UK climate advisers urge development support for aerospace industry if climate change goals are to be met
The new Boeing 787 that made its first international appearance at the Farnborough Air Show this week is powered by engines from UK manufacturer Rolls-Royce
Wed 21 July 2010 – The UK Government’s climate change advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), states radical technologies such as blended wing aircraft and open rotor engines will be required to help meet the country’s 2050 aviation emission reduction targets. As such, public funding support for the research, development and deployment (RD&D) of these technologies, in cooperation with international partners, will be necessary. The advice comes in a report published by the CCC, ‘Building a low-carbon economy - the UK’s innovation challenge’. The CCC also recommends the Government sets out a strategy to secure new international agreements limiting emissions from aviation.
The report is the result of a request by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, that the Committee review the adequacy of research and innovation arrangements in the UK related to achieving climate change goals of a 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Against a background of severe public cost-cutting measures currently under review by the new coalition Government, the Committee warns that any reduction in current funding levels would increase the risk of missing carbon budgets and would see the UK losing out on critical opportunities to build a green economy.
The Committee recommends that the UK should focus on the development and deployment of at least six identified priority targets, including aviation, where the UK is better placed to accelerate technology development.
“The UK has a strong capability in aviation technologies including engine and airframe development and manufacturing,” states the report. “UK based companies produce wings and engines for the global market. The UK is also a world leader in high-quality composite manufacturing and research. Aviation technologies which increase fuel efficiency could contribute to abatement if other policy instruments are in place to encourage airlines to take the efficiency gain as a carbon saving rather than longer aircraft ranges or increased payloads.
“Radical technologies, such as blended wing, will be required to meet UK aviation emission reduction targets. Public support for the development of these technologies, in cooperation with EU partners, will be necessary.”
The report says new aviation technologies are already subject to “strong market pull” given that aircraft fuel efficiency is a key consideration for airlines since fuel makes up a considerable share of overall costs. It sees the inclusion of aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in 2012 as an additional market pull, “although the carbon price signal is unlikely to be sufficiently strong to pull through more radical technology options, such as blended wing configurations.”
The report notes that government funding for low-carbon research, development and deployment (RD&D) during 2009/10 amounted to around £550 million, of which £50 million was devoted to aviation, excluding a repayable loan, worth £340 million, to the aerospace industry for launch investment.
The Committee warns that UK energy RD&D is low by international standards, and international funding is low generally relative to benchmarks proposed by the Stern Review, the IEA (which suggests a two to fivefold increase is required) and the EU.
“The case for action is strong,” concludes the report. “With adequate funding, new policies and strengthened delivery arrangements, we would expect UK firms to lead on development of key technologies, driving down emissions to meet carbon budgets and targets, and fulfilling the new Government’s clear objective to build a low-carbon economy.
“We therefore urge the Government to put appropriate low-carbon technology support arrangements in place to unlock environmental and wider economic benefits.”
Last December, the CCC published a wide-ranging report ‘Meeting the UK aviation target – options for reducing emissions to 2050’, which set out advice to the previous Government on the implications of its own carbon reduction targets for aviation (see story).