Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 2006
Q560 Mr Caton: Mr Irvin, I think
you began to answer this question. If further studies confirm
that condensation trails and cirrus clouds contribute significantly
to the climate impact of aviation what would be your preferred
approach to mitigation?
Mr Irvin: The real answer is that
the science is so uncertain it is impossible to say firmly what
it should be. First, there appear to be positive and negative
effects from water vapour formation, some of which militate against
global warming and some of which may increase it. That must be
sorted out. From everything that I knowit is not a firm
scientific conclusionit is probable that the way to deal
with it is to look at the routes which aircraft take, avoiding
certain climatic conditions and altitudes in particular parts
of the globe. That may be the most effective way to try to deal
with it. In the long term we may find there are new fuels and
aircraft designs which will also help deal with the problem.
Q561 Mr Caton: If you take the air
traffic management approach that you have just suggestedre-routeing
and altering traffic in that waydoes it not create problems
for living up to the growth predictions that you have made?
Mr Irvin: The answer is that we
do not quite know; the science is very uncertain. I doubt that
rerouteing to avoid certain climatic conditions in certain areas,
provided it can be done effectively by the air traffic control
people, will affect the total figures in the way that perhaps
you suggest. We do not know the answer to that at the moment;
the science is still under investigation.
Q562 Mr Caton: To return to the emissions
trading scheme, the Government has always given its support to
the ETS with the proviso that if progress on including aviation
in the ETS is too slow it is prepared to act unilaterally or bilaterally.
Has the Government given you any indication of what it means by
Mr Dowds: The short answer is
no. Clearly, that is a judgment that it will make. What we have
is a common understanding with the Government about what we think
is possible. We are still hoping that aviation can come into the
EU trading scheme by 2008 or shortly thereafter, and certainly
the expectation is that we can get it up and running and becoming
effective before the next Kyoto round in 2013.
Mr Irvin: In the previous session
a witness said that if we missed 2008 for inclusion it would be
2012 before anything could happen. We very much want to go for
2008 and we are pressing for it. Our understanding is that there
is no legal or practical impediment to entering the scheme between
those years, 2008-12, so we could go in sooner.
Q563 Mr Caton: For instance, the
Aviation Environment Federation suggests that the start date for
including aviation emissions would be 2010 at the very earliest
and, more likely, 2013, which is a date that has been mentioned
before. Why do you believe it takes that view and you are much
Mr Dowds: Truthfully, you would
have to ask them. Obviously, we maintain our contacts with the
Government and we have worked closely with it in the run-up to
the UK presidency to try to ensure it is understood that it is
the right thing to do. We continue those contacts. Our best understanding
is that it is possible, but at the end of the day the Government
will have to conduct those negotiations and ultimately we will
have to rely on the Government to deliver it.
Q564 Joan Walley: Are you not part
of the Aviation Environment Federation? Do you have no links with
Mr Dowds: The answer I believe
Mr Irvin: We are not members but
we have links with it and we deal a good deal with the AEF. In
2003 BAA initiated a group to examine the involvement of aviation
in the EU ETS system and the AEF was represented in that group.
Therefore, we worked jointly with AEF in that group, as did the
UK Government, the European Union and airlines. That group commissioned
research by Oxera on which we pressed for aviation to be included.
We are putting a lot of effort into getting aviation involved
in 2008. We have agreement across Europe through ACI Europe, which
is the airports federation throughout Europe, and this year we
have the agreement of ACI World in favour of the principle that
aviation should be involved in emissions trading.
Q565 Mr Caton: If you fail to get
that earlier date and the AEF is proved to be right, or near right,
is the UK aviation industry prepared to do anything else to reduce
emissions until we get into the ETS?
Mr Irvin: We are already doing
things to reduce emissions. First, aircraft technology and aircraft
movements are improving and from aviation we see an improvement
of 1 to 2% a year in fuel efficiency. In terms of consistent improvements
that is not to be sniffed at. We as airport operators are doing
an enormous amount to try to cut the emissions that we control.
We have a target to reduce our CO2 emissions by 15%
from energy used at airports versus passengers increasing by about
70%. Irrespective of that we are making quite big efforts to achieve
reductions in the meantime. Emissions trading will give all the
more incentive to do that and it also means we will find more
effective ways to reduce emissions in the long term.
Mr Paling: At Manchester we are
taking similar steps. We have set a target reduction of 10% in
absolute terms in energy use, which equates to a 60% reduction
in CO2 emissions per passenger. It is a huge challenge
and one that we are well on the way to meeting in terms of introducing
new energy efficiency measures. We have also worked with Eurocontrol
and a number of airlines on something called continuous descent
approach. Manchester was a trial site. That as well as a number
of noise benefits can also deliver fuel savings which translate
into CO2 savings. We shall be adopting those procedures
at Manchester at night in the next couple of months with a view
to seeing how they work and expanding it. We are very active in
trying to reduce CO2 emissions.
