VoteClimate: Jet Zero Council - 14th October 2020

Jet Zero Council - 14th October 2020

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate Jet Zero Council.

Full text:

14:30 Maria Miller (Conservative)

The UK has the third biggest global aviation network in the world, and we are a leading aerospace nation. Aviation contributes more than £52 billion a year to GDP and the sector directly contributes 230,000 jobs, which are largely high value and high skilled, in airframe development and manufacturing. All of that will be a continued requirement for the industry as it decarbonises. At the moment, however, as a result of the pandemic, there has been a massive reduction in the number of flights, but passenger numbers are expected to recover to 2019 levels by 2023-24 or possibly earlier, depending on the progress of scientific breakthroughs in dealing with the virus. Industry projections also show passenger numbers rising by 65% from 2018 levels to 2050. The UK also has a legally binding net zero target for 2050, and we need to reconcile that vitally important target with the projected increase in demand. Progress has already been made: between 2005 and 2016, Sustainable Aviation member airlines carried 26% more passengers and freight, with carbon dioxide emissions rising by 9%. That is still 9% too much, but it shows that improvements are possible.

“the need to decarbonise flight must remain at the top of the agenda”

and issued a challenge to do so by 2035. In February this year, Sustainable Aviation members made a public commitment to reach net zero UK aviation carbon emissions by 2050, becoming the first national aviation body anywhere in the world to make such a pledge. In June, the creation of the Jet Zero Council was announced, with the objective of developing and industrialising zero-emission aviation and aerospace technologies. The first meeting was held in July. The council has an impressive membership of the great and the good of the aviation and aerospace sectors, and given its importance for aviation and aerospace employment, I think it would be sensible to have a worker representative on the council as well.

But it is important that all that is done responsibly, so that we can fly with a clear conscience. That is why the work of the Jet Zero Council is so important, and why this debate matters so much. Not only do we need to turbocharge the science and technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, we also need to ensure that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of sustainable aviation so that the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future are provided here. We cannot leave that to chance, as has unfortunately happened with other technologies in the past. Germany, France, Norway and Indonesia are already making progress in that direction.

Calor’s parent company has already partnered with the Dutch airline KLM to build Europe’s first dedicated plant to produce sustainable aviation fuels in the Netherlands. A by-product of the plant will be low-carbon fuel for homes and businesses in the rural off-gas grid. Sustainable aviation fuels are a here-and-now solution using proven technologies that can be used in existing engines and transport pipelines, requiring no modifications to aircraft or refuelling infrastructure. At present, sustainable aviation fuels are the only option that can decarbonise long-haul flight, from which two-thirds of UK aviation CO 2 emissions currently arise. It is important to note that second-generation sustainable aviation fuels do not rely on feedstocks that should be used for other purposes. Current sustainable aviation fuel is developed from sustainable feedstocks, waste oils, fats, greases, industrial gases and—I am told—even municipal solid waste as well as agricultural and forestry residue.

Altalto Immingham hopes to be producing fuel by 2025 and many of these jobs would be in our industrial heartlands, contributing to levelling up in areas such as south Wales, the north-west, Teesside, Humberside, St Fergus, Grangemouth and Southampton. There will also be a boost to the rural economy where feedstocks for facilities would be processed before final upgrading at an industrial plant. Electric and hydrogen technologies also have great potential to deliver zero emission short and medium haul flights.

The world’s first hydrogen-powered flight has taken place in God’s own county of Bedfordshire. As part of the HyFlyer, project, ZeroAvia commissioned at Cranfield University the first on-site hydrogen fuelling system capable of producing green hydrogen used to power zero-emission flight. In 2023 ZeroAvia will bring to market the first hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of flying aircraft with up to 19 seats in a certifiable configuration design for a range of airframes currently in use. It has the potential to generate significant new employment and investment in the aerospace sector. For example, easyJet, a major company at Luton airport, continues to work with Wright Electric on an all-electric 186-seat passenger jet, and only last month Airbus unveiled designs for hydrogen-powered aircraft that could be flying by 2035.

Technology improvements through fleet upgrades represent the largest long-term aviation decarbonisation solution in the sector. The Aerospace Technology Institute wishes to see funding doubled to £330 million a year to enable the UK to become a world leader in developing more efficient engines as well as hybrid electric and hydrogen aircraft. Every £1 of Government investment in aerospace research and development brings in another £12 in private research and development spending—pretty impressive leverage.


