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No clear path to net zero flights, says report

Green aviation is not just around the corner scientists from the Royal Society have said, despite various airlines publicising ‘net zero’ flights.

The national academy of sciences released a report outlining the current state of net zero aviation fuels and showed there is no single, clear path to eco-friendly flights.

Many airlines are turning to biofuels, but the report said these still produce CO2 and would require the UK to use up 50% of agricultural land to grow biomass and replace jet fuel.

The UK government has said its committed to achieving net zero aviation by 2050 through its Jet Zero strategy which relies heavily on Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

white airplane flying in the sky during daytime

Professor Marcelle McManus from the University of Bath told the Evening Standard: ‘With all of these fuels we need to have new supply chains, new resources and at the scale we need, this is not going to come without difficulties.

‘How and where they’re produced will have significant impacts on their impact and their cost.’

The report evaluated four low-carbon fuel alternatives in total, including biofuel, hydrogen, synthetic efuels and ammonia, and found none of them could replace jet fuel in the short term.

Scientists said that while hydrogen produces no CO2, it would be more expensive to produce and may need to be imported, as the UK does not currently generate enough renewable electricity to make it.

Plane engines would also need to be replaced to run off hydrogen fuel, presenting yet another obstacle.

Synthetic efuels produce CO2 and would rely on green hydrogen and carbon capture to be a feasible alternative, while ammonia is also generated through hydrogen.

Our sister site Air Quality News recently investigated the future of flying, as campaigners argue that green aviation technologies are still so far off that people should reduce the amount they fly. This can be found on page 14 of the e-magazine. 

Photo by Philip Myrtorp

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