Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Decarbonising Aviation: Exploring the Consequences

Decarbonising Aviation: Exploring the Consequences
The international aviation sector has a challenging goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching this target requires a substantial reduction in carbon emissions from aircraft and fuels, which could significantly impact costs. This project reviews current air transport decarbonisation policies and technologies to evaluate their consequences. It offers guidance for governments to mitigate the adverse effects of decarbonisation on different user groups and the wider economy.

The goal of net-zero carbon emissions in aviation by 2050 set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October 2022 presents difficulties due to the limited availability of commercially viable alternatives to fossil fuels on the necessary scale. To facilitate the transition, governments are investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and other technologies. Some are also considering policy instruments to regulate the sector and contribute to reaching the decarbonisation target.

Adopting cleaner fuels and aircraft, as well as the implementation of regulatory instruments, will impact costs that may translate to higher passenger and freight prices. As a result, decarbonising aviation could result in changes in travel patterns, air route connectivity, and impacts on the broader economy. Governments seek cost-effective and equitable ways to mitigate these impacts and gain support for aviation decarbonisation policies. However, existing research offers limited insights into this area.

This project:

  • Reviews various aviation decarbonisation policies and technologies, evaluating their effectiveness and readiness to support the transition in the short and long term.
  • Assesses the potential consequences of decarbonising aviation through geographic, macro-economic, social, environmental, and sectorial lenses.
  • Provides guidance to governments on how to mitigate any adverse effects of decarbonising aviation for different user groups and the wider economy.