14:50 Catherine McKinnell (Labour)

As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable aviation, I support the calls for investment in sustainable engines and fuel to make air travel cleaner and greener, to help the UK to meet its climate change targets, and to protect aviation jobs.

The Committee on Climate Change says that sustainable fuels are critical to cutting emissions from aviation, but at present the challenge seems to lie in international agreement on how to encourage their use. In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the chief technology officers of Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Safran, Dassault Aviation and Raytheon urged greater efforts to create,

Decarbonisation of aviation will also rely heavily on market-based mechanisms in the short to medium term, so it is vital that these transitions run smoothly. Many aircraft operators that participate in the EU emissions trading scheme will also participate in the new UK emissions trading scheme. Will the Minister update us on how we will link those two schemes, as set out in the future relationship with the EU25?


14:58 Anthony Browne (Conservative)

I am keen to speak because tackling and stopping environmental destruction is the defining mission of our age. We have seen so much of it over the last 100 years, and we have to bring it to an end. That is why I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the environment. Clearly, one of the biggest environmental challenges is tackling climate change. As a country, we have adopted the legally binding target of net zero by 2050, and I strongly welcome that. A huge body of work is needed to achieve it.

On recommendations and policy, I would be interested, first, in including international aviation emissions in the 2050 target of net zero. Domestic aviation emissions are already in that target, but I understand the Government are thinking about the international emissions. That would be a good step, in order to put pressure on the sector and make it part of the national mission to become net zero.


15:05 Steve Double (Conservative)

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) mentioned that the UK has led the world in innovation in aviation for over 100 years. I see another great opportunity before us as a country to once again take a lead, and lead the world in developing clean flight. I am delighted that the Prime Minister set out in his characteristic way a positive vision for the country to get behind and work towards having the first zero-emission transatlantic flight. It is a vision that I wholeheartedly get behind.

Moving towards clean flight can very much be part of that. As several hon. Members have highlighted, we are making progress. There are some great and exciting developments such as sustainable biofuels and electric and hydrogen-powered flight, all of which will help the sector become the clean way of getting around that we want it to be. I know that some people are sometimes cynical about this but there is no doubt of the Government’s commitment to get to net zero by 2050. We are leading the world as the only developed nation that has made that legal commitment. We should use this as an opportunity to take a lead globally and demonstrate to the world that clean flight is within the realms of possibility in the very near future.

I believe that the current attitude often shown towards flying––that it is the dirty way of getting around and we should all feel bad every time we get on a plane––can be changed. We can get to the point of zero-emission flight in the coming years. At that point, flight will become the chosen way to travel quickly and cleanly both around the UK and around the world. I genuinely believe that we can get to that point. Instead of being the dirty cousin of transport, flying will be the green choice, because we can fly cleanly and get places quickly. That is the ambitious aim that we should focus on working towards.


15:13 Jim Shannon (DUP)

In February 2020, Sustainable Aviation members made a public commitment to reach net zero UK aviation carbon emissions by 2050. That is a challenging target, but if they have set it, they must think it is achievable. They are the first national aviation body anywhere in the world to make such a pledge. The decarbonisation road map, published alongside the pledge, sets out a plan to achieve that by working with Ministers. It is clearly a partnership, because that it how it works and that is how they will gain their way forward.


15:24 Alan Brown (SNP)

The hon. Gentleman correctly set out how important aviation is overall to the UK in terms of the £52 billion it brings to the economy. At the same time, we have to recognise, and reconcile with that fact, the challenge of achieving net zero, despite an increase in demand going forward. Interestingly, that concurs with the findings of Climate Assembly UK, which recently reported. As citizens, they accept that there will be a continued increase in the use of aircraft, but there need to be changes, in terms of some of the solutions outlined today, in order to get the balance right and achieve net zero. I note that they do not think that there should be quite as big an increase in world aviation as is projected.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) also does good work, as chair of the all-party parliamentary environment group. He, too, highlighted the importance of the challenge that we have going forward on climate change. It was good to hear about the work being undertaken with Faradair in terms of hybrid and electric planes. Again, we hope that that leads the way, but he correctly highlighted Norway, which, yet again—it leads the way on so many things—has a commitment for short-haul flights to be fully electric by 2040. It is worth noting that Norway leads the way in relation to electric vehicles, the use of renewable energy in terms of hydro, and its sovereign wealth fund, created from its oil funds. We really need to look at Norway for lessons and copy it instead of just always talking about the UK being world leading. It is a fact that other people do this.

