Aviation & shipping


The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C. However, as emissions from international aviation and shipping are hard to apportion to specific nations, these sectors were explicitly excluded from the Paris Agreement goals. As a result, international aviation and shipping are often grouped together, as if facing comparable challenges. However, Tyndall Centre research shows important distinctions between the two sectors, namely the multitude of solutions available to decarbonise shipping compared to the relatively few opportunities to decarbonise aviation.

You can hear more about Tyndall Centre research on aviation and shipping on the Tyndall Talks podcast series interview with Professor Alice Larkin.


Aviation research at the Tyndall Centre

There are relatively few opportunities to reduce emissions in the aviation sector because aircraft are already highly efficient. As a result, the aviation sector relies heavily on emissions trading to deliver cuts in emissions, rather than delivering its own plan. Previous Tyndall Centre research on aviation has looked into understanding the impact of the sector and the solutions available to combat increasing emissions. The research has outlined the importance of demand reduction options to address the sector’s climate change impact, where reducing the demand for aviation by reducing the number of flights or distance travelled could make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions. The research has also examined the role of aviation within the UK higher education sector.

Current Tyndall Centre research is working directly with Manchester Airport to facilitate decarbonisation. Manchester Airport is the third largest airport in the UK and, like all large organisations, generates waste through its daily operations. The project aims to identify best-use of onsite waste to provide bioenergy for the airport and its tenants through the application of bioenergy technologies, using Techno-Economic and Life Cycle Assessments. Possible end uses include biopower for the airport buildings, biofuel for the ground fleets or biojet fuel for aircraft. Other Tyndall Centre research on aviation investigates decarbonisation through environmental assessments on newly evolving alternative aviation technologies and practices.


Lois Pennington: bioenergy, life cycle assessment, energy from waste.

Amy Cutajar: decarbonising aviation, alternative fuels and technologies, fuel efficiency.

Professor Alice Larkin: Head of the School of Engineering at The University of Manchester.

Dr Andrew Welfle: group lead, biofuels, decarbonisation, modelling.


Shipping research at the Tyndall Centre

Research on international shipping at the Tyndall Centre focuses on four key areas: estimating shipping sector carbon budgets, calculating Paris-compliant emission trajectories, understanding committed emissions and quantifying solutions. Recent Tyndall Centre research uses the concept of carbon budgets to show the vital importance of short-term emission reductions in the sector. Additionally, research also calculates substantial amounts of ‘committed emissions’ from the existing shipping fleet, where committed emissions refers to emissions from long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure that is prone to “lock-in”, committing the sector to emissions for years into the future. This highlights the need for a greater focus on short-term retrofit technologies in the future.

Tyndall Centre research also aims to understand the impact of specific carbon reduction measures available to the sector. In particular, researchers specialise in wind propulsion, voyage optimisation, shore power, alternative fuels, early scrappage, circularity and wider measures.

Biofuels form a key element of the UK’s strategy to decarbonise the transport sector. Biofuels are particularly targeted to provide alternative low carbon energy options for road, freight and aviation sectors, with opportunities also for shipping. The Tyndall Centre carries out research that identifies biomass resource opportunities for the biofuel sector and life cycle and sustainability analyses to ensure biofuels can provide a low carbon sustainable option for the UK.

A new Tyndall report also highlights that Government support for shore power is essential to unlock a triple-win of cleaner air, lower climate pollution and smart 21st Century electricity grids in UK ports.


Dr Alejandro Gallego Schmid: circular economy, life cycle sustainability assessment, sustainable consumption and production.
Professor Alice Larkin: group lead, Head of the School of Engineering at The University of Manchester.
Dr Andrew Welfle: biofuels, decarbonisation, modelling.
Branwen Ap Dafydd Tomos: life cycle assessment.
Dr James Mason: wind propulsion, voyage optimisation, slow steaming.
Dr Sarah Mander: public perceptions, scenarios
Simon Bullock: committed emissions, shore power.