Government policy for sustainable aerospace

There is a variation of existing Government policy that supports the aerospace industry’s quest to reduce its impact on the environment. There are also areas in which policy does not yet exist, or needs to go further, in order to accelerate progress in aviation and aerospace.

Here are some of the main policy areas:

Jet-Zero Council

In June 2020 the formation of the Jet-Zero Council was announced by the Transport Secretary. The Jet-Zero Council is a partnership between Government and industry, at Chief Executive level, to drive forward an ambitious plan to cut aviation emissions.

The council has met twice, once in July 2020 and once in March 2021. At the first meeting, the Prime Minister presented his ambition for the first zero-emission transatlantic passenger flight by 2025 alongside some other ‘moonshot’ ambitions to be considered by the council. The second meeting included the announcement of the appointment of Emma Gilthorpe, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow Airport as the CEO of the Jet-Zero Council.

There are two delivery groups in place to accelerate progress on the objective of the Jet-Zero Council. The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Delivery Group has been set up by the Jet-Zero Council, while the work to deliver zero-emission aircraft is being led by the Aerospace Technology Institute.

A shared roadmap between Jet Zero Council members and the Government will give the UK a leading position in decarbonising flight. Initiated by the aerospace industry, an aviation and aerospace industry wide plan is being constructed bringing all pillars of the industry together.

Aerospace Growth Partnership

The Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) is a unique partnership between Government and industry that exists to secure the future of the UK aerospace industry in the face of an ever changing, and increasingly competitive global landscape. This partnership is intended as a vehicle to tackle barriers to growth, boost competitiveness and exports and grow the number of high value jobs in the UK.

It is out of the AGP that the Aerospace Technology Institute (see below) was born. Furthermore, the AGP plays an integral role in shaping the Government’s industrial strategy and more specifically, the Aerospace Sector Deal. The industrial strategy will be refreshed in 2021 and we can expect a renewed ambition on science, technology, and a ‘green’ COVID recovery.

Aerospace Technology Institute

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), with industry and Government co-funding commitments out to 2026, is the primary delivery mechanism for R&D funding for the aerospace sector.

Many of the ATI’s projects have some focus on efficiency improvements. In totality, the ATI programme will invest £3.9bn in aerospace R&D by 2026.

The ATI programme now requires and uplift and extension of its annual funding. Currently the Government provides £150m per year for the ATI, which is matched by industry. In order to sustain the development of core technologies, an uplift of £30m per year is required.

And, to accelerate progress in third-generation technologies ADS supports an additional budget allocation of £150m per year out to 2036.

ADS made this case at ahead of the Budget in March 2021, and will do so again ahead of the Spending Review in later in the year.


Launched in July 2020, FlyZero is a new ATI project aimed at identifying the design challenges and market opportunity of potential zero-emissions aircraft concepts. Initially the project will last 12 months, with £15m of funding from the Government.

FlyZero will utilise the expertise of around 100 secondees from industry and academia. Full details of the project can be found on the ATI website, and a webinar recorded in August 2020 can be found on the ATI’s YouTube page.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) is recognised across the industry as the near-term solution to significantly decarbonise flight, particularly for long-haul routes where electric flight is not a viable option. SAF is already in use, albeit in very low quantities. The utilisation of SAF does not require significant changes to aircraft, or at airports. The key challenge is cost and the lack of current policy support in the UK.

Within its 10-point-plan for a green industrial revolution, the UK Government announced a £15m competition to support the production of SAF in the UK. Furthermore, it will establish a SAF clearing house to enable the UK to certify new fuels. Finally, the Government announced its intent to consult on a SAF mandate to blend greener fuels into kerosene.

The industry has welcomed the recent developments as a positive first step. The reality is that the Government must go further. Sustainable Aviation, of which ADS is a member, continues to engage with the Government on its wider proposals for:

  • £429m in Government-backed loan guarantees for first of a kind SAF facilities,
  • £50m in grants and development support for SAF technologies across TRLs (technology readiness levels) 3-8; and
  • £21m to establish a UK clearing house to enable SAF testing.

Airspace Modernisation

The UK’s airspace has not been significantly developed since the 1950s. In 2018 the CAA published a strategy for airspace modernisation.

Delivering airspace modernisation would reduce delays, reduce the need for stacking, and allow flights to take more direct routes and therefore lead to a cut in aviation emissions.

To coordinate the delivery of key aspects of the strategy, the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) was established in 2019. ACOG will coordinate the delivery of a complete redesign of the existing airspace structure in Southern England, and a programme with a similar scope covering the airspace in Northern England and Scotland.

More recently, the DfT and CAA have published a response to the ACOG report of July 2020 looking at scenarios for remobilising the UK airspace change programme following the COVID-19 pandemic.


At an international level, through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an offsetting has been developed to combat international aviation emissions.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) aims to deliver carbon neutral growth from 2020. The pilot phase of the scheme takes place from 2021-2023. This phase is voluntary, as is the first phase (from 2024 through 2026). From 2027-2035, with some specific exceptions, CORSIA will no longer be voluntary.

Emissions Trading Scheme

The existing EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and new UK ETS (announced as result of the UK’s departure from the EU) both work on the ‘cap and trade’ principle. A cap is set on the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted by specific sectors. The cap is reduced over time.

Companies receive or buy emission allowances, which they can trade with one another as needed. At the end of the year, the company must have enough allowances to cover its emissions. If it doesn’t, the company is subject to heavy fines. In sectors where decarbonisation is easier, companies can sell their allowances to others who may be short of allowances.

The EU ETS scheme applies to flights operating between countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), and based on its original proposals we expect the UK scheme to operate in a similar way.

The EU ETS Directive includes a mandate to the European Commission to consider ways for CORSIA to be implemented in the EU through a revision of the Directive, consistent with the EU 2030 climate objectives.


The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland in November 2021. This is an extremely high-profile event that will bring Governments, industries, civil society, and people together to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change.

ADS is working with its members, the UK Government, and the COP26 Climate Champions to identify opportunities in the lead up to, and at the event. We see this as an opportunity for aerospace to showcase its ambition and commitments on a global stage, as well as an opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate global leadership when it comes to reducing the impact of aviation on the environment.


FIA Connect 2020

A range of issues around sustainability were discussed during FIA Connect in July 2020.