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Aviation needs ‘huge amounts’ of government money to hit net zero targets, says Jet2 boss

Investment from government and ringfencing taxes is the only way the aviation sector will be able to reach net zero by 2050, says the boss of Jet2holidays.

Speaking at Travel Weekly’s Sustainability Summit today, chief executive Steve Heapy called out the governments at the recent Cop26 Climate Change summit in Glasgow for “hypocrisy” when discussing travel and tourism’s role in emissions.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s second largest tour operator, set out its sustainability roadmap in September – which is to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – but Heapy told the conference he believes the company, which has a fleet of 92 aircraft, hopes to achieve the target “much sooner that that”.

But he said doing so was only possible with government support for the aviation sector, including investment in green aviation and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

“From next year we will be offsetting all the carbon we produce that isn’t covered under the existing government schemes,” he said, pointing out this would cost Jet2 “many millions” to do this under a “gold standard”.

Heapy said the company was cautious of appearing to be greenwashing, noting “we could say we are net zero” by the time the offsetting was in place but said he wanted to go further before making such claims.

He said: “Aviation seems to be the bad guy, the industry that gets all the focus – because planes are big things you see in the sky – but there are other industries that produce more [CO2 emissions].

“We will come up with plans [to reduce emissions] but it does rely on investment from governments.”

Heapy pointed to this year’s energy crisis when claiming the government has not done enough to boost infrastructure for sustainable energy, saying “we nearly ran out of electricity this summer because the wind stopped blowing”. He believes “tens and tens” of nuclear power stations would be needed to for the UK to move to sustainable energy but predicted this would take decades.

“The government needs to invest loads of money,” he said. “We are all up for paying a fair share of tax – but this money has to be ringfenced [to invest back into green transport].

“No one company is going to be able to make the technology leap on their own.”

Heapy estimated the price of carbon credits, used by airlines to offset emissions, has grown from about £6 to £50. He did not complain about the price, but said this reiterated this money should be ringfenced and “pumped back” into building greener aviation technologies.

He criticised the government’s approach on sugar, saying a “consumption tax” would only serve to “put people in this room out of jobs” and make flying “purely for the rich and privileged”.

“That’s sort of acceptable if that money was ringfenced, but at the moment it goes straight into [government] coffers to be spent on whatever.

“We need politicians to get out of their 50-car convoys and stop promising things they’ll never deliver. They need to put their money where their mouths are and invest huge amounts.”

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