The aviation industry has missed all but one of the more than 50 climate targets it has set for itself over 20 years, according to activists’ analysis.
Goals for energy efficiency to save fuel and increase sustainable fuels have been hit by shifting goals or a “lack of reporting and public accountability” causing them to miss, downgrade, or drop altogether , concludes the research.
“It’s a problem” because Britain’s goal of net zero by 2050 “cannot be achieved without every sector of the economy playing its part,” said Leo Murray of the climate group Possible, who has published the report.
They want the government to control demand by introducing a frequent flyer tax, but the Department for Transport says the report ‘deliberately ignores’ everything else they are doing to bring the industry to net zero.
Aviation is responsible for around 7% of Britain’s emissions, according to the Independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The vast majority of trips (70%) are made by a small group of frequent travelers (15% of residents).
Aviation is widely recognized as one of the most difficult sectors – along with shipping and agriculture – to decarbonise, as sourcing sustainable fuels is complicated and hydrogen or electric planes are still years away.
The CCC says theft cannot increase by more than 25% if Britain is to meet its net zero emissions target by 2050, but the industry believes it can sustain a 70% increase while still always reaching net zero.
Matt Gorman, chairman of UK trade group Sustainable Aviation, said “technological improvements mean that growth in passenger numbers no longer means growth in emissions”.
While the number of passengers increased by 30% between 2005 and 2019, emissions only increased by 1%, according to government figures, thanks to increased flight capacity and things like fuels sustainable aviation.
In 2005, Sustainable Aviation committed to reducing carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre by 50% by 2020.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body, said “it’s clear to everyone that planes need to completely decarbonize” and praised “the incredible pace of innovation taking place in hydrogen and electric propulsion”.
The International Air Transport Association said that of three targets it set in 2009, one had been met and two were on track.
One duty-free flight per year, with increasing tax on each additional flight
The UK government will publish its Jet Zero strategy this summer on how to reduce pollution from aviation.
The industry says it is committed to decarbonisation, but needs government incentives to help it, for example, boost the sustainable production of aviation fuel.
Mr Murray said that since the industry’s track record of achieving ‘the kinds of targets that are written into Jet Zero are exceptionally poor’, ministers should impose a frequent flyer tax.
Under the policy, backed by CCC government advisers, one flight per year would be exempt from the levy, with an increasing tax on each additional flight. The government is adamant that its analysis shows that such intervention is unnecessary.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said the report “deliberately ignores” this administration’s investment in technology, fuel and market-based measures “that will help us get to Jet Zero by 2050 without having need new taxes”.
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This includes £180m to accelerate sustainable aviation fuel and £685m to develop carbon-free, low-emission aircraft technology.
Researchers analyzed more than 50 targets set by industry groups or individual airlines between 2000 and 2021. They say only one target, set by easyJet to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per passenger-kilometre, has been met , but that it was less ambitious than a larger industry. target at that time.
easyJet said its average carbon emissions per passenger-kilometre are “already significantly lower than the global industry average” due to strong efficiency and an updated fleet.
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