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The UK commits to a carbon neutral goal for 2050
Posted on 12/02/2020

TransportUnited Kingdom

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Because passengers travelling over the next 30 years are projected to grow by 70% (which would mean 100 million extra passengers every year), it is essential for our aviation industries to do something and cut our carbon emissions. But planning to reduce it from 30 million tonnes of CO2 to zero by 2050 is a big claim, and has sometimes been accused of just being greenwash.

Greenwash or real goals?

Greenwash or real goals?
© Daniil Peshkov / 123RF

More than a third of this important goal should be reduced through offsetting, and, according to industry group Sustainable Aviation, it will be thanks to new aircraft and engine technologies, but also sustainable fuels and policies.

But it does not convince everyone. Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, stated: "This whole strategy is a flight of fancy. Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It's greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility."

But some are more optimistic and transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector's commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future."

Decarbonising aviation.

Decarbonising aviation.
© Anthony Dezenzio / 123RF

Many airlines have revealed they were going to put sustainable measures in place, such as British Airways buying more fuel-efficient aircraft and promising to invest $400m in biofuels, and EasyJet, currently in the process of designing an electric plane for shorter journeys.

But the real issue with electric planes is that 65% of UK emissions come from flights of more than 1,000 miles, which are too long for them. "We're not going to be electrifying a London-Singapore A380 for a long time, if ever," says Paul Stein, CTO of Rolls-Royce. "But sustainable fuels can work on the engines we have today, and the concept has been proved."

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive for London Heathrow airport, commented: "The answer is not to stop people flying. It has to be about decarbonising aviation. When the government blocked Heathrow expansion 10 years ago, people started flying through Amsterdam and Paris instead, taking two flights instead of one and not a single tonne of carbon was saved."