The UK has set a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and the Committee on Climate Change’s advice is that UK international aviation should be included in this target. The global aviation sector is a major contributor to climate change emissions. The industry has agreed to stop growing its emissions from 2020 and to halve them by 2050, but much more ambition is needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, including constraining aviation growth and ending airport expansion.
This project is examining the role of ‘natural climate solutions’ which remove carbon from the atmosphere, as an approach to decarbonising aviation. This includes planting new woodland and restoring peatland and other wetlands to offset residual emissions remaining following other decarbonisation actions.
Although this method could attract significant funding for the restoration and protection of natural habitats in the UK, it is also risks becoming a ‘licence to pollute’ and locking in high and unsustainable aviation emissions. Developing robust ways of measuring and accounting for the carbon sequestered by such projects will be essential, so that aviation does not continue to pollute in a way that is incompatible with the UK’s net zero commitment.
A series of expert workshops and roundtables will feed into our analysis of credible pathways for the aviation sector, compatible with limiting global heating to 1.5°C, and particularly of the role that UK based natural climate solutions could play.
This work is supported by Heathrow Airport. As with all our work, we retain editorial control and independence over the content and conclusions. Green Alliance is opposed to the development of a third runway at Heathrow.