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UK's air traffic control company NATS to target a 10 per cent reduction in aircraft emissions by 2020

Tue 22 Jan 2008 - NATS, the air traffic control (ATC) company responsible for all civilian flights travelling through UK airspace and flights in and out of UK airports, has begun the process of examining the way it manages airspace so it can cut an average 10 per cent of emissions from aircraft under its control by 2020.
 
It believes it is the first air navigation service provider to set a target to cut CO2 emissions in line with international aspirations set out by both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European SESAR programme. The IPCC has identified potential cuts of between six to 12 per cent by 2020 for aircraft fuel burn attributed to air traffic management (ATM). SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) is a project to harmonize ATC across Europe and has set its own benchmark of 10 per cent by the same year.
 
NATS does not identify how the cuts might be achieved but they would largely centre on improvements in flight routing efficiency and expanding the use of continuous descent approaches, which use a smoother landing trajectory to save fuel as well as reduce aircraft noise around airports.
 
“Within the ATM industry, we have kindled this debate. Now we’re setting the standard,” said Paul Barron, NATS’ Chief Executive. “It will not be easy but we believe it is necessary to demonstrate that we can make a difference.
 
“I believe we have a moral responsibility to do what we can to reduce the impact on the environment, grow our business and support our partners in a sustainable way. We are engaged in a complete overview of everything we do to see where we can do it better.
 
“No-one has done this before but we expect others to follow once the expertise and commitment of our people have shown the way forward.”
 
The company has also pledged that every aspect of its business – from recycling to commuting – will be “scrutinized to achieve a carbon-neutral estate by 2011.”
 
The announcement comes on the same day that the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which represents 33 service and scheduled network carriers, called for a “focused political will” to ensure “that 2008 is the year in which the long-awaited and badly-needed Single European Sky ceased to be a paper project and began to take shape and deliver results.”
 
Speaking at a European Commission conference, AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus explained that European airspace is carved up into country-shaped blocks, constrained within national frontiers. A key element of ATM reform is the reconfiguration of airspace into functional blocks which reflect natural traffic flow patterns and extend across borders where necessary. “This is in contrast,” he said, “ to the current system in which flights may follow zigzag paths around restricted areas, be assigned circuitous routings to avoid congested sectors, or be subject to delayed departure clearances for flow-management reasons.”
 
As well as reducing delays for passengers and saving airlines a potential three billion euros a year, the AEA estimates 12 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved annually by the avoidance of flying in circuitous routes, holding patterns and inefficient flight profiles.
 
“To make the most of these potential benefits, the Single Sky process needs an independent economic regulator and a framework of clearly defined performance targets. While it is evidently a long-term project, a commitment now to focus political will and press on with the project can start delivering benefits in the much nearer term. Airlines, travellers and the environment demand prompt action.”
 
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