Flying Matters versus the Climate Change Bill


Everyone's favourite pro-aviation group, Flying Matters, has been hard at work. They'd like international aviation left out of the Climate Change Bill, and have written to lots of MPs asking them not to listen to the science.

Luckily one of them sent us a copy, which we have kindly transcribed for you. For your viewing pleasure we present: why aviation should get special treatment. Please take one pinch of salt and retire to enjoy:

Dear ... MP,

The Climate Change Bill has now begun its Parliamentary stages. Whilst aviation is not included in the Bill you may be approached by some groups arguing that it should be. The members of FlyingMatters, which includes trade unions, business, tourism groups and the aviation industry (a full list of members can be found at believe that this would not be the best way of dealing with aviation's contribution to climate change. This letter sets out why.

  1. Aviation requires international not domestic solutions

    Aviation is a global activity requiring global solutions. We believe that the best place to address the issue of aviation's contribution to climate change is in international for a such as ICAO, the UN body responsible for international aviation. We support the inclusion of aircraft CO2 emissions in the European Emissions Trading Scheme as a first step towards a more fully international solution. The European Parliament this week approved the inclusion of aviation in ETS by 2011. Unilateral action by individual countries will not only be ineffective, it will severely disadvantage any country doing so.

  2. Editor's note: Would this be the same ICAO that's trying to block the emissions trading scheme? Sounds like an attempt to stall meaningful reductions in CO2 to me; there are no international agreements currently proposed which would tackle aviation.

  3. Calculating aviation's contribution to climate change emissions

    It is absolutely vital that there is a robust assessment and quantification not just of aviation's contribution but that of other sources of climate change emissions too. Without this there is a danger that policy instruments may be ineffectively targeted.

    The industry is supporting the scientific community in efforts to improve the understanding of aviation non-CO2 atmospheric effects. We understand that non-CO2 'multipliers' based on the Radiative Forcing Index are a mis-application of science because they fail to account for the resident timescales of emissions.

  4. Editor's note: actually, there is a pretty good scientific and political consensus on this. Seeing as it's known that the non-CO2 effects have at least some effect additional to the CO2 effect alone, surely ignoring it would give the industry a license to pollute? Oh wait - that couldn't be what they're angling for, could it...

  5. Sustainable Aviation

    We believe that the economic and social benefits of the global connectivity which air transport makes possible, means that it is essential that we ensure it has a sustainable future. To that end, much investment in financial and resource terms is being made across the industry.

    Aviation must ensure that its own operations are as carbon efficient as possible. It is focusing on three key areas; the introduction of improved air traffic management systems and operations, the development of cleaner and more efficient aircraft and engines and the inclusion of aviation in emissions trading. Emissions trading represents the most effective and efficient way for aviation to pay for its impact on climate change. Whilst UK industry would prefer a fully international trading scheme, the ED scheme provides a valuable first step towards this important goal.

  6. Editor's note: all the industry's proposals still include massive aviation growth, far out-stripping any efficiency gains. The ETS is only going to reduce emissions growth by 5%, with emissions set to rise by 78% by 2020, while industry reaps a £4 billion windfall. No wonder they want to be a part of it...

In 2002 the Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe (ACARE) set out a series of targets within a vision for 2020. These include:

  • developing technologies to reduce the environmental impact of aviation with the aim of halving the amount of carbon dioxide (C02) emitted by air transport;
  • cutting specific emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 80%:
  • and halving perceived noise;
  • Reducing soot, water vapour and particulates emissions will also be tackled.

Editor's note: these sound great, but this is just wishful thinking. European emissions are predicted to rise by 78% by 2020, regardless of some well-intentioned greenwash - and the DfT's report, "Aviation and Global Warming", predicts an enourmous rise in UK emissions; even with the assumption of a 50% increase in fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions by aircraft are forecast to double. By 2020 European society will be even more locked into an aviation-addicted lifestyle, making it even harder to wean people off short-haul flights.

ACARE is a voluntary undertaking which brings together all the key industry stakeholders across Europe who will need to deliver this Vision. The ACARE Vision and targets have the full support of the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Editor's note: that's the same Comission and Parliament who predict a 78% growth in emissions.

