A coalition of Conservative MPs is taking on Greta Thunberg and the flight-shaming movement by pushing for new policies that would allow families to jet away on “guilt-free” holidays.
Former transport ministers Chris Grayling, Stephen Hammond and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, are among 25 MPs, peers and MSPs calling for green taxes to be channelled into the production and use of sustainable aviation fuels.
A faster transition towards airlines using sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF, will allow the UK to hit environmental goals “without forcing people to give up flying”, the group says.
Sustainable aviation fuel is claimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 80pc. Used chip cooking oil, woodmill waste, and even algae are among a range of waste products that can be converted into SAF.
It is one of only a few “drop-in” solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of flying - meaning that the standard kerosene can be swapped for the biofuel without any adaptations to aircraft.
But production and price are constraining factors. Producers face high set-up costs and are only willing to commit to investment capital if they know there are willing buyers. For airlines, the cost of SAF is also prohibitive - but the price differential is reducing.
In 2020, jet fuel cost roughly was $0.50 per litre compared with SAF, which was priced at $1.1 per litre. With oil prices rising in the wake of Russia's war against Ukraine, jet fuel has risen to more than $0.90-a-litre.
Aviation is responsible for between 2pc and 3pc of global carbon emissions. And Ms Thunberg continues to refuse to fly because of the impact on the environment. In 2019 she made a double crossing of the Atlantic to attend climate conferences in the US and Chile.
The ‘flygskam’ or ‘flight shame’ movement was spearheaded by climate activist Ms Thunberg and designed to sow the seeds of unease among the public about taking flights.
Emmanuel Macron has sided with the Swedish climate change campaigner by banning certain domestic flights in France.
Britain risks falling behind the EU and US in the production of SAF, which the likes of planemaker Boeing and airline Ryanair say is the short-to-medium term answer to the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.
America already has four incentive schemes for SAF production and the EU recently pledged carbon credit allowances worth €2bn to incentivise the take-up of the eco-fuel.
The UK has delayed the announcement of similar schemes, however, with SAF slipping down the Government's list priorities.
An independent review of net zero for the Government entitled “mission zero” has already backed “an adequate prince stability mechanism”.
In a manifesto entitled “Taking flight: a policy route to achieving jet zero”, the Tory MPs call on ministers to launch a contracts for difference (CfD) scheme - similar to that used to promote development of renewable energy sources such as wind farms.
They estimate the CfD scheme would create 6,500 jobs, add £1bn annually to the economy and cut 3.6 million tonnes of carbon a year by 2035.
The scheme would be funded by airlines’ tax receipts from a strengthened UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that imposes a levy on carbon emissions.
Mr Courts, aviation minister under Boris Johnson, said: “Telling people they can't go on foreign holidays or visit family abroad would undermine support for net zero. We need to look to innovation, technology and competition to solve this problem, not restrictions to ground people for good.”
Fellow signatory, Henry Smith, MP for Crawley and chairman of the future of aviation APPG, added: “It would be wrong to turn back the clock on aviation, shrink this successful industry, and make it harder to travel within the UK and abroad to achieve our climate goals.
“I urge the Government to adopt the ideas within this manifesto to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel and other innovative technologies to spur progress toward zero-emission flights.”