Rolls-Royce has set out a series of near-term actions to achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest.

The manufacturer has published a pathway to the goal, setting out how the manufacturer will focus its technological capabilities to play a leading role in enabling significant elements of the global economy to get to net zero carbon by 2050, including aviation, shipping, and power generation.

Steps include the development of new technologies, enabling an accelerated take-up of sustainable fuels and driving step-change improvements in efficiency. One year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign, the company has announced plans to make all its new products compatible with net zero by 2030, and all products in operation compatible by 2050 – many of which power some of the most carbon intensive parts of the economy.

Rolls-Royce is also introducing short-term targets – linked to executive remuneration – to accelerate take-up of sustainable fuels, which have a key role to play in the decarbonisation of some of its markets, especially long-haul aviation. The company is already well advanced with net zero and zero carbon technologies across its Power Systems portfolio and as a result has sufficiently reliable data to be able to define a science-based interim target to reduce by 35 per cent the lifetime emissions of new products sold by the business by 2030.

Meeting Paris Agreement climate goals

With no single solution to net zero, Rolls-Royce said it was innovating across multiple areas simultaneously. It added that the pace and prioritisation of technological solutions, as well as global consistency and collaboration in policy, would hold the key to success.

A statement issued on behalf of the company added that it was expanding its collaboration with partners, industry leaders and governments across the three critical systems in which we operate – transport, energy and the built environment – to accelerate progress. The sectors are all identified by the UN Race to Zero as requiring technological breakthroughs in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “At Rolls-Royce, we believe in the positive, transforming potential of technology. We pioneer power that is central to the successful functioning of the modern world. To combat the climate crisis, that power must be made compatible with net zero carbon emissions. This is a societal imperative as well as one of the greatest commercial and technological opportunities of our time. Our products and services are used in aviation, shipping and energy generation, where demand for power is increasing as the world’s population grows, becomes increasingly urbanised, more affluent and requires more electricity. These sectors are also among those where achieving net zero carbon is hardest. As a result, our innovative technology has a fundamental role to play in enabling and even accelerating, the overall global transition to a net zero carbon future. We believe that as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and looks to build back better, global economic growth can be compatible with a net zero carbon future and that Rolls-Royce can help make that happen.”

“Radical collaboration and technological breakthroughs needed”

Nigel Topping, UN High Level Champion for COP26, added: “Winning the race to a zero emission economy by 2050 at the latest requires radical collaboration and technology breakthroughs across energy, transport and the built environment – critical parts of the economy that are also among the hardest to decarbonise. By organising its industrial technology capabilities to deliver the system change society needs, Rolls-Royce is putting itself at the forefront of the defining economic opportunity of our time; one that customers want to buy, investors want to back, and the brightest talent want to apply their skills to.”

The steps include pioneering innovations that can enable the transition, focusing that effort on the creation of sustainable power across engines, sustainable aviation fuels and small modular reactors. Rolls-Royce is also investing in battery storage technology, demonstrating fuel cells and building a leading position in all-electric and hybrid-electric flight.

R&D investment into lower and net zero carbon solutions

In line with the commitments made under the UN Race to Zero campaign, Rolls-Royce has pledged to align its business model to the Paris Climate Agreement goals, setting out the pathway that will take us to net zero. Rolls-Royce is already boosting research and development (R&D) expenditure towards lower and net zero carbon technologies, moving from approximately 50 per cent of gross R&D spend today to at least 75 per cent by 2025.

Decarbonisation strategy with three interconnected pillars:

Rolls-Royce is committing to decarbonising its operations, eliminating emissions from its own operations (scope 1 & 2) by 2030*. Some facilities will achieve this target sooner, including the company’s production site at Bristol, UK, which is set to become the first Rolls-Royce facility to achieve net zero carbon status in 2022.

Technological innovations

Within all-electric aviation, the company is moving from demonstrators to commercial deals, such as with the UK’s Vertical Aerospace in the urban air mobility market, and with Italian airframer Tecnam and Norwegian airline Wideroe in the all-electric commuter aircraft.

The company will continue to progress with our UltraFan aero engine, which will be 25 per cent more efficient than the first generation Trent engine. It will also be exploring economic improvements to sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) including within defence applications such as the Tempest programme in the UK.

Read more within Rolls-Royce’s Executive Summary

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