The science of politics, climate, and the impact on aviation
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APAC transport UK and Europe Political Economy | 16/12/2021

The science of politics, climate, and the impact on aviation


It has been almost 2 years since the aviation industry was grounded. The path back will be shaped by customer concerns over open borders, appetite to return to mass travel, and growing concern over the climate impacts of aviation. A new report published by Stonehaven and Robertsbridge has found that of these factors, climate concerns are over 10x more powerful in shaping the aviation industry over the long-term than concerns about borders or comfort found in holidaying closer to home.

The impact will not be uniform across ‘mature aviation markets’, which are the focus of this report. We have identified an “equal sacrifice line”, to show AUKUS citizens think very differently to others about the challenge. This will create a public policy response in these markets that will need to be different to the rest of the world, particularly to that of mainland Europe. For the UK, this means the regulatory freedoms from the EU should be used to adopt a different approach to that of Brussels on aviation decarbonisation. For Australia, this means embracing technology and innovation as the principal response for accelerating net zero.

With so much legislative or fiscal support required to clean up aviation, it is the science of the political economy, not just the science of climate, that will unlock faster change, and create new advantage for airlines, suppliers and investors. Political economy thinking will be central to any organisation or NGO seeking to drive decarbonisation faster and generate new prosperity in doing so.


‘The Future of Flying – Aviation, Sustainability and the Political Economy’

‘The Future of Flying – Aviation, Sustainability and the Political Economy’, is the first in a new report series from Stonehaven and Robertsbridge that looks at the role of sustainability and the political economy on different sectors globally.

It is based on a global survey carried out by Stonehaven’s insights team between 02nd September and 14th September 2021, with findings considered alongside policy and market analysis to provide policy makers, investors and industry leaders with an unparalleled assessment of the forces shaping the global aviation industry.


So, what did we find?

  1. Climate change concern is 10x more important as a long-run factor in suppressing aviation usage, than covid and border ‘hassle’ / concerns.
  2. Business travellers will lead aviation’s recovery. In the sample, 36% say they will fly more (than pre-pandemic behaviours), despite awareness of climate concerns. The only segment to do so, in any meaningful way.
  3. US passenger numbers are expected to grow overall and will probably be the market least disrupted by the climate concerns.
  4. European citizens in Germany, France and Italy will be prepared to ‘over sacrifice’ on flying. Whereas Australian, UK and US (AUKUS) citizens will more likely to ‘under sacrifice’ and are much less prepared to change flying behaviours proportional to their previous habits.
  5. However, underlying support and preparedness to pay for climate action, is strongest in the UK & USA, whilst weakest in the European countries we surveyed.

To find out more on what this means for the aviation industry, you can read The Future of Flying in full below.

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