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Finnair expects operational gains and fleet renewal to achieve a 41 percent emissions fall

Finnair expects operational gains and fleet renewal to achieve a 41 percent emissions fall | Finnair,The Climate Group,Helsinki University of Technology
Fri 9 Apr 2010 – Finnair has committed to increasing the pace of reducing its emissions per seat-kilometre over the next eight years, according to its recently published annual Corporate Responsibility Report. Between 1999 and 2009, the airline’s CO2 emissions per seat have declined by 22 percent but through operational practices and fleet renewal it intends to reduce emissions by 24 percent between 2009 and 2017. This represents an anticipated overall 41 percent fall in 2017 compared to 1999. In an article within the report, Seppo Laine, Professor Emeritus of Aviation Technology at the Helsinki University of Technology, controversially claims recent research shows the climate warming effects caused by aviation have been overstated.
 
Finnair President and CEO Mika Vehviläinen said new aircraft represented the greatest pos­sible contribution to reducing environ­mental effects.
 
“Our emissions in relation to seats offered have reduced radically, and further reductions will take place in the future,” he writes in an editorial for the report. “By operational means we have already achieved clear savings both in the air and in ground operations. We will continue on the path of improve­ment – better operating practices must be found in future, too. This will guar­antee our opportunities to grow sustain­ably and profitably, while continuing to bear our social responsibility.”
 
In addition to measures to reduce airspace congestion, Vehviläinen says emissions reductions should be achieved with the aid of global system of emissions trading.
 
“In 2010, air transport became part of the EU emis­sions trading system. Finnair is actively pursuing an international agreement on an air transport emissions trading model, because this would achieve a worldwide reduction in air transport emissions; re­gional systems, on the other hand, lead to carbon leakage and a distortion of competition.”
 
He says Finnair was actively participating in the development of aviation biofuels. “The problem, in such an energy-intensive industry, is to find a raw material which would meet demand and could be produced sustainably.”
 
Finnair’s aim, he states, was to make a biofuel test flight later this year and “to initiate commercial operations” using biofuels in 2011.
 
Also writing in the report, Kati Ihamäki, VP Sustainable Development, says Finnair remained committed to pursuing emissions reductions, despite the industry recession.
 
“Even in these difficult cir­cumstances we must also be able to see far into the future,” she explains. “We have made prepa­rations for emissions trading nationally and we have been actively involved in cre­ating models for international emissions trading in the sector. Sector growth re­quires measures to promote sustainable development, even in hard times.
 
In a report last year we announced that we would reduce our emissions both in relation to performance and in absolute terms. And this we did. But the true test will be in years of growth, not during a recession when the operations of nearly every airline have contracted.”
 
In another article, Damian Ryan of international NGO The Climate Group writes that despite continuing technological and infrastructure improvements, as well as a possible transformative contribution by sustainable second-generation biofuels, the growth in air travel globally is likely to outpace the best reduction efforts.
 
He states that a global emissions trading scheme for aviation should be a central pillar of any solution, and should be imple­mented within the next three to five years. Such a scheme would cap, and then progres­sively reduce, the amount of total CO2 the sector could emit itself. Critically, he says, the scheme would allow airlines to pur­chase extra emission permits and car­bon credits from other industries.
 
“This approach would allow the aviation sec­tor to grow sustainably, offsetting its climate impact by paying for emission reductions elsewhere,” he explains. “The reduction targets for aviation should be aligned with the climate sci­ence but also be fair and proportional.
 
“But emissions trading is only part of the solution. A comprehensive approach to emissions reduction is necessary. For example, where genuine, lower-emission alternatives exist to air travel – such as high-speed rail or video-conferencing – these should be used. Encouraging con­sumers to consider the environmental impact of their flight will be an impor­tant part of the overall mitigation pack­age for aviation.
 
“Governments will also need to sup­port the development of new cutting-edge technologies, so that future gen­erations of aircraft produce far fewer, if any, emissions. Taken together, and properly coordinated, these government, industry and consumer actions provide a way for the aviation sector to play its fair and effective role in the global ef­fort to address climate change.”
 
In his article, Prof Laine states earlier scientific research into the non-CO2 effects of aircraft emissions showed nitrogen oxides, water vapour, sulphur compounds and soot particles combined to produce 49% of the radiative forcing – the greenhouse effect – caused by carbon dioxide. However, just published research, taking into account the effect of the components on each other (both warming and cooling), gives different values, he maintains.
 
According to this research, these emission components would have a negative radiative forcing (cooling ef­fect) and it would be 92% of the effect of carbon dioxide emissions. This is due particularly to the negative radia­tive forcing of sulphur compounds and a lower radiative forcing than previously expected for ozone (warming effect), which is caused by nitrogen oxides (NOx). However, NOx also destroys the dangerous greenhouse gas methane, thus having a cooling effect.
 
Overall, claims Prof Laine, the radia­tive forcing of air transport would, ac­cording to the latest research, be 0.48 times the radiative forcing caused by carbon dioxide.
 
“Sometimes we use the concept equiv­alent carbon dioxide emissions, which means that by multiplying carbon diox­ide emissions by the figure 0.48 we ob­tain the joint effect of all air transport emissions measured as carbon dioxide emissions,” he says. “When comparing different forms of transport, it is important to take into account that road transport emissions include not only carbon di­oxide, but also other components that raise the level of radiative forcing.
 
“The above review is only indicative, however, because the warming effect of different emission components happens at different times and over different du­rations. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for a long time, even a cen­tury, and that’s why its warming effect will be fully felt only decades into the future.
 
“It’s notable that it makes no dif­ference whether carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere at high altitude or at the ground surface. Condensation trails, moreover, disappear quickly, within min­utes or hours, and their warming effect on the atmosphere also disperses rapid­ly.
 
“In summary, it can be stated that air transport carbon dioxide emissions rep­resent around two percent of all human-generated carbon dioxide emissions and that the warming effect of all air trans­port emissions represents perhaps one or two percent of the total warming effect of human-generated emissions.”
 
 
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