The UK government’s Committee on Climate Change has published its report on aviation in the UK, including forecasts for growth in the aviation sector and the implications of this for the UK’s emissions reduction strategy.
Prof Geoff Hammond, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath, said:
“Aviation is one of the most difficult sectors of the economy from which to reduce ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions.
“Holiday travellers from the industrialised countries of the ‘North’ of our planet (particularly across the European Union) have become accustomed to taking long-haul holidays and short breaks; courtesy of cheap flights from budget airlines.
“Governments are hesitant to place restrictions on these flights in case they induce a backlash from passengers, who are also voters.
“But, if we seriously want to mitigate global warming over the coming century, then aviation will need to play a role.
“The recommendation from the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that developed countries should take the lead in curtailing emissions from aviation is therefore to be welcomed.
“The independent members of the CCC recognise that action will need to be staged. In the medium-term other sectors, like housing, will have to contribute disproportionately.
“During that phase the CCC argue that aviation should be ‘capped’ and come under the umbrella of the European Union’s ‘Emissions Trading Scheme’. Improved operational practices at airports will also help.
“However, well before 2050, aviation emissions must be significantly reduced by way of much more radical technological innovations – changes in airframe design and in engine and fuel technologies.”
Roger Gardner, Chief Executive of Omega, Manchester Metropolitan University, said:
“The scale of the aviation challenge goes way beyond what foreseen actions will deliver. The CCC points up the need for new levels of understanding on what is potentially achievable from technologies and on actions to manage demand. How much does society value aviation? Academia is rising to this challenge but it is political will, resources and clarity on priorities that will determine whether aviation solutions are delivered.
“New work planned by the Omega Partnership of universities would directly respond to CCC assumptions about aviation fuel efficiency improvements, alternative fuels and managing demand. But understanding public attitudes, costing potential action and managing the trade-offs with local impacts are also essential steps where knowledge is still weak. Omega work in these areas is an essential contribution from academia but research advances demand commitment of resources, even in straightened times, if real progress is to be made.”