In our fourth instalment of insights, we focus on the aviation sector in the UK. The UK Government has recently unveiled the Aviation 2050 policy proposal for the UK’s aviation strategy. The aim of the strategy is “to achieve a safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector”. With net zero emissions being legislated into law as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)1, the challenge for the UK’s aviation strategy will be to have policies that underpin sustainability whilst tackling the zero emissions challenge. This insight provides a concise technical policy review in addition to the detailed Consultation Response on how aviation can grow sustainably with consideration of emissions reduction, and how innovation and new technology can be used to strengthen the strategy and support sustainability.
The UK’s aviation strategy to 2050 and beyond, is currently being developed by the Government to meet consumer and global needs. Its objectives are to2:
⦁ support the industry to work for the customers
⦁ ensure that air travel is safe and secure
⦁ construct a global and connected Britain
⦁ support a competitive industry in the global market
⦁ encourage market growth and tackle the environmental impacts of air travel
⦁ develop innovative solutions, technologies and the required industrial skillset
The strategy is currently supported by draft policies, which have been developed in consultation with experts. With reference to the future market worth, the industry will be worth an estimated £5 trillion in the next 20 years3 meaning that significant market growth is expected which will be more than double the current market worth of $2.7 trillion4 (£2.1 trillion).
How can predicted growth be sustainably achieved with reduced emissions?
A lot of the growth will come from increased customer demands for tourism and goods transportation. In addition, the need for increased performance and reduced emissions will also lead to the development of more efficient aircraft. Sustainability when considering reduction in emissions, must include objectives at a lower policy level that specifically look at the aircraft flight phases (aircraft take-off and climb phases as a starting point) that produce the most emissions. This is because these phases require the largest engine power, which correlate to more fuel burn. As such, sustainable aviation policies with an objective to reduce emissions must drive new revolutionary technologies that target these areas to begin with, if the policies are to be effective.
The rationale is that currently, aviation makes up 3% of the EU’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions5. The potential expansion of UK airport capacities as proposed and the availability of additional shorter routes from the UK, will increase the UK’s foothold in the European connectivity hub. This will significantly increase the proportion of the total UK and European GHG emissions that are attributed to aviation.
What policies can encourage innovation and new technologies to reduce emissions?
Policies that increase productivity through automation combined with Research and Development (R&D) will be key to encouraging innovation and new technologies. Specifically, policies that drive investment in the R&D of hybrid cycles and next generation propulsion and aircraft systems will yield innovative solutions. In addition, Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) require investment to increase productivity and maintain competitiveness, which will support the technological maturity of innovative products and reduce the cost of manufacture. However, policies in the current proposal do not adequately address the barriers to innovation, which are access to funds and inadequate level of skill capabilities. These will need to be addressed by considering the additional recommendations highlighted in the Consultation Response document.
The Consultation Response document published by EGB Engineering sets out detailed recommendations for policy improvements to address how sustainable growth can be achieved with reductions in emissions through the encouragement of innovation and technology. This document has been published in time for discussions on Aviation 2050: The Vision for Science and Innovation in order to support the conversation on how science and engineering can meet these key challenges.
1) Committee on Climate Change (CCC), (2019), Response to Government Plan to Legislate for Net Zero UK emission Target, website: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2019/06/11/response-to-government-plan-to-legislate-for-net-zero-emissions-target/, Last accessed 12th July 2019.
2) HM Government, (2018), Aviation 2050 – The Future of UK Aviation – A Consultation, website: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/aviation-2050-the-future-of-uk-aviation, Last accessed 12th July 2019.
3) Institution of Mechanical Engineers (2019), UK Aerospace: The Impact of Brexit, website: https://www.imeche.org/docs/default-source/1-oscar/reports-policy-statements-and-documents/imeche-brexit-and-aerospace-report-final.pdf?sfvrsn=2, Last accessed 12th July 2019.
4) International Air Transport Association (IATA) (2019), Value of Aviation, website: https://www.iata.org/policy/promoting-aviation/Pages/index.aspx, Last accessed 12th July 2019.
5) European Commission., (2019), Reducing Emissions from Aviation, website: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/aviation_en, Last accessed 12th July 2019.