CBI calls for global emissions framework to underpin ‘green’ aviation growth

Future growth in UK aviation can be managed sustainably provided certain measures are put in place such as a global framework to help airlines achieve emissions targets, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has argued.

In a report released this week, the CBI sets out its case to increase the UK’s air links. It outlines research that shows every additional flight to a high-growth market boosts trade by as much as £175,000. It also points to the face that nearly half (49%) of British businesses consider air links to emerging markets as a key consideration when choosing where to place their next investment.

Boosting air travel is a contentious issue, particularly among campaign groups, but the CBI believes the enviromental challenges can be mitigated. Its director for business environment Nicola Walker said addressing the carbon impacts that come with aviation growth can go hand-in-hand.

“The wealth of evidence, both in the Airports Commission’s interim review and this report, highlights that further aviation capacity can be built while continuing to meet our obligations to communities and the environment,” she maintained.

The report emphasises that sustainable aviation growth relies on a number of factors, such as the introduction of a global framework. This framework would create a global emissions market to provide the sector with a platform to reach their 50% emissions reduction target by 2050.

In addition, cross-party consensus is needed to push forward a long-term and consistent strategy for the aerospace sector, providing the skills and finance needed for supply chains to thrive. The CBI would also like to see more market competition introduced for long-term innovation, which would support new technologies such as biofuels.

There are already a number of sustainability improvements underway within the aviation sector in the UK. Airports such as Gatwick and Heathrow are now setting their own sustainability targets – back in May, edie reported on Heathrow’s 10-step plan to reduce environmental impact, invest in local communities and support economic growth.

Collaboration between airports, airlines and air traffic controllers is also paying off. At Manchester Airport, airlines are switching over to terminal rather than on-board power while on the ground – a move that has delivered a 50% cut in CO2 emissions.

Engine innovation is another area helping to reduce impacts. Airlines such as British Airways (BA) are increasingly using just one instead of two engines when moving between terminal and runway to save fuel. This change alone has estimated to have saved 20,000 tonnes of CO2 each year from BA’s Gatwick and Heathrow operations.

Meanwhile GE Aviation Wales has seen investment in energy efficiency pay off with £1.4m of savings on energy bills. Earlier this month edie reported how the General Electric subsidiary, which specialises in servicing aircraft engines, has seen a £200,000 investment in energy-saving projects return savings of seven times the original figure.

Advances in composite technology has also led to lighter aircraft being developed. In the field of aerodynamics, work on materials is being carried out to significantly reduce drag, with concepts such as ‘blended wings’ already demonstrating an ability to reduce fuel consumption by 32% over current aircraft designs.

Maxine Perella

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