighted that around four in five London business leaders surveyed agree that air connectivity is important to London’s global competitiveness (83%), international trade (82%), the London economy overall (82%) and building and maintaining international business connections (79%).

James Watkins, Head of Policy and Public Impact at London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

“Sustainable aviation fuel is the fuel of the future and London must catch-up quickly with global trends to become a key player. If London is to lead on green aviation, then Government and the Mayor of London must work together to support the capital’s pivotal role in reducing the industry’s carbon emissions.

This means inculcating the advice of industry experts and public bodies and introducing a Contracts for Difference scheme for Sustainable Aviation Fuels, to provide price stability to the market and support inward investment into a domestic SAF industry. The risks of the UK missing out on developing a domestic SAF industry are significant and would lead to a far greater reliance on SAF imports in the future.”

Matt Gorman, Director of Carbon Strategy at Heathrow, said: 

We welcome this report and echo the key asks being made to achieve a domestic SAF market in the UK. The industry is acting and investing to deliver net zero, but this opportunity is at risk without action from the Government too. Our goal is clear: to protect the benefits of aviation for the future, the carbon must be taken out of flying. Like every other part of the global economy, aviation needs to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The good news is that it is possible through ongoing efficiency improvements, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), zero carbon aircraft and carbon removal projects. But this requires urgent action, by Heathrow, by the aviation sector and by the government. We look forward to working further with government to implement a price support mechanism for SAF to help meet the clear Jet Zero Strategy commitment of having at least five UK SAF plants under construction by 2025.”

The report brings attention to the progress rate towards developing sustainable fuels which needs to move at a much greater pace.

LCCI recommends the Government to give priority to SAF production over Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plants when it comes to non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW) as a feedstock. SAF is the only near-term decarbonisation solution for aviation, unlike electricity generation, which has other zero-carbon options available (such as wind and solar).

As a major contributor to employment, business activity and competitiveness, London’s aviation sector is clearly too important for its recovery and future success not to be a key factor as the UK looks to build back greener. Aviation provides very significant economic and social benefits but it is unarguably harder to decarbonise quickly than other sectors. Therefore, supporting its path to net-zero must become a critical element in recovery and long-term planning.

Notes:

  • Read the entire report here.
  • London Chamber has worked closely with member businesses who have contributed enormously to the evidence base and provided invaluable feedback on the paper. Their contribution is greatly appreciated.
  • About Sustainable Aviation Fuel: SAF is a biofuel used to power aircraft that has similar properties to conventional jet fuel but with a smaller carbon footprint. According to Sustainable Aviation, SAF can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by at least 70% compared to fossil fuels. It presents an opportunity to start having an immediate impact on UK aviation emissions by the mid-2020s and reduce aviation emissions by “at least 32% in 2050".

END