Transition to low and zero emission aviation

Transition to low and zero emission aviation


Scotland's location means air travel is essential to providing the connectivity that is needed to support sustainable economic growth. The transition to low and zero emission aviation will allow Scotland to enjoy the economic and social benefits of aviation while reducing its environmental impact.

This section seeks your views on how the Scottish Government can work with others to reduce the environmental impact of aviation, helping to deliver the "takes climate action" priority of the National Transport Strategy and the net-zero by 2045 target set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. This target includes emissions from both domestic and international aviation.

For more details about what has been achieved to date and what the aviation sector has already committed to doing, see Context.


To reduce the environmental impact of aviation, in line with the Scottish Government's commitment to be a net-zero nation by 2045.

For Scotland to benefit economically from the transition to low and zero emission aviation.

How to achieve this aim

UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and CORSIA

The Scottish Government will continue to work with our UK ETS Authority partners (the UK Government and the other devolved administrations) to ensure that the scheme provides an effective incentive for decarbonisation, is consistent with our climate change legislation, and appropriately mitigates against carbon leakage.

The Scottish Government strongly supports the formal linking of the UK ETS with the EU ETS, in order that companies participating in the two schemes face equivalent carbon pricing regimes. As a reserved matter, we are pressing the UK Government to immediately commence and rapidly progress linking negotiations with the EU.

We will continue to work with the UK Government to ensure there is an ambitious approach to international aviation emissions through the UK's participation in the CORSIA scheme, and by ensuring that there is an effective interaction between the UK ETS and CORSIA schemes.

Optimising aircraft ground operations

Airlines have already made progress in this area through procedures such as single engine taxiing and the roll out of fixed electrical ground power. In the future, more efficient aircraft scheduling and electric taxiing could further reduce emissions.

Optimising aircraft flight operations

The European Union's Single European Sky aims to reform air traffic management in Europe to reduce the environmental impact of aviation as well as to reduce costs. The UK Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are working together on the modernisation of the UK's airspace. One of the aims is to reduce aviation emissions through shorter flight paths and reduced holding times (e.g. the time a plane spends circling the airport or deviating from a direct routing before it can land).

Travel to and from the airport

Some progress has been made in reducing the emissions from people travelling to and from Scottish airports. In 2018 40% of passengers at Edinburgh airport used public transport to travel to/from the airport, while at Inverness airport 14% of people did. The transport infrastructure needed to travel to and from the main Scottish airports is being covered in Transport Scotland's Strategic Transport Projects Review 2.

Support for the development and trialling of low and zero emission aircraft

Low and zero emission aircraft have the potential to significantly reduce the emissions from aviation on short haul routes. While the development of these aircraft has been progressing quickly in recent years, they are not yet at the stage whereby airlines can use them to fly people around the UK or to European countries.

The Scottish Government has therefore committed to supporting the trialling and introduction of low or zero emission aircraft, and the information below gives an overview of some of the support that is currently on offer to meet this goal:

  • The Aerospace Technology Institute offers funding to projects that align with the UK Aerospace Technology Strategy, which includes setting an ambitious sustainability agenda. Our enterprise agencies work with businesses in Scotland to support them in their bids for funding.
  • As part of the work of the Scottish Government-led Aerospace Response Group, a Sustainable Aviation Champion was appointed to identify and coordinate activity across Scotland as well as promote the capability within the Scottish supply chain nationally and internationally. Following that group's transition to an industry-led body, this work is now being done by the Aerospace and Defence Industry Group.
  • Through the National Training Transition Fund, the Scottish Government has sought to commence the workforce transition through introductory courses in electrification, hydrogen, digital manufacturing and aircraft decommissioning, run in partnership through industry, academia and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).
  • Infrastructure will similarly form a key part of supporting the transition to net-zero and our significant investments in NMIS (which consists of the Advanced Forming Research Centre, Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, Skills Academy and Digital Factory) in addition to our outstanding academic and research institutions, provide a significant set of world class infrastructure.

Case Study - Ampaire

Ampaire is developing, and flying, hybrid-electric aircraft today that it hopes will lead the industry to an all-electric future.

In August 2021 it successfully demonstrated its hybrid-electric aircraft at the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment at Kirkwall airport.

According to Ampaire, its technology can lower fuel by 90%, maintenance by 50%, and noise by 60%.

1. What more, if anything, should the Scottish Government and industry do to accelerate the transition to low/ zero emission aviation?

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

While there is potential for zero and low emission aircraft to be used on short haul routes (e.g. within Scotland, to the rest of the UK or to the EU) within the next 20 years, technological challenges mean that it will take longer before zero emission aircraft can be used on a commercial basis on long haul routes. Incremental improvements to existing aircraft propulsion systems and aircraft design will continue to deliver efficiency improvements, however, it is through the use of sustainable aviation fuels that the biggest reductions in life cycle emissions are expected to be achieved in the medium term. The level of emissions reduction that can be achieved will depend on the type of sustainable aviation fuel used. Currently, cost is believed to be the main reason why only a very small percentage of flights globally use sustainable aviation fuel.

Research commissioned by Sustainable Aviation UK claims that sustainable aviation fuel production could create between 1,060 and 2,310 jobs in Scotland and generate between £153 and £332 million Gross Value Added per year.

Case Study- Economic Opportunities for Scotland from Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Economic Opportunities for Scotland from Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Shows a map of Scotland with St Fergus and Grangemouth highlighted. Shows how their sustainable aviation fuel production could create jobs and generate Gross Value Added .

The UK Government is considering introducing a sustainable aviation fuel mandate. Its current proposal is to create a greenhouse gas emissions scheme. Under such a scheme, sustainable aviation fuel with a carbon intensity below the carbon intensity target generates credits, while jet fuel, which has a carbon intensity above the target, will incur an obligation. At the end of the obligation period, credits can be sold or bought to meet the obligation.

The UK Government has also announced a number of measures aimed at encouraging the production of sustainable aviation fuels in the UK, and planning permission has been granted for the UK's first waste to jet fuel plant.

2. What can the Scottish Government do to help increase the use of sustainable aviation fuels?

Just Transition

The Scottish Government has committed to meeting the net-zero by 2045 target through a just transition. The Just Transition Commission identified four components to achieving this:

  • pursue an orderly and managed transition which creates benefits and opportunities for people across Scotland.
  • equip people with the skills and education they need to benefit from this transition.
  • empower and invigorate our communities and strengthen local economies.
  • share benefits widely and ensure burdens are distributed on the basis of ability to pay.

3. What do you think the Scottish Government can do to help ensure a just transition to net-zero for the Scottish aviation sector?


Previous | Contents | Next