On a positive note, I welcome the setting up of the Jet Zero Council. We want to see the green recovery in general and the UK Government have an opportunity to lead the way in sustainable aviation. It is fine to be a world leader in terms of the legislation for 2050 net zero, but we need the corresponding action and investment to back that up. As others have said, the UK Government have missed out in the past in offshore and onshore wind, where there was not the drive or the vision in the Government investment to make the UK world leading in that. The manufacturing and other aspects went elsewhere. As such, we need to step up to the plate in terms of net zero aviation.

As for being world leading, the Scottish Government set net zero legislation before Westminster, with an earlier date of 2045 for net zero, and they are the first Government in the world to include international shipping and aviation within the net zero targets. They have also committed to decarbonising aviation by 2050. Can the Minister advise whether the UK Government will follow the SNP’s lead in Scotland and the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which is to include international aviation emissions within their net zero targets?

The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow next year, which is a tremendous opportunity to lead the world in a number of initiatives and commitments. The UK Government’s “Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge” document stated:

“Internationally, we are committed to negotiating in ICAO for a long-term emissions reduction goal for international aviation that is consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, ideally by ICAO’s 41st Assembly in 2022.”

Can the Minister advise what progress has been made regarding those negotiations and whether there are any commitments that can be included within the nationally determined contributions for COP26? That certainly would set a tremendous example.

Yes, I agree it is important. They need to be replaced because half the existing nuclear power stations will be phased out in the next four years. However, they do not need to be replaced by nuclear; they should be replaced by renewable energy, so I absolutely do not agree on that point.

There seems to be cross-party support for jet zero and the aim to get net zero aviation by 2050, but there are clear asks for the Government, and I look forward to hearing the Minister confirm those financial commitments that have been asked for around the tables.

We all know how important the subject of the debate is and, particularly at such a difficult and challenging time for the sector, it is important to take a considered, nuanced approach to the issues that we are discussing. We might, if we had had the debate much earlier in the year, have been able to focus purely on decarbonisation and the need to make progress with that in the sector, but covid has, as with so many other things, turned everything in the aviation world on its head. There have, as we have heard, been unprecedented falls in demand for flights because of the pandemic. The sector has faced immense financial hardship and it is predicted that it will not fully get back to its feet until 2023 or 2024 —or, given the degree of uncertainty, who knows?

Now, therefore, the discussion of decarbonisation must also deal with how to save aviation jobs in the short term, ranging from those in manufacturing, technology and design to those in airports and airlines, and the supply chain. We should not forget the many small companies that also rely on the industry and need to be part of the shift. It is one thing to consult bigger companies as part of the Jet Zero Council, but for every big company at the forefront of innovation there will be many other small and medium-sized enterprises that rely very much on being taken along on the journey.

Labour has called for a sector-specific package for aviation, which will be conditional not just on the protection of jobs—including an end to firing and rehiring on inferior contracts—but on progress in meeting environmental targets. It is important that those two objectives should be intertwined. Some nations uncritically bailed out their aviation sectors because of the pandemic without considering the climate impacts, but other nations have been both ambitious in protecting their aviation sectors and sensitive to the need to decarbonise the sector. France, for example, provided more than €15 billion, much of it to Air France, conditional on a number of things. For example, France expects the airline to renew its fleet with more efficient aircraft; to source 2% of fuel from sustainable sources by 2025; to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide from domestic flights by the end of 2024; and to ensure that overall emissions from all flights are halved by 2030.

I welcome the Minister to his new post. I hope that we hear from him how the UK can follow France in taking such a lead, because this is too important an opportunity to miss, given that we need far more intervention and investment in the aviation sector—more of a lead from the Government—than we perhaps would in normal times. How can we maximise the opportunity to get the sector back on its feet and also accelerate the progress we all want to make towards net zero?

Aviation counted for 8% of UK emissions in 2019, according to the Committee on Climate Change. I agree with the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire on the need to include international aviation emissions in the UK’s net zero emissions legislation. Domestic aviation emissions have fallen to some extent, but those international emissions are not currently included in that legislation. I do not know whether the Minister will have something to say on that, because, as I understand it, the Government have said that they want to look at how we can include international aviation and shipping emissions in that target. That would act as a real incentive; rather than just focusing on emissions from domestic flights, which are a tiny minority of journeys, we must look at the international picture.


