Emissions from aviation: What we know

Image copyright PA Image caption Kate Saunders is trying to make flying safe and cleaner for aircraft passengers Britain could reduce its aviation emissions by 60% by 2050, if existing policies are continued, research…

Emissions from aviation: What we know

Image copyright PA Image caption Kate Saunders is trying to make flying safe and cleaner for aircraft passengers

Britain could reduce its aviation emissions by 60% by 2050, if existing policies are continued, research shows.

Aircraft are the biggest source of greenhouse gases in Europe, but many efforts have been met with opposition.

Campaigners fear that, under Theresa May’s policies, a decrease in greenhouse gases will stall.

Are we close to a guilt-free flying world?

What emissions are we talking about?

There are currently more than 3,500 passenger flights a day between the UK and Europe.

This is the equivalent of flying to Brussels 28 times or Milan 22 times.

Most of these were undertaken by foreign airlines, many of which are partly based in the UK, like British Airways.

What about flights to the US?

If the UK continues to pursue the status quo – making no real progress – it would be able to fly domestically to the US – but not abroad.

Today, airports in the UK take in flights from anywhere but the US.

What percentage reduction is being mooted?

Research based on transport policy across Europe predicts UK passengers and airlines would save 2m tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030 and 8m tonnes by 2050 if the current policy framework is maintained.

That’s the equivalent of a 40- to 60-fold reduction.

Image copyright PA Image caption Some European destinations, such as the United States, are now heavily reliant on British carriers

How will current measures work to achieve these reductions?

Planes take off and land in country basing. Smaller commercial aircraft have fewer seats but are flown at higher speeds, and their carbon emissions are reduced.

A major source of congestion in airports is scheduled flights, and there are a number of ways to reduce that by postponing peak-time, using smaller planes or turning away from the airport altogether.

In Europe, individual airlines take part in the EU 2020+Emissions Directive and the 2050 Action Plan.

The framework calls for mandatory reductions of both carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from civil aviation.

Unchecked, this would mean between 50% and 70% reductions from 2020, based on current patterns.

No regulatory action would be necessary to make a 60% reduction in 2050, as the 2021 framework has already taken effect.

Many larger European airlines are signing up to the 2020 framework, but in the US, some US airlines are suing the government over what they see as the “burdensome, inefficient” approach to emissions reduction.

There are also political challenges to control carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft.

Why is this something that bothers people?

Air passenger duty is a major contributor to emissions. Airlines do not pay the tax.

In Europe, it currently costs passengers paying for a standard single-occupancy economy ticket £134. The cost is combined with EU emissions quotas and a supplementary charge for flights departing from Europe.

In addition, the current carbon tax across the EU is £6.50 per tonne of CO2, and £13.50 per tonne in the UK, with a £35 upper limit.

For pilots and aircraft companies, the focus is on cutting emissions and making the industry less expensive.

Andrew Cusack, founder of UK marine emissions monitoring firm Air Infineon, says CO2 emissions from aviation in Europe have gone down by 12% from 2007-2010 but since then have increased again due to plans for jet fuel standards.

The Coalition for Aviation Sustainability, a lobby group, has called the coalition’s modelling “misleading” and “misleading” because it did not take into account emissions from other sectors like marine shipping and agriculture.

Is it OK to fly?

There is no legal obligation to fly. The World Health Organisation classifies “zero to little” impact as an at-risk group, however.

Some international bodies, like the International Air Transport Association (IATA), have linked significant reductions in aviation emissions to greater environmental gains from industry.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Transatlantic flights can now be booked online, making it easier to book flights

The head of IATA’s aviation unit, Alexandre de Juniac, has noted that “sustainable” aviation is “instruments of economic prosperity”.

It’s not clear how many more years of such progress will be needed.

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