East Midlands Airport owner supports Government’s Jet Zero Strategy with new pledges for a more sustainable aviation sector


Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns and operates East Midlands Airport, has welcomed the launch of the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy and announced a series of new pledges to support the aviation industry to deliver its goal to reach Net Zero by 2050.

Security hall in morning sunshine

The strategy, launched today at the Farnborough Air Show, sets out the Government’s approach to maintaining the wide-ranging benefits that aviation brings to the UK while reducing carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2050. It includes an interim target of Net Zero domestic flights by 2040, a new Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) mandate to ensure at least 10% of jet fuel is SAF by 2030 and a commitment to ensuring at least five SAF plants are under construction by 2025.

The five new Jet Zero pledges set out by MAG cover a range of issues which will help drive the industry forward towards net zero aviation:

1.     Jet Zero Education: MAG will develop new Jet Zero educational materials for use at its Aerozones and Airport Academies, including at EMA, to improve understanding of how aviation plans to reach net zero. The Group will supply these materials to other Jet Zero Council members and to schools in the areas around its three airports.

2.     Jet Zero Research: MAG will fund three PhD projects on air travel decarbonisation to support the work of the Jet Zero Council

3.     Jet Zero Technology: MAG will launch a new competition offering five years of free landing fees to the first zero-emission aircraft operating transatlantic flights from its airports.

4.     Jet Zero SAF: MAG will create a financial incentive as part of its charging arrangements to encourage airlines to go further than the UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) mandate on flights from its airports.

5.     Jet Zero Airspace: MAG is committed to delivering airspace modernisation at its airports at the earliest opportunity as a key lever of decarbonisation.

The Group will work closely with Government and aviation industry partners to support the Jet Zero Charter and deliver on its pledges, which make positive contributions to the delivery of UK aviation’s commitment to reaching Jet Zero by 2050.

MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said: “Decarbonisation is one the most important issues facing our society and at MAG we are committed to playing a full role in the aviation industry achieving Net Zero.

“The publication of the Jet Zero Strategy is an important recognition by Government of the commitments made by our industry for a more sustainable future.

“With the pledges we have announced today, we will be working even more closely with our industry partners and the UK Government through the Jet Zero Council, to make real and measurable progress against the targets we have in place. 

“MAG has always taken a proactive and ambitious approach to decarbonisation for over a decade, and I am proud of the work we have delivered over that time. Our landmark partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy UK on SAF and the important progress we are making with airspace modernisation at our airports shows that we are committed to playing our part in achieving net zero by 2050.”

MAG, which owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, has long been an industry-leader in aviation decarbonisation and sustainability and is currently working hard to make its operations net zero carbon by 2038.

The Group was a founding member of Sustainable Aviation in 2005 and was one of two airport operators to be founder members of the Government’s Jet Zero Council in 2020.

Given East Midlands Airport’s size and unique dual role as both a regional passenger airport and major air freight hub, the airport has been a test-bed for new technology and innovative ways of working. During MAG’s ownership, the airport has achieved many ‘firsts’ for the group which have then been rolled out wider into group.

An example of this is the work done at EMA to place environmental sustainability at the forefront of its operations. Back in 2002 EMA established an industry leading Environmental Management System (EMS) and was the first UK airport to receive the internationally renowned ISO 14001 accreditation for managing its local environmental impact.

In 2012 EMA was the UK’s first airport to have its ground operations certified as Carbon Neutral. This was achieved by:

  • buying renewable energy
  • using electric vehicles on the airfield
  • offsetting
  • installing commercial-grade wind turbines to generate clean, green energy

The airport has recently re-purposed its Community Fund to support a schools’ eco-garden competition. More than £120,000 has been awarded to 26 local schools for them to design and create gardens that make existing space environmentally richer and more diverse, improve biodiversity, stimulate outdoor learning, and have wellbeing benefits.

Furthermore, EMA has also launched a green energy fund to help to support community, charity and voluntary sector organisations to make the transition to more sustainable energy use.

Late last year, DHL Express, the largest of the logistics operators based at EMA announced that it will reduce 70,000 tons of CO2 by investing EUR 60m in sustainable aviation fuels for the aircraft it operates out of EMA. Not only is this an important step to achieving the decarbonisation of aviation but it demonstrates how committed the industry is to playing its part in tackling climate change.

In October last year, MAG announced its partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy UK, which supports the production of SAF in the North West and has the potential to make Manchester Airport the first in the UK to have a direct SAF pipeline from 2026. 

Earlier this year, London Stansted Airport became the first major airport to pass Stage 2 ‘Develop and Assess’ of the Civil Aviation Authority’s CAP1616 airspace change process.

In 2022, MAG became the first airport operator to be named a Financial Times European Climate Leader two years in a row and was the only airport operator to feature on the list. In 2021, MAG was named the highest performing transport organisation, ranking 37th out of 300.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said:

“The UK is setting an example of the ambition needed to tackle climate change, and the Jet Zero Strategy provides a clear path to building a greener aviation sector for generations to come.

“Crucially, reaching net zero will require the whole industry to pull together. I welcome the commitments MAG has made, and look forward to supporting it and the rest of the UK’s aviation sector to be at the forefront of this green revolution.”