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Net Zero for the Royal Air Force: The road to 2040

Dr Sophy Antrobus

Research Associate

27 October 2021

With just days to go until COP26 kicks off, the Freeman Air and Space Institute has been designing and facilitating events to drill into the RAF’s ambitious NetZero 2040 target. Two weeks’ ago, the Institute held a dedicated Roundtable event on the subject with Chief of Staff Capability for the RAF, Air Vice-Marshal Linc Taylor, in the chair.

Convened around that table, alongside those leading on the delivery of the RAF’s NetZero 2040 project, was an impressive group of experts from industry and commercial aviation backgrounds. In an informal setting, brainpower from civil airports, the Royal Aeronautical Society, defence industry and fellow research institutes debated the challenges of getting a military air force to NetZero carbon emissions in less than two decades.

Discussions ranged from sustainable aviation fuel in the military context, to the consequences of trading CO2, to the wider global security implications of tackling – or not tackling – climate change collaboratively, to the engagement of the public with the RAF’s journey including the next generation of climate change experts, engineers and potential RAF recruits.

And in July, Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Mike Wigston, outlined his vision and thinking behind the Net Zero 2040 target at the Global Air Chiefs’ Conference. He recognised that the best approach to achieving an environmentally sustainable future for the RAF would need to be collaborative.

He said:

“I am conscious this is not something the Royal Air Force can achieve in isolation and my sense is that we could take this journey together as air and space forces around the globe, drawing on the power of our collective resources to address this pressing challenge.

“I have written to my fellow air and space chiefs inviting them to come together and explore the opportunities to collaborate on a global basis, sharing ideas and perhaps agreeing a shared intent.”

Just last week, in a hybrid meeting at the Department of War Studies, hosted by the Freeman Air and Space Institute, over 40 air forces from around the globe came together to discuss making Sir Mike’s vision a reality. Led by Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Deputy Commander Capability for the RAF, these nations discussed cohering their various initiatives including on fuels, training, infrastructure and resilience; an ‘awesome night’ as he described it.

'Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Deputy Commander Capability for the RAF, addressing 40 nations at a hybrid meeting hosted by FASI as part of the Global Air Forces Climate Change Collaboration'


The focus of the meeting was the introduction of a virtual collaborative workspace, a platform for aiding transparency in each nation’s efforts, with the RAF contributing information on much of the work it has conducted so far. It is hoped that other nations will follow suit to share their knowledge and practices for the mutual benefit of all.

To hear more about the RAF’s journey to NetZero, come and join the Freeman Air and Space Institute on 23 November at King’s College London, as we welcome Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Mike Wigston to share his vision for NetZero 2040 in an event open to all (including online). You can register here.

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Sophy  Antrobus

Sophy Antrobus

Research Fellow at the Freeman Air and Space Institute

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