15:47 Robert Courts (Conservative)

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Miller, particularly on your first day in Westminster Hall. I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing this very important debate and giving colleagues across the House, after listening to his speech—which, if I may so, had great expertise and eloquence—the opportunity to discuss the crucial subject of tackling climate change. I also thank him for providing me with an opportunity to highlight how the United Kingdom is showing, and planning to show, bold and ambitious leadership in this area, including through the new Jet Zero Council. He has—

My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire is quite right to view this matter in a positive and forward-looking way. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) made the same point, and I agree entirely with that sentiment. Last year, the UK maintained its place at the vanguard of reducing carbon emissions and became, as my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) is right to point out, the first major economy in the world to set a 2050 net zero target.

It is critical that aviation plays its part in delivering the UK’s net zero ambitions. My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay also pointed out that there is opportunity here. We are in the vanguard of the biggest step forward in British aviation since the post-war era, a step in which this incredible industry continues its global leadership in the fight against climate change. I will dwell at the outset on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). He is quite right that succeeding in this challenge will benefit not only the planet, but the economy, because this would potentially give us a share of a market expected to be worth £4 trillion globally by 2050.

We already have a range of programmes supporting research and technology on zero-emission flight, including the Aerospace Technology Institute programme, which has £1.95 billion of public funding committed for 2013 to 2026, and the Future Flight Challenge of £125 million of public funding. These programmes have helped to deliver incredible progress in recent decades in the fuel efficiency of commercial aircraft. The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) made an important point about the short-term steps that can be taken to help with sustainable aviation. Fuel efficiency in the short term for commercial aircraft is an important and significant first step in reducing carbon emissions.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) is quite right to point out the steps that industry has taken. It is good to see him back in his place. I thank him for his kind comments. Although he missed yesterday’s debate, he will be glad to know that his hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Paul Girvan) mentioned him in the debate, so he was here in spirit, if not in body. The Government will continue to look at the further support that we can provide to the ATI and, in turn, places such as the Whittle laboratory, which was mentioned, to support our zero-emission flight ambitions.

Several hon. Members mentioned airspace modern- isation, which is a key part of the overall picture, as is the case with airport emissions. Our airspace modernisation programme will allow aircraft to fly more direct routes, using performance-based navigation systems, and reduce the need for holding stacks. Several hon. Members have rightly mentioned sustainable aviation fuels, SAFs, which are a major part of the picture. We can achieve substantial greenhouse gas savings compared with fossil fuels, and these will play an important role in the transition to net zero.

To return to the subject of the debate, having talked about some of the short-term and medium-term steps that we are taking, let me turn to the Jet Zero Council in the medium to longer term. The UK will continue to deliver on the measures that I have mentioned, but that is not enough. Decarbonising aviation will not be straightforward, but I want us to stop viewing this as a challenge and instead view it, as many hon. Members have said, as an opportunity. Britain has always led the way on aviation and we will continue to do so. There is a huge prize in sight: developing the sector that meets the challenges of the future. We will be front and centre, capturing the first mover advantages.

In July, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport created the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between the aviation industry and Government to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint and put the sector on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. The Jet Zero Council brings together Ministers and CEO-level stakeholders from every part of the aviation sector. It is a technical, focused body. It can only have a finite membership, but I have heard the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, and the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) and for Bristol East about the importance of workers. They are crucial to the success of our net zero ambitions, and we will make sure that we fully engage with their representatives as the work of the Jet Zero Council progresses.

The council will drive the ambitious development and delivery of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions, utilising multiple perspectives and bold new thinking. That will include developing and industrialising clean aviation and aerospace technologies, establishing UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels, and implementing a co-ordinated approach to the policy and regulatory framework needed to deliver net zero aviation by 2050.

The council’s focus on clean aviation technologies has been echoed by the Prime Minister, who set out the Government’s ambition for the UK to demonstrate a zero emissions transatlantic flight. In July, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced the launch of the Aerospace Technology Institute’s FlyZero project. Funded by the Government, the 12-month project brings together experts from across the aviation and aerospace sectors to establish the opportunities in designing and building a commercially successful zero emissions aircraft. Last month, I saw the fruits of that work: a trial flight of a hydrogen electric aircraft made possible by £2.7 million of Government funding through the ATI’s HyFlyer project.


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