UK aviation minister urges airlines to phase out older aircraft over environmental and climate concerns
Wed 21 Oct 2015 – As aircraft and engine technology improves, pressure should be kept up on airlines to replace aging aircraft and invest in the newest models so that the environmental benefits can be realised as soon as possible, said UK Minister for Aviation Robert Goodwill (right) yesterday at the Aerodays conference in London. Addressing Europe’s flagship aerospace research event, Goodwill said the sector’s history of innovation and invention was needed more than ever to respond with new technology and processes to make aviation less harmful to the environment and human health. In the light of the VW scandal, Goodwill said it would sharpen regulatory focus on manufacturers’ emission claims. He also stressed the importance of achieving a global agreement at ICAO next year on a market-based measure for international aviation carbon emissions.
Goodwill said there was a concern by many people around the growth of aviation because of the resulting increase in carbon emissions – between 1990 and 2006 international emissions had more than doubled, he pointed out – and therefore its contribution to climate change.
Even with the predicted growth in aviation demand, Goodwill said research provided by UK industry group Sustainable Aviation showed carbon emissions from aviation could fall between now and 2050 provided preventive action was taken and there was a continuation in new technology development. The aviation industry, supported by researchers, scientists and engineers, had to ensure that in the next 35 years they succeeded in achieving this reduction, he stressed.
“We must make changes in how aircraft are operated and managed in the air, how quickly aging aircraft are replaced, how quickly we can develop new engines and how soon we can introduce pioneering new low-carbon fuels,” he told delegates at a ‘Greening of Aviation’ plenary session. “Airports can do more too, such as encouraging staff to use low-emission vehicles and provide good public transport links, such as well-designed, high-capacity bus and railway stations.”
He added: “In the shorter term, we must develop a new global market-based plan to offset the growth in aviation emissions.”
With reference to the changes made last year to the international scope of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), Goodwill said it was fortunate that Europe had “held back from some of the more damaging aspects” of “going it alone” on regulating international aviation carbon emissions that was affecting relations “with our friends in China and the US”.
“The key is next year to get a global agreement on a market-based system to prevent the EU ETS having to kick back in and causing the same problems again,” he said. “Our people at ICAO understand the importance of getting that agreement and I hope the US and other major aviation States do too.”
Goodwill said aircraft noise was a serious problem in London, with more people affected by noise from Heathrow than any other airport in Europe. Measures to address noise recommended in the Airports Commission report on runway expansion were currently being studied, he said. These included a statutory independent aviation noise authority, a national noise levy to fund compensation and mitigation schemes and a ban on night flights.
“The Government is considering all these proposals but at the same time we must remember that in recent decades the greatest contribution to reducing aircraft noise has been made by technology,” he argued. “And that progress gives us reason to hope that technology will make a big difference in future decades too.”
He said his colleagues in Parliament had asked him whether the aviation industry could be guilty of the same kind of cheating as Volkswagen over air quality.
“My answer is clear: the VW scandal will sharpen regulators’ focus on engine manufacturers’ emissions claims,” he said. “The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is responsible for maintaining the high standards of testing processes that ensure emissions data is reliable. According to EASA data, engine performance has improved. In 2010, NOx emissions were 10% below ICAO’s environmental protection regulated limit. Today they are 27% below. For that progress, we must again be thankful for new technology and greater engine efficiency.”
Since 1991, the Aerodays conference has been held during each successive EU framework programme for research and innovation, and brings together European policymakers and the aviation industry. The London event marks the seventh of its kind. At Aerodays 2011, ‘Flightpath 2050’ targets were presented for reducing the environmental impact of aviation in Europe. These include a reduction in CO2 emissions by 75% (on a pax/km basis), NOx by 90% and perceived noise by 65% relative to the year 2000. Two public-private EU partnerships, Clean Sky and the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR), are tasked with meeting the targets.
Also on the ‘Greening of Aviation’ panel, Ric Parker, Chairman of the Clean Sky Governing Board, said with air travel predicted to increase eight times as much over the period to 2050, “to earn the right to grow, we must achieve these targets.”
Boeing VP Product Development Mike Sinnett said the goals were “very much achievable”. NASA’s Fayette Collier, who is in charge of the US Environmentally Responsible Aviation programme said technologies under development would potentially save the US airline fleet around 88 billion gallons of jet fuel by 2025.