|By Philippe Rochat|
September 5, 2007
The media often portrays the aviation industry as a heavy polluter, and irresponsible about emissions and climate change. In an effort to balance the debate, Philippe Rochat, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group, presents a brief overview on the debate, and an introduction to an important new intiative created by the aviation industry, http://www.enviro.aero.
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Those who receive the Airliners.net daily aviation newsletter, or anyone who follows the aviation industry closely, will have noticed the increasing trend to lay many of the world's environmental ills at the door of the aviation sector. As a matter of fact, several threads in the Airliners.net forums have asked what aviation should do about the environment debate.
One initiative, http://www.enviro.aero, aims to set this record straight. Simply put, planes just don’t pollute as much as the general public thinks they do. Rather, aviation is a responsible and progressive industry especially in regards to efficiency, emissions, and change, and seems especially so when compared to other major transportation industries.
The aviation industry is neither complacent nor in denial about climate change. Aviation contributes 2 percent of global man-made CO2 emissions, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Even though this figure is much lower than comparable industries (road transport accounts for 18 percent of world wide carbon emissions, electricity generation for 35 percent, and even shipping produces twice as much CO2 as aviation) – experts are still working diligently to reduce aviation’s negative environmental effects.
Our engineers at envori.aero have been working for years, in fact, throughout the entire history of commercial aviation, to make planes more efficient, safer, and quieter. The aviation industry has already made important and significant improvements in these areas, and we all understand that there are even greater challenges that lie ahead. There are an enormous number of initiatives already under way, from shortening routes to developing new fuels.
Many of you are experts on the progress of aviation. In fact, you only have to compare the photos of a DC-9 and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner or an Airbus A380 to see the evolution in design. More has changed than meets the eye, especially the balance between the weight and size of the plane, the efficiency of the engines, and the way airlines, pilots and air traffic controllers operate.
Photo © Peter de Groot
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Photo © Kok Chwee SIM
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Photo © Michael Vaeremans
Whatever your role in aviation, you’ve probably encountered a lot of changes driven by environmental concerns. Each part of the aviation industry from airlines to airports to air navigation service providers to manufacturers is playing an important role. Enviro.aero highlights case studies, such as aerodynamic winglets, lighter plane fuselages, shorter flight routes, continuous descent landing approaches, streamlined taxiing operations, air navigation services and airline collaborative-decision making procedures, hybrid and fuel-cell powered ground operation vehicles, gel washes for airplanes, optimised use of de-icing formula, quieter engines, more efficient engines and even airport property management… the list goes on and on. There are thousands of activities taking place within every aspect of the flying experience to make aviation’s impact on the environment as minimal as possible.
As a result:
• Today’s aircraft are 75% quieter and 70% more fuel-efficient than in the 1960s.
• Airline CO2 efficiency per passenger improved nearly 20% in the last decade. At least 25% further improvement is expected up to 2020.
• The aviation industry saved 15 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006 through operational improvements. This includes the elimination of 6 million tonnes of CO2 through the shortening of more than 300 air routes.
• With regard to air quality, technological progress has practically eliminated visible smoke and hydrocarbons, while NOX from aircraft engines has been progressively reduced by 50% over the past 15 years.
To tell this story, the aviation industry has come together and formed an initiative to talk to people about aviation and the environment. Under the umbrella of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), representatives from across the industry launched http://www.enviro.aero, a website which serves as a central resource for the public who want to find information about aviation and the environment. Specifically, the website describes the many activities the industry is taking to limit its impact on the environment, efforts that are often ignored in debates on the subject.
On the site, as well as some great pictures of planes in flight, you will find all sorts of information about the industry’s actions to limit our impact on the environment.
Another aim is to remind the public about the beneficial impacts of aviation, frequently lost in the heated discussion about climate change. Air transport brings letters from all over the world, people to business, tourists to holiday destinations, products to markets and unites families and friends around the world. Flying allows us to appreciate the wonders of human ingenuity and has enabled us to learn more about the world we live in.
This initiative is the first unified industry activity to talk with the public about the environmental impact of the aviation industry. With the involvement of companies, associations and other organisations along the flying experience chain, this means that there are many opportunities for the initiative to expose the flying public to its messages and offer them the means to access information about aviation and the environment. We also hope that individuals who care about flying will take a stand.
Our goal is long-term — to change the perception amongst the public about aviation’s contribution to climate change, and to put balance back into the debate.
We believe that in the future, people will continue to be happy to fly, that aviation will not harm the environment, and that the aviation industry will be able to grow profitably.
We welcome your support and comments.
Air Transport Action Group
Philippe Rochat has been Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group since 2000. He joined the aviation industry as assistant to the Director General of Civil Aviation of Switzerland, moving on to direct the commercial and financial departments of Geneva International Airport with additional responsibility for environmental and facilitation issues. After serving as the Representative of Switzerland on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), he was elected Secretary General of ICAO and served from 1991 to 1997. Philippe Rochat has a Doctorate of Law from the University of Lausanne and teaches Air Law and Air Transport Economics in several universities.