Where do UK political parties stand on SAF?


Tis the election season. With just one week to go before the UK voters choose who they want as their leadership, we take a closer look at manifestos of the major UK parties and understand their priorities to reduce UK aviation sector emissions.


The Conservatives have been ruling since 2010. So almost everything that has been done so far to promote sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the UK can be traced back to the leaders of its party. The introduction of a SAF mandate, price certainty mechanisms and funding from Department of Transport  are some of the policy steps that Conservatives have taken to ensure SAF becomes a pillar in aviation sector’s decarbonisation goals.

Their manifesto envisages a continuation of ongoing policies to support the development of SAF by promoting the existing policies in place.

“We will support the growth and decarbonisation of our aviation sector. We will back British SAF through our SAF mandate, an industry-backed revenue support mechanism and investment in future aviation technology,” says Conservatives party manifesto. “We will support domestic flights including through Public Service Obligations, protecting vital routes within the UK, including to islands and remote areas. “


Although Conservatives took the concrete steps, turning policy into actions, Labour Party during Tony Blair’s rule did set the foundation for SAF.

The 2003 Aviation White Paper, “The Future of Air Transport,” laid out a strategic framework for the development of air transport in the UK over the next 30 years stressing the need to balance the need for growth in the aviation sector with environmental concerns. During Labour’s rule, an effort was made to support research and development in more environmentally friendly aviation technologies including investments in more efficient aircraft engines, alternative fuels or SAFs, and other innovations aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of air travel.

“Labour will secure the UK aviation industry’s long-term future, including through promoting SAFs, and encouraging airspace modernisation,” says the party’s manifesto without going into any further detail.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have laid out a roadmap to “reduce climate impact of flying.” The party’s manifesto is relatively aggressive in its plans to reduce aviation sector’s carbon footprint.  

“Banning short domestic flights where a direct rail option taking less than 2.5 hours is available for the same journey, unless planes are alternative-fuelled,” says the party in its pitch to voters. In addition, the party wants to make flying private jets more expensive by imposing a super tax while simultaneously removing the VAT exemptions for private, first-class and executive-class flights.

Other measures include better transparency from airlines to show carbon emissions for domestic flights compared to the equivalent rail option at booking.

Green Party

The Green Party’s manifesto also excludes any mention of SAF. Instead the party said it will focus on pushing for, frequent-flyer levy, ban on domestic flights for journeys that would take less than three hours by train and completely halting the expansion of new airport capacity.

“Aviation is the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions, and it’s the wealthiest driving this trend,” reads the party manifesto.

Reform UK

A relatively newer addition in the list of contestants, Reform UK wants to scrap net zero and renewable energy subsidies but wants to fast-track and incentivise production of clean synthetic fuel.