Sharing his insights on day one of Sustainable Skies World Summit 2024, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Transport, Anthony Browne MP highlighted the government’s integral role in facilitating the “unprecedented technological transition” required by the aviation sector.

“I’m very keen on people flying, people being able to fly… but also, we’ve got to do it in a way that protects the planet, and that is a huge mission,” said Browne, adding that the government’s role is to “co-ordinate, to coerce, help fund things and create the right playing field”.

However, with aviation’s future direction likely to draw upon multiple decarbonisation strategies and emerging innovations – be it the maturation of hydrogen or electric propulsion systems, or the advancement of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – the government’s wide-reaching approach to funding a diverse range of projects is essential, “because we don’t know how fast the different technologies will develop and which ones will end up winning out,” he elaborated. Although electric innovation is unlikely to benefit long-haul flights any time soon, “we think hydrogen might be part of the solution,” added the minister, noting the significant “technological challenges around that”.

“My role as a minister is really to help galvanise the whole sector and to make sure we have the policies, laws and regulations in place,” continued Browne. “I know the industry wants to get to net zero but it’s very difficult when they’ve got their own commercial pressures, and they know their future depends on becoming sustainable.” In terms of helping catalyse change, “I don’t think this would really happen without government, both from pressure but also support and creating the right regulation and legislation,” he added.

As well as regulation, government funding is also playing a crucial role in the development and maturation of alternative propulsion technologies. With SAF playing “a huge part of the mix, at least in the medium term,” the Advanced Fuels Fund has allocated over £130 million to date to 13 different projects to develop SAF and associated technologies.

Additionally, the government has also opened a consultation on a SAF revenue certainty mechanism, “something industry are asking us to do,” said Browne. This aims to give investors in sustainable aviation fuel the certainty that they can achieve the price they want for their product, providing them with confidence to “invest not just tens of millions or hundreds of millions, but you’re talking about billions of pounds worth of investment”. Results from the consultation will be published later this year.
Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter