The Jet Zero Strategy: the sky’s the limit or just pie in the sky?

By Pearce Branigan, Senior Account Manager.

The publication of the Government’s Jet Zero strategy marked a watershed moment for the aviation industry. The document is one of the most far-reaching and significant aviation policies published to date, adding flesh to the bones of how the industry will meet net zero by 2050.

Having supported clients to be among the 1,500 that submitted responses to the Jet Zero consultation, it was heartening to see that the UK Government had taken a bold, albeit challenging, approach. The target seeks to halve the carbon emissions produced between 2019 and 2050, with domestic flights (which comprise 4 per cent of total UK aviation emissions) being given until 2040 to achieve this. This trajectory to 2050 is based on the “high ambition” scenario, setting industry targets of:

  • 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030 – which is equivalent to the annual energy usage of five million UK homes.
  • 7 reduction year on year from 2030 to 2040, reaching 28.4 million tonnes or reduction of 7 million tonnes on 2030 limit by 2040.
  • 91 reduction year on year from 2040 to 2050, reaching 19.3 million tonnes or a 9.1 million tonnes reduction on 2040 limit by 2050.

The Government intends to implement this through an emission reduction trajectory for the industry, annually monitoring progress and undertaking bi-decadal reviews. The ambition should be welcomed, but serious consideration should be given to whether the targets themselves are achievable and what they depend on.

The five-year delivery plans will be assessed through six methods: system efficiencies; Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs); zero emission flights; markets and removals; influencing consumers; and addressing non-carbon emissions.

Winging it?

The Government has made great claim of its proactive approach. This has included investing £180 million in research and development for SAFs, committing to having five plants under construction by 2025, along with the introduction of zero carbon aircraft.

However, these actions only account for 21 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050. Fuel efficiency improvements for airport operations, including the maintenance and refueling of planes along with the ancillary tasks associated with aviation account for a further 15 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050.



The mainstay of the strategy is dependent on existing emissions caps in the form of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the United Nations Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA), which are expected to deliver over 27 per cent of carbon reductions by 2050. The ambition is that the same (or greater) numbers of flights will occur, but improvements in technology and fuel efficiency will enable the industry not only to avoid breaching the threshold for emissions, but actually lowering them.

Although the technology is there to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, by the strategy’s own admission it is ‘dependent on technological development proceeding at the same rate’ to achieve this. There is no certainty that the required technological innovation will continue at the same rate and if it doesn’t, the UK will have to rely on other areas to cover the shortfall in emission reductions.

As for the remaining 37 per cent, this will come from abatement outside the aviation industry, with no suggestion as to who, what or how this will be achieved.

Where the buck stops

The timing of Jet Zero’s publication occurs at a significant juncture in public opinion. The looming cost of living crisis, with fuel costs rising, has dampened appetite for environmentally inclined public spending and taxes. For some, the cost associated with achieving net zero is proving unappealing.

This brewing frustration has influenced a shift in the rhetoric of the governing party over the previous 10 months. The excitement following the UK’s hosting of COP26 in October 2021 towards achieving net zero remains, but there is now a growing difference of opinion about how to get there. For example, the Foreign Secretary and Prime Ministerial candidate Liz Truss’ proposal to temporarily cut green energy levies, which is at odds with the accepted dogma of 10 months ago to increase or even impose more.

With the medical requirements to travel abroad all but rescinded, the UK population has been returning to enjoy international travel. Households already feeling the pinch of the energy crisis may become less inclined to support the drive to net zero when their annual holiday plans are impacted. Low-income families who anticipate the two-week holiday abroad as a necessity for their own mental and physical wellbeing during the working year may be at the core of future net zero scepticism, when the levies which will drive forward net zero make their yearly holidays unaffordable. This raises the question: has the drive to decarbonise aviation focussed on winning over the aviation industry, while failing to bring the public along as well?

An innovation nation

With public expenditure likely to be reduced after the significant burden of managing the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government must consider alternative measures to financial investment to achieve Jet Zero. Whether easing the pathway to visas for specialists working in this area of research, or by agreeing trade deals with nations who have the materials needed to build these technologies, innovation will be key to unlocking the carbon reductions needed to meet net zero in aviation and the UK by 2050.

For the people, without the people?

The Government should ensure that they engage with the public across all net zero policies, so that their input is both credibly sought and applied. The inherent risk with the Government’s current approach of engaging separate industries and not the wider public, is that implementing a policy for the benefit of the UK population, without consulting the population, may cause their concerns to go unheeded. If no action is taken to register or address any outstanding concerns, then it may prove that sections of the population become indifferent, or even opponents of the very drive towards net zero.


The £2.35 billion Towns Fund is at the heart of the government’s Levelling Up strategy, enabling economic growth and regeneration. And LEPs are involved in many of the 790 projects now planned across the country.

In 2020, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities appointed the Towns Fund Delivery Partner (TFDP) to provide expert advice and support to the 101 towns involved in the fund, to secure and deliver their Town Deals. Now that the TFDP contract has ended, we reflect on the legacy it left for LEPs.

The TFDP represented a new way of working for government that would help shape future funding programmes. This way of working encourages collaboration with organisations, such as LEPs, to gain a richer understanding of local economic growth opportunities.

The TFDP engaged with 101 Town Deal Boards (TDBs) in total. Many TDBs are formed from a diverse group of local entrepreneurs and businesspeople, and many involve LEPs from their respective towns, demonstrating how the fund is committed to encouraging leadership from within communities themselves.

A major part of the TFDP, Copper Consultancy offered tailored community engagement support to towns. Working one-on-one with councils and TDB members, the company helped tackle a range of stakeholder engagement challenges, such as how to engage with local businesses and the private sector – two areas where the LEP Network was a key participant.

Through its work, more than 2,000 meetings with towns were held, 150 resources created, 129 blogs written, 400 service requests fulfilled and 792 projects started. Copper also helped shape Town Investment Plans (TIPs) and Business Cases to help towns build community involvement and offered advice on branding and how to carry it out, which can be viewed here.

  • Through its work, the progamme gave towns: Collective knowledge and capabilities through peer-to-peer place-based learning
  • New personal skills and training accreditation
  • A platform to collaborate and solve common challenges

For local people, businesses and communities, the TFDP Supported the creation of an environment where people and LEPs can shape the future of their towns and build confidence in new capabilities. While there is a lot still to do and hundreds of projects to realise, the groundwork for a lasting legacy has been laid.

To find out more about how Copper Consultancy can support your LEP with communications and engagement, please contact

Tom Morrison and Annabel John joined the Place North West Podcast to discuss all things consultations.

The conversation went through the do’s, the don’ts, tips on best practice, and how our work with HyNet provided huge consultation returns.

But perhaps most importantly, they both explained why focusing on engagement rather than the consultation process is far more important for people looking to develop proposals.

What is consultation?

As Annabel explains in the pod, consultation is a process that involves getting feedback from the public on a proposal. This feedback is then used to shape the design process. Put simply, it allows people to ‘have their say’ on what a proposal should look like.

Often consultations are statutory, or at least mandatory, and therefore required to happen before any proposals can be delivered.

But consultations are only successful if people engage with them. Without feedback from the people you want opinions from, proposals cannot be shaped effectively which can lead to problems further down the road.

Engage, Engage, Engage

The key to this, is engagement.

Any consultation, be it for a development, a policy, or a change of work practice, needs to generate enough truly meaningful feedback in order it to be effective. Therefore, engaging audiences is vital.

As Tom points out, “without engaging people, there is no point in consulting.”

But how do you drive engagement? Firstly, Annabel suggests looking outside of your scope and identifying audiences that might take an interest in your plans but who may not directly be impacted.

Often there will be interest groups, or organisations with compatible aims that can be used to generate helpful feedback and insight, which can improve proposals. Utilising these stakeholder groups can be invaluable in achieving community buy-in and delivering long lasting plans.

Elsewhere, Tom advocates the use of video and social media. Video and animation in particular can take complex topics and break them down into an easy-to-understand way, allowing people to build a better understanding of your ambitions, and therefore more likely to provide meaningful and useful feedback.

Ultimately, making sure you’re speaking to people in a way that generates a genuine two-way dialogue and encourages thoughts and opinion to be shared is vital to success. Without engagement, consultations simply won’t work and a huge opportunity to build community and stakeholder support will be missed.

Why not listen and let us know your thoughts?

In the true spirit of consultation, why not have a listen to the podcast and let us know what you think?

As Tom and Annabel explain, Copper works with clients from across the public and private sectors and have helped organisations on a variety of engagement and consultation strategies.

If there’s any particular issue you’d like to explore or get more information on, get in touch with Tom on

Transport Committee inquiry findings

Today, the Transport Committee has released its mixed inquiry findings into the Integrated Rail Plan, the £96Bn flagship government levelling up policy which set out how Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 would be integrated to deliver a network of high speed lines across the Midlands and the North.

While the committee report does welcome the scale of the Government’s promised spending on improving rail in the North and the Midlands, it is also starkly headlined with a critical assessment of how some of the options and the benefits of these were assessed. The report states that,

“A thorough reassessment of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan is essential to ensure this once-in-a-generation investment in rail is not a missed opportunity to address regional imbalances”.


What is the Integrated Rail Plan?

On the back of the Oakervee review and following a final submission from the National Infrastructure Commission, a new Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and the North was announced in November 2021. It outlines how to develop and deliver HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands Rail Hub, and major Network Rail Projects.

It was presented to Parliament by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who pledged the investment would deliver faster and better journeys to more people across the North and the Midlands.

The views of the Transport for the North (TfN) Board, as one voice for the North, fed into the Integrated Rail Plan. The evidence reflected the ambition and vision of the North for the national rail network.

This work showed the vast capacity and journey time benefits that could be realised, alongside other investment in Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan, which is in the process of being refreshed.

The Sub-National Transport Body Midlands Connect also provided evidence from the Midlands region.


What’s next?

With such a strong cross-party call for a review by many in regional political circles and by the committee, the new Prime Minister and their departments will undoubtedly have some tough decisions to make at a time where the North is questioning some of the levelling up policies that have been rolled out.

Just yesterday, a widely circulated report by IPPR North suggested that the gap in public spending between London and the North has doubled.

This coincided with a coordinated newspaper campaign in the region warning the Conservative leadership candidates against turning their back on the North.  Eyes are also firmly on what comes next for the promised £100m study to bring HS2 trains to Leeds, with the West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin describing it as being “left in limbo”.

However, while some wider regional connectivity has been scaled back, there have also been very welcome commitments to the TransPennine Route Upgrade, with spending trebled to £9bn to deliver more comprehensive East – West electrification between Manchester and York.

Despite the large investments needed to replace our Victorian infrastructure, it is clear that there is still huge support for rail spending in turbulent times.

With both Conservative leadership candidates pledging commitments to spur on new economic growth and with the ongoing need to tackle climate change, the North’s and Midlands’ rail plans could be a good place to start.

If you want to talk to us about how we can help with your infrastructure communications, then please get in contact with James Jordan.



We discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by those of us passionate about sustainable modes of travel and examined how to optimise the benefits and public appeal of these investments.

If you were unable to attend the webinar or wish to watch it back, you can do so here. We’ve summarised our main takeaways for you below:


Active travel as quality time

This reoccurring and important theme was at the heart of our discussions. The importance of communicating these benefits is key in aiding the cultural shift to prioritise active travel. Whether it be quality time with family, connecting with your surroundings or the rush of serotonin from a good cycle, the multi-holistic benefits of active travel must be celebrated and promoted. Just one example of how engaging communication can aid that change in behaviour.


The ‘critical mass’

The fear and un-easiness when cycling or walking, especially in busy town centres, must be recognised as a deterrent when choosing active travel. Whether it be through the implementation of car-free cities like in Ljubljana or ‘Mini-Holland’ style cyclist-led infrastructure we need to create choice. Creating a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists was suggested as a means of improving safety, and in turn reducing pollution and encouraging a cultural shift in transportation methods.


The battle for road space

The challenge posed by our archaic road network resonated with speakers due to simply not being fit to support a multi-modal shift. As vehicles continue to get bigger and the ‘car is king’ ideology remains, it is important we work collaboratively to ensure our limited road space begins to bring balance and work equally as well for both road users and active travel modes. This includes ensuring that we address the current lack of interlinking active travel schemes and do away with the advent of the ‘cycle lane to nowhere’.


The visibility of active travel funding

The disparity in funding for active travel infrastructure is something which cannot be ignored. There is currently a £2bn commitment to active travel, which is part of the wider £5bn funding strategy for cycling and buses. In comparison, we’re in the middle of the government’s second Road Investment Strategy funding period (2020-25) which has committed £27bn to improve road infrastructure around the country.


What’s next?

Overall, the difficulty in progressing towards a more active, sustainable and future-proof transport system is multi-faceted. We’ll be keeping the conversation alive by hosting additional events in our Sustainable Travel series, and we’re keen to discuss how to implement strategic communications with you to benefit your sustainable travel projects.

Want to know more? Please contact me, Tom Bennett, Associate Director – Transport:



For now it remains difficult to predict specific policy changes for solar. What will likely be needed is a change in political style, and an increased willingness to have difficult conversations about the necessary trade-offs to match climate rhetoric with action.

As the current front runner and one of the first to trigger the swathe of resignations from Boris Johnson’s government last week, the closing words of Rishi Sunak’s letter to the Prime Minister will surely be ringing in the collective ears of the Conservative Party over the months to come. ‘I firmly believe the public are ready to hear the truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true’.

This it seems will become the lasting epitaph of the outgoing Johnson administration. He never was a prime minister well suited to delivering hard truths. As in most other areas, his government’s record on solar development was indicative of this.

For three years Johnson’s style of government has run on big announcements and ambitious-sounding headlines. As a populist in the truest sense of the word, he’s been able to capture people’s imaginations in order to win. What has more often been lacking though is a willingness to have the difficult but honest conversations with the public and Conservative Party base about the trade-offs required to deliver real change that meets rhetoric, particularly when it comes to the climate crisis.

Under Johnson the Government to its credit has set an ambitious target for an additional 56GW of solar capacity by 2035. This has led to a conversation in the country and within the Conservative Party that is largely focused on rooftop vs large scale solar, and the associated impacts real and perceived of nationally significant solar projects on communities and the local environment.

It is undeniable that the UK will need a mixture of types of solar development to achieve its net zero aims. In the long run however, nationally significant solar projects will be essential if the UK is to successfully phase out coal, oil, gas and over-reliance on energy imports at the scale and pace required to hit net zero.

Copper undertakes regular public attitudes and political research to understand sentiment towards both infrastructure projects and the consultation process. Our Attitudes to Solar Energy report in collaboration with Solar Energy UK earlier this year highlighted that nationally only 25% of people oppose solar schemes in their area, as opposed to 56% who overtly support them. This perhaps explains the populist appeal of solar ambitions in the country at large.

To date only two nationally significant solar projects have been consented. Neither have yet been fully constructed. With a growing wave of even larger-scale solar projects coming through the development pipeline in UK, what there has been however is an equally large groundswell of opposition to these among the grassroots of the Conservative Party and their backbench MPs.

Following the Conservative Party leadership contest, a general election this calendar year now seems unlikely. The new leader will inherit Johnson’s 80 seat Conservative majority and a mandate to continue to deliver on the party’s 2019 manifesto, with few expecting major changes to topline energy policy of achieving net zero by 2050 and the targets set out in the British Energy Security Strategy earlier this year.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is still due to respond to its November 2021 consultation on the first, long awaited changes to the energy national policy statements since 2011. Further consultation is also due on strengthening planning rules in favour of solar development on non-protected land.

With the long parliamentary summer recess and the outcome of the leadership contest still ahead of us, it is difficult to predict specific policy changes for the time being. What is likely however is that whoever the next Prime Minister is, Johnson’s departure will surely mark a change in the tone and style of government more than anything. What is needed now is a move beyond the headline-grabbing national targets of the Johnson era. In its place what developers now need is more detail-oriented leadership and a legal and policy framework that can give them the confidence and support they need from government to be able to meet the lofty ambitions which have been set. This could include:

  • Providing a route map for more collaboration between government and business, as well as community and environmental groups
  • Prioritising support for flagship nationally significant solar developments through the planning process
  • Greater local spatial planning of small and medium scale solar sites, including to support community-led solar generation
  • Guidance to better unlock the wider community benefits of solar, in addition to biodiversity net gain
  • Putting solar at the heart of the UK’s long-term land management strategy to support the commercial viability of the British farming industry

Ultimately however, the most important thing the next Government will have to do is to start living up to its role as the country’s Explainer in Chief when it comes to the climate crisis, and level with those communities, particularly those in the Conservatives’ own heartlands, about the scale and pace of solar developments required to help decarbonise our electricity supply and ween our reliance on foreign imports.

Regardless of whether it is Rishi Sunak or another contender that the Conservatives choose to walk through the doors of Number 10 this Autumn, the party will inevitably remember one thing from last week’s political tumult. The public are ready to hear the truth.

Copper Consultancy is a communications, engagement and consultation specialist for infrastructure and development, taking projects from initiation through to operation.

Opinion piece written by Zak Ivany. Zak is an Account Director working in Copper’s Energy Practice.
For enquiries please contact:

The public attitudes report cited ‘2022 A Bright Future for Solar: Realising the UK’s Potential, A Study into Public Attitudes to Solar’ was jointly delivered by Copper in partnership with Solar Energy UK.

Click here to download the full report.

Amongst the media-led noise surrounding Government resignations over the last week, the future of key Whitehall policies has quietly been questioned.

And the future of Levelling Up is now less clear.

The first hint at potential change came via outgoing Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In his resignation letter he wrote, “We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions.”

With the economic hits of Brexit and the pandemic, it’s clear that big decisions must be made on expenditure in the near future.

But what does this have to do with Levelling Up?

Making positive change

For the last three years, Levelling Up has been the cornerstone of Boris Johnson’s Government. Promising to drive investment across the country, Johnson said Levelling Up would be a “win-win” for the country and not a matter of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as the Northern Powerhouse agenda was often accused of.

Whilst the policy of Levelling Up had its critics, there have been notable successes.

The Towns Fund has secured millions in investment for 101 towns across England, whilst the much anticipated National Bus Strategy has had local authorities, combined authorities and pressure groups engaged with developing more accessible and user-friendly services.

However, does a change in Government leadership threaten progress?

“Nothing is off the table”

The new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi MP, has already been characterised as someone that will prioritise tax cuts. Of course, this will have huge ramifications for the economy, which has one of the biggest deficits since 1947. For example, Zahawi has already stated that “nothing is off the table” when considering how to balance the next scheduled budget.

Logically, in order to afford any tax cuts, there would have to be budget cuts to accommodate them.

A key pledge from the Conservative manifesto was to fund an extra 20,000 Police Officers nationwide, whilst we are still feeling the impacts of COVID-19, so it would be safe to assume that the NHS and Policing would be safe from any cuts.

Perhaps Levelling Up will then have to feel the pinch?


