Industry players commit to reducing CO2 emissions

 - July 7, 2008, 11:34 AM

Aircraft and engine manufacturers participating in the Aviation and Environment Summit held in Geneva this spring pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. The 200-plus signatories of the protocol aim to preempt emission control regulation planned by governments and supranational organizations, which could encumber aircraft operators in the near future. If it succeeds, the plan, aligned with the needs of scheduled airlines organized within the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will also benefit the business aviation community.

The organizers of the summit, under the leadership of former ICAO secretary general Dr. Philippe Rochat, include the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the Airports Council International (ACI), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association (ICCAIA) and IATA.

During the summit meetings, managers of private companies, inventors, scientists and government representatives explained that industry could realistically expect to achieve a 25-percent reduction in emissions by 2020. IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani said that civil air traffic is today responsible for 2 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide, and while traffic grows by 5 percent annually, the segment’s emissions increase by only 3 percent. According to a UN study, carbon dioxide emissions from air traffic could reach 3 percent of world output by 2050. Bisignani cautioned against plans by the European Union to introduce emission trading on its territory for air traffic within the next five years.

A Plan for the Long Term

IATA presented a four-pillar program to achieve the envisioned emission reduction. The first pillar is technology, focusing on improvements in engines
and airframes, as well as use of alternative fuels.

Pillar two is streamlined air traffic operations that limit fuel waste due to aircraft flying holding patterns or waiting on the ground with engines idling. The third pillar is infrastructure that provides for more efficient use of airspace and airports. Pillar four concerns economic measures to ensure funding for the development of clean technologies.

Illustrating possible technical progress at engine level, Stephen Finger, president of Pratt & Whitney, demonstrated that fuel efficiency of civil aviation has improved by more than 50 percent during the last half century and an additional 15- to 20-percent improvement is within reach with in-development engines and lighter composite airframes. He pointed out that industry has achieved this progress without government intervention, driven only by demand from operators and competition among manufacturers. Mark King, president of civil aerospace for Rolls-Royce, echoed the sentiment, urging industry to avoid government-controlled development programs in place of free competition.