The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) have responded to calls from some British political leaders to restrict business aircraft access to airports in the UK on emissions grounds.
The two associations have emphasised that such proposals disproportionately target a single transportation mode with a proven record on carbon reduction and an aggressive push underway for the availability and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These non-fossil fuel power sources can reduce aviation's carbon lifecycle emissions by up to 80 per cent. The fuels are fully certified, safe and ready to use in all turbine engines today.
Despite the industry's focus on sustainability, representatives of the Labour Party in Britain's parliament recently cast their support for such a plan, calling an eventual ban on airport access for business aircraft powered by traditional fuels 'a sensible proposal'.
“Even though business aviation accounts for only a minuscule portion of transportation emissions, the industry is pressing ahead on SAF,” says IBAC director general Kurt Edwards. “Instead of singling out business aviation for prohibitive restrictions on airport access, UK leaders should focus on efforts to make SAF more widely available in the UK through positive incentive policies to encourage its production and use in greater quantities.”
“Business aviation has continually led the way in promoting products, procedures and policies to reduce aircraft emissions, with proven results,” adds NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We urge leaders in the UK and elsewhere to set aside punitive proposals like this one, and work with us to build upon the significant progress made to date.”
Edwards and Bolen reference the decades-long industry investment in satellite-based avionics, winglets, airframe composites, advanced propulsion systems and other innovations that have made aircraft ever more fuel efficient, thereby continually reducing carbon emissions. Thanks to these and other advances, over the course of the past four decades, carbon emissions from business aviation have been reduced by 40 per cent.
Ten years ago, business aviation leaders redoubled their commitment to emissions reduction, uniting behind a plan to halve the industry's overall emissions by the year 2050, relative to 2005 levels. A central pillar of this commitment has been the development of SAF.
Bolen continues: “In addition to the work being done by business aviation manufacturers, operators and fuel suppliers to accelerate the adoption of SAF, we are also working to move past fuel-powered aircraft entirely, with development of electric, hydrogen and solar energy sources.”
“At a time when leadership is needed on sustainability, the proposed ban lacks meaningful value. It will have a de minimis impact on emissions overall while denying connectivity for London and hindering competitiveness for companies of all sizes in the region and beyond,” Edwards concludes. “Let's focus on proposals that would have a real effect on emissions reduction while also promoting aviation connectivity and sustainability.”
Reaction from the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) proposes a more achievable approach: “As a sector, we know that passengers are increasingly demanding to be transported sustainably. Outright banning private jets in the UK as suggested, however, would do little to curb climate change; business aviation is but two per cent of two per cent of aviation’s contribution to global emissions. Furthermore air traffic is an international business, meaning unilateral, isolated solutions make little sense.
“Business aviation serves a legitimate, and important, societal purpose: we connect communities, enable secure travel, improve business productivity and opportunities, and link markets in an increasingly globalised world when time matters most and no alternative is available. In short, we fly where others don’t, or cannot, and this drives the demand for our service. Nonetheless these benefits come with an environmental cost, and business aviation must balance them with a responsibility to mitigate climate change.”
These efforts will be complemented by the first global climate mitigation scheme of its kind, known as the ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, starting in 2021, as well as the recent setting up of a project team of business aviation young professionals with the aim of introducing industry-wide standards and an accompanying sustainability label called STARS (Standards & Training for Aviation Responsibility and Sustainability). The three tier programme is a guidance and accreditation package that should be rolled out in 2020 across Europe before potentially forming the basis for a global industry standard.
EBAA says that concrete actions to support European operators’ sustainability efforts are needed instead, and that real opportunities to significantly reduce the environmental impact of aviation in Europe exist, which have yet to be acted on despite being on the transport agenda for years. It urges governments to focus on concrete actions that support European operators and their sustainability efforts. These include the long-awaited delivery of the Single European Sky, which could save an estimated 10 per cent of CO2 emissions, today, if implemented; the creation and implementation of policies that support the production and delivery of SAF; and research and innovation programmes that support the improvement of engines, battery development to speed the progress of electrification, and aircraft fuel-efficiency.
The association adds: “The European business aviation sector is keen to be part of a sensible solution that balances the demand for travel, regional cohesion and economic growth with environmental and social responsibility. We will therefore continue to work closely with regulators and policy-makers in the UK, Europe and across the globe to prioritise the development of smart, inclusive and sustainable aviation policies for the benefit of all Europeans and our planet.”