The popular vote

The Conservative strategy at the next General Election could focus on its ‘Red Wall’ seats in the North and Midlands. These areas have been the prime beneficiaries of Levelling Up funding over recent years. Areas such as Ashfield, Hartlepool and Durham have all been supported through various “Levelling Up” funds.

Cuts to these areas would be foolhardy to a Party determined to extend its 12 years in power.

It’s clear that Levelling Up is a vote winner. According to a poll from YouGov, 60% of people believe Levelling Up funds should focus on the poorest areas in the Country. Whilst people in the North and Midlands are far more optimistic about Government spending in the region than their southern counterparts.

With this in mind, Levelling Up could survive, albeit in a different format. Funding for regeneration schemes could shrink and with it demands for “doing more for less” could be made by Central Government.

This will mean local authorities that are more creative and utilise public and private sector partnerships more effectively rather than solely relying on Government grants will be better placed to succeed.

A future in the balance

While all the uncertainty reigns, one thing is clear: the next few weeks – or even days – will be huge for the Levelling Up agenda. Particularly as Boris Johnson, it’s architect, is no longer at the helm.

While significant progress has been made in areas where other policy attempts have failed (who remembers Regional Development Agencies?!), huge amounts of work remains to be done.

And with a new Chancellor, a new Prime Minister on the horizon and the potential of a General Election around the corner, the future of Levelling Up is clearly going to be a topic of discussion.

10 new hires a day. Every day. For the next two and a half years.

That is what’s needed to fill current projections for environment and sustainability roles in the UK, according to the latest data from Environment Analyst*.

A tall order, which is compounded by today’s job market and when you consider the skills required to enter the sector – 92% are graduates with 61% holding a Masters degree or higher.

So what barriers are there to attract people to the sector? And is the answer finding new talent or can anything be done to help the existing workforce?

Attracting new talent

Diversity remains a major challenge in the environmental sector with 77% of employees being White British – a marked improvement on the 97% from March 2017 but more is certainly needed to be done.

The importance of diversity cannot be overstated. Diverse thinking is a key driver to innovation which will help solve some of the world’s most complex issues – climate change chief among them.

A whole host of efforts are underway to attract new and diverse talent to the sector with a clear focus on engaging schools to highlight the impact an environmental professional can have on the future of society and the planet. Inspiring the next generation is a central strategy for growth – but it’s a long-term effort.

Retaining talent

Exploring staff retention, the figures are encouraging with the vast majority likely to remain within the sector for years to come. But considering those who may not, they flag “no use of degree or masters” as a key reason for considering leaving their role.

Does this beg the question that hiring people with this level of qualification is based on an old system? A system designed at a time when university fees were a fraction of today’s costs?

While the industry demands skills based expertise, not every part of a role requires this level of skill. Certain tasks could be opened up to others. Could this widen the net to a new generation of talented and passionate people who are unable to afford the cost of university but keen to enter the sector?

Specialising to succeed

The role of an environmental professional has expanded considerably. Tasks stretch far beyond what was originally built into a Masters syllabus and includes communications, consultations and stakeholder engagement.

Is there a need to focus the current workforce? To hone in on the specialism they were trained to do and not be distracted by expanding work?

Enabling people to focus on the core of their role – making use of the skills they’ve developed over years of study and training – will not only support retention but increase efficiency as it’s in their comfort zone.

This also opens the door for the industry to draft a broader range of people with a mix of skills and specialisms.

Communications professionals, for example, can bring a new wave of thinking to the sector – particularly for stakeholder engagement, an area that is vital in today’s age of empowered communities where development must be co-created with the community, not just for them.

Whether hired internally or outsourced, working with specialists is one way to expand the existing workforce, diversify the industry, and bridge the gap between academics and communities.

With this in mind, perhaps the true question to ask is: do we need as many as 7,200 new hires if existing environmental consultants are able to do environmental consultancy?


*Stats taken from Environment Analyst’s Sustainability Delivery Group Early Careers Advisory Board study of 366 early career professionals