New UK Transport Secretary promises consultation with industry on technologies to reduce aviation carbon emissions
Philip Hammond, UK Secretary of State for Transport
Fri 5 Nov 2010 – Government and the aviation industry must work together to create an aviation sector that continues delivering social and economic benefits, while reducing carbon emissions, says the new UK coalition government’s Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond. Speaking at the Airport Operators Association’s annual conference in London, he promised to develop a policy framework for aviation that supported economic growth and protected the position of London’s Heathrow Airport as a global hub but addressed aviation’s environmental impact. “Any aviation policy framework we set out cannot duck the climate change debate,” he said. Incentivizing and encouraging businesses to invest in low-carbon technologies and fuels would be looked at, he added. Meanwhile, Heathrow operator BAA backed plans for a high-speed rail link to the airport.
Hammond acknowledged the unpopularity amongst the air transport industry and some areas of the business community over the cancellation of proposals approved by the previous Labour government to add a third runway at Heathrow. However, he said, “no government with a commitment to carbon reduction targets can adopt a crude ‘predict and provide’ approach to aviation capacity while aircraft CO2 remains an unresolved issue. And no responsible government can ignore the local environmental impacts – especially of noise – of airport development.”
He hoped a line could be drawn under the decision and that government and industry could work together to secure the future of the sector “within the constraints that we have accepted”.
He added: “The enemy is not the airlines, or their passengers. The enemy is the carbon emissions.”
Hammond announced that in the New Year, a scoping document would be issued by the Department for Transport setting out questions to be asked in the first stage of developing the government’s aviation policy and consult with stakeholders. A formal consultation on a draft policy document would follow in early 2012, he said.
“Meanwhile, we’re seeing the development of aircraft that pollute less and carry more passengers; the development of lightweight composite materials; more fuel-efficient operations; the future use of sustainable biofuels – all of these have the potential to make a real difference,” he told delegates.
“With a new aircraft today typically using 70% less fuel than 60 years ago, it is clear that technology can and must provide a convincing answer to those who see demand management as the only solution in the medium term to aviation-produced carbon – just as electric and plug-in hybrid cars will, over time, provide a robust answer to those who say the car can have no place in future transport policy planning.
“If technology can play a role in mitigating the carbon impact of flying, so can it too in mitigating the noise impacts that are often the principle objection to airport expansion.
“Noise contours around airports have shrunk dramatically of course over the last 40 years – but at the same time, so has the tolerance of those who live in them.
“I want to understand where the industry believes it can get to in the next ten, twenty, thirty years.”
Hammond believed the UK “had led the way in pushing through the first global deal” on aviation emissions at the recent ICAO Assembly. “The agreement reached wasn’t perfect – we concede that – but it was an agreement and that in itself is a major step forward.”
He acknowledged the “serious concerns” of industry over the government’s aviation taxation policy reforms and its interaction with aviation’s forthcoming inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme but said taxation played a key role in “deficit reduction”.
“Air Passenger Duty (APD) reform is, of course, a matter for the Treasury,” he said. “But I and my officials will work closely with Treasury colleagues as the government develops its proposals.”
Meanwhile, Heathrow operator BAA has backed plans for a high-speed rail (HSR) connection to the airport, saying it would widen its catchment area leading to fuller planes and more UK passengers taking one flight instead of two to their final destination, leading to improved carbon efficiency.
BAA CEO Colin Matthews told a Transport Times conference that with high-speed trains Heathrow would be able to compete with its main European competitor hub airports – Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam – which already had modern rail links.
“Our £5 billion ($8bn) investment programme is making Heathrow a brighter, better and friendlier airport,” said Matthews. “We need to reduce emissions and to make best use of our limited runway capacity. That is why we want to ensure our planes are full and fly to the widest range of destinations. High-speed rail is a win for everyone, provided it offers frequent connections and great passenger experience.
“It’s also vital that HSR is fast enough to tempt passengers away from flying short-haul to Europe and continuing from there. It would be bad for our economy if we lost out to rivals better connected to emerging markets. The government has maintained investment in domestic transport in spite of cutbacks elsewhere, but you cannot get to the BRIC economies by train. We need to place the same priority on connecting UK business to long-haul global markets.”