Rolls-Royce aeroplane jet engine

Rolls-Royce commits to zero carbon by 2050 as it outlines decarbonisation plan

Image credit: Eduard Ionescu |

Engine maker Rolls-Royce has announced plans to decarbonise its operations with the aim of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050.

The UK-based firm said that by 2023 it would ensure all of its engines designed for civil aircraft will be compatible with 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuels, as well as ensure that the lifetime emissions of some of its new products would be reduced by 35 per cent by 2030.

To achieve this, the firm plans to focus 75 per cent of its R&D spend on lower carbon and net zero technologies by 2025 from around 50 per cent today. It typically spends over £1bn annually on R&D, although that fell in 2020 as the pandemic strained its finances.

It is also considering using small modular reactors to produce an e-fuel, which could eventually replace sustainable aviation fuel, by the mid-2030s.

The firm joined the UN’s 'Race to Zero' campaign last year, which aims to get businesses and investors to undertake low-carbon initiatives.

Rolls-Royce admitted that its products “power some of the most carbon-intensive parts of the economy” but said it would introduce short-term targets to accelerate the take-up of sustainable fuels that would be directly linked to “executive remuneration”.

Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said: “At Rolls-Royce, we believe in the positive, transforming potential of technology. We pioneer power that is central to the successful functioning of the modern world. To combat the climate crisis, that power must be made compatible with net-zero carbon emissions.

“This is a societal imperative as well as one of the greatest commercial and technological opportunities of our time. Our products and services are used in aviation, shipping and energy generation, where demand for power is increasing as the world’s population grows, becomes increasingly urbanised, more affluent and requires more electricity.

“These sectors are also among those where achieving net zero carbon is hardest. As a result, our innovative technology has a fundamental role to play in enabling and even accelerating, the overall global transition to a net-zero carbon future.”

Major companies are coming under increasing pressure from investors and climate change activists to report the emissions that result when customers use their products.

Nigel Topping, the UN’s “high-level champion for COP26”, added: “Winning the race to a zero-emission economy by 2050 at the latest requires radical collaboration and technology breakthroughs across energy, transport and the built environment – critical parts of the economy that are also among the hardest to decarbonise.

“By organising its industrial technology capabilities to deliver the system change society needs, Rolls-Royce is putting itself at the forefront of the defining economic opportunity of our time; one that customers want to buy, investors want to back, and the brightest talent want to apply their skills to.”

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