24Hr emergency line +44 (0)20 8476 4099
Join Balpa

Pilots call for Government to get off cloud nine and take more decisive action towards Jet Zero

Ahead of the COP26 Transport Day, the British Airline Pilots’ Association says that the Government needs to get its head out of the clouds and act on the latest research to ensure that everything practicable is done to reduce aviation’s climate impact, including contrail avoidance trials.

Aviation is one of the most technologically advanced and carbon intense industries, making it one of the hardest to decarbonise. Sustainable fuels, electric and hydrogen aircraft will all play a role in the journey to Jet Zero.

However, rarely will there be an opportunity to make such a major environmental improvement at such little cost and difficulty through acting on the latest research which suggests that contrails – clouds formed by aircraft exhausts in specific environmental conditions – are responsible for up to 60% of aviation’s contribution to climate change.

BALPA therefore urges the government to make the necessary funding and resources available to conduct conclusive trials as soon as possible, and to act on the findings rapidly.

Aviation Minister Robert Courts is right to say that “flying is not the problem, emissions are”, and whilst the development of technology is key to the longer term, investment into other methods of reducing aviation’s impact is needed right now. Existing commitments made in the Net Zero Strategy risk taking too long for getting true Jet zero off the runway, putting jobs and the industry’s overwhelming benefits at risk.

General Secretary Martin Chalk said:

“BALPA wants to see a thriving, expanding and affordable aviation sector and not one that is slow to reduce its climate impact. We welcome the Government’s general direction of travel, but urge the speed of Concorde, not a Boris bike.

“High impact actions should be made now, including funding contrail avoidance trials and ensuring that our regulations and efforts are coordinated with the EU’s, to prevent any self-defeating market distortions.

“The aviation industry is offering to make profound, transformative changes in very short order to meet its emissions targets, which comes with an immense cost. Aviation taxes should be ring fenced for research into new technology or used as an incentive for those airlines that do the most.

“By ensuring that environmental measures are equitable, safe and actually achieve their goals, we can help protect our world leading industry and maintain our industry’s reputation for constant improvement and evolution, and lead the world’s aviation system towards a greener future.”


Notes to editors:
Key BALPA asks of Government are:

  1. Make very substantial investment, early, to ensure the UK is at the forefront of technological change in aircraft design, power plant design, SAF technology and renewable energy generation.
  2. Take rapid action in areas that have immediate effects such as contrail avoidance and work with unions to identify airline operational efficiencies.
  3. Draw upon the massive body of knowledge and practical experience built up by UK’s flight crew and use it to inform and improve the Jet Zero strategy. BALPA and its members’ expertise and experience have an important role to play in the sustainable future of aviation and believes that it should have representation on the Jet Zero Council.
  4. Campaign via ICAO to strengthen CORSIA and widen its remit to include non-CO2 effects.
  5. Work closely with EASA and the EU to ensure our regulations remain coordinated with Europe’s and to prevent inadvertent, avoidable and self-defeating market distortions.

Contrail avoidance research

The contribution of global aviation to anthropogenic climate forcing for 2000 to 2018. Lee et al. Atmospheric Environment (2021). https://tinyurl.com/3kmrjazd
Fuel-Optimal Trajectory Generation for Persistent Contrail Mitigation. S E Campbell et al, Aerospace Research Central (2013). https://tinyurl.com/5e8kkrb7
DecisionX: Net Zero. Satavia (2020). https://tinyurl.com/b96539s4