Q566 Emily Thornberry: You would
not expect to come before us without our asking about the report
of the Tyndall Centre and to get your comments upon it. It appears
that by the middle years of this century all other sectors of
the economy will need to emit zero CO2 in order to
fund current increases in aviation, if the Department for Transport
is right. That alarms us and other sectors. I have received something
from the NFU which says that UK agriculture cannot combat climate
change alone. The idea that aviation will continue to increase
in this way and that other sectors have to cut back to zero to
support it is alarming. What do you say?
Mr Dowds: By way of opening remarks,
we are aware of the Tyndall Centre report and the fact that it
ran a number of scenarios. We also realise that the one you referred
to, which is often quoted, is the most extreme scenario that it
came up with. We just need to understand it as we begin to deal
with the supposed implications of that scenario. We do not think
that the level of aviation growth that it predicts, which basically
says that there will be unfettered capacity provided to meet demand
while other sectors are being limited and the number of runways
provided will be as necessary, is a realistic scenario.
Mr Irvin: Not to be taken by surprise,
I have a copy of the report of the Tyndall Centre so obviously
I am aware of it. It would be alarming if all of it were true.
Obviously, a lot of interesting work has gone into it, but it
depends on the assumptions that you make. It makes some very contentious
assumptions, rather like The Da Vinci Code.
Q567 Emily Thornberry: Do you say
it is the same as The Da Vinci Code? Can we quote you on
Mr Irvin: No, but, in the same
way, if one makes certain assumptions one can perhaps go in the
wrong direction. If one assumes that there will be virtually unlimited
growth in one sector and a 60 to 80% reduction everywhere else
over a number of years it is true that eventually the two points
will meet, but if one looks at its forecasts for passenger numbers
they are nearly double what the DfT and our forecasting people
expect by 2050. It is about double the number of passengers per
annum for the UK. It applies variously 2.7 times and 3.5 times
radiative forcing without accepting that there may be any radiative
forcing from any other part of the economy, so it just counts
CO2 from the rest of the economy. Therefore, it is
not comparing like with like. As to radiative forcing, the report
itself says: "It should be noted that there is very substantial
uncertainty and disagreement surrounding both the size of the
factor that should be used as well as the method of simply uplifting
carbon values and comparing these with carbon emission profiles.
Strictly speaking, such a comparison does not compare like with
like." I think that is a very good warning. That was the
sort of warning that the IPCC gave but people tended to overlook
when the Tyndall Centre published its figures. Another interesting
point I noticed in the assumptions on page 43 is that it uses
a very coarse rule of thumb to calculate runway and passenger
equivalents. It states: "One can say that one new standard
length runway will accommodate some 35,000 to 40,000 passengers
per year." At Heathrow we have probably over 60 million passengers
a year on two runways. That says to me that it has not been peer
reviewed and has probably not been proof read properly. It is
a pretty fundamental mistake to build into its calculations.
Q568 Joan Walley: One of the matters
that we want to get to the heart of is that there are other sectors
which will have to make huge cuts in emissions, including for
example ceramics to name but one. By the time one gets round to
any kind of scheme there will already have been allocations and
the pressure on you will not be the same. Why is it right that
other sectors should take a much greater burden than the one that
you are taking now?
Mr Dowds: I am not sure we share
the conclusion at which you have arrived in posing the question
that somehow the job is done by the time aviation gets its act
together and becomes involved. We believe that it will be much
more difficult than that. The truth of the matter is that different
industries find it easier to make savings in their carbon emissions.
Q569 Joan Walley: I will tell that
to my ceramics manufacturers.
Mr Dowds: I said that they would
find it easier than aviation; I did not say that it was easy.
The beauty of the emissions trading scheme is that it recognises
and rewards and it incentivises those who find it less easy to
discover ways to compensate for it. Ultimately, we see the emissions
trading scheme as one which will allow other industries to sell
allowances that they do not require because they have made greater
progress than aviation. Aviation will have to pay for those. As
time passes it is easy to imagine a scenario in which progress
becomes more difficult, the scarcity of spare allowances becomes
greater and the cost of buying them will rise. That will internalise
for aviation the cost of climate change. We believe that all of
that is appropriate and that it will have an ultimate effect on
aviation both in terms of the cost of flying and almost certainly
on the total level of demand. What we are arguing is that it is
a much more efficient and effective mechanism than taxation or
national or regional initiatives to deal with what is a global
Q570 Joan Walley: Do you have any
idea of what level of carbon credits UK aviation should be receiving?
Mr Irvin: We do not have those
figures because they will be worked out by the European Commission.
Q571 Joan Walley: Can you give us
a feel of what you think it should be?
Mr Dowds: We do not have a figure.
If that makes us inadequate I am sorry, but we did not arrive
here today with an absolute figure.
Q572 Joan Walley: Are you not proposing