ACARE set out a Strategic Research Agenda to identify what research was required to achieve the 2020 targets. This was updated in 2004. The research being undertaken addresses green engine technologies, alternative fuels, novel aircraft/ engine configurations, intelligent low-weight structures, improved aerodynamic efficiency, airport operations and air traffic management as well as manufacturing and recycling processes.

The research programmes are variously funded by industry (the aerospace sector spend more than £2.5 billion a year in research and development) and the EU. Clean Skies and OMEGA are just two of these research programmes.

Editor's note: developing a 'green plane' prototype is all well and good - getting the fleet replaced with 'green planes' is another thing entirely. Planes have a lifespan of some decades; "by 2020 only 36% of the existing World passenger fleet will be retired".

ACARE are tracking progress towards achieving the 2020 targets and will publish an interim progress report in 2008.

Separately, airlines are investing in today's very latest technology aircraft such as the now in service Airbus A380, the Boeing 787 which will come into service in the next two years and the Airbus A350 XWB which is planned to enter into service in 2013. To date 1347 orders and commitments for these new aircraft have been placed. UK airlines specifically have 88 A380 and B787 aircraft on order. In addition, there are 5462 in service and 4049 on order of the very latest generation single-aisle aircraft with Airbus and Boeing, which are the most fuel-efficient aircraft of their type in history. Together, these aircraft represent a minimum of 20 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency over mid-generation aircraft and more than 40 per cent over old-generation aircraft.

Editor's note: these are per-passenger efficiency gains. Putting more people in the air, even at a greater efficiency per passenger, is not reducing overall CO2. Back to the drawing board...

The UK aviation industry has gone a step further and produced the world's first sustainable aviation strategy. Sustainable Aviation (SA) brings together all sectors of the industry including airlines, manufacturers, airports and air traffic control and has set out a series of Commitments based on delivering the ACARE targets as well as a range of other targets, together with a road map for delivering them.

The strategy was launched in 2005 with eight goals and 34 Commitments. Sustainable Aviation published its first progress report in December 2006. Both the Strategy and the progress report, which include a full list of the goals and commitments, are available at

All signatories to Sustainable Aviation (SA) are implementing individually appropriate strategies with a view to achieving the commitments relevant to them within the required timescale.

Different timescales apply to different commitments - some can be delivered in the short term others are longer term commitments. In its first year SA gave top priority to its goals and commitments on climate change and local environmental impacts.

The 2006 Sustainable Aviation Progress report sets out in detail progress on these commitments. A few of the key initiatives are set out here:

  • Political progress at ED level on including aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme actively supported by the industry
  • Industry paper on non-CO2 produced
  • Good progress towards ACARE fuel efficiency targets
  • Continued research and investment in alternative fuels
  • Support for 'Single European Sky' research to improve efficiency for air traffic management
  • Launch of the £95 million Environmentally Friendly Engine technology project
  • Launch of the £35 million Integrated Wing research technology project
  • UK Airlines have agreed a common methodology for reporting on aircraft emissions fuel efficiency
  • Airports secured funding from the Carbon Trust Networks for the Airport Carbon Management Group to drive forward emissions reductions
  • £1.1 billion 7 year EU Joint technology initiative 'Clean Sky' to deliver technology to enable achievement of the CARE targets
  • Addressing noise at source - continued progress towards ACARE targets
  • Launch of Sustainable Aviation Noise Abatement Task Group
  • Roll-out of outreach programme on Continuous Descent Approach
  • Night flights - new regime at London airports
  • Mitigation - continued implementation of property-related mitigation initiatives at airports
  • Industry technical contribution to the air quality research programme as part of the roject for the Sustainable Development of Heathrow to improve the assessment of aicraft and airport
  • The inaugural Surface Access Forum held by government and airport operators to promote public transport.
  • Major update on the Airport Environmental Guidance Manual to share best practice
  • Promotion of environmental management systems to all companies within the aerospace supply chain.

Editor's note: where does the third runway fit into this? An increase of 40% or so on existing flights - mostly short-haul, as the proposed runway is not full length - is not going to do well for the industry's emissions, is it?

Sustainable Aviation will next report in detail on progress in December 2008.

Michelle Di Leo

Editor's note: Stella stuff! I do wonder though why, if the industry is working so hard to reduce its emissions, it doesn't welcome being included. After all, it would give it a chance to show how hard aviation is working at becoming sustainable. This letter couldn't all be bluster from an industry scared by the prospect of legislation with some real bite, could it? Perish the thought...