It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s not far removed from it – achieving UK aviation’s stated aim of net zero emissions by 2050 is a huge task.
An ambition first flagged by the industry a year ago received government backing last autumn in the shape of the Jet Zero Council – a new body which gathered industry leaders and ministers together to, as it put it,“turbocharge” sustainable aviation projects.
A key proposal – developing an emission-free transatlantic aircraft – drew much scepticism, but Jet Zero’s other main development focus, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is already emerging as a credible interim measure while alternatives like electric propulsion are developed.
Fifteen years before Jet Zero was set up, industry body Sustainable Aviation, which counts most UK airlines and aviation-related businesses among its membership, began work on the issue.
It neatly sums up the problem faced: “At present, the performance of battery technology cannot match the performance of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, which means that in the short- and medium- term for short-haul flights – and in the long-term for long-haul flights – flying will remain jet-fuel based.”
Until science provides an alternative, sustainable fuels are the “bridge” to other forms of power. None can currently be blended more than 50% with regular kerosene, but they offer a 70-80% emissions reduction compared to fossil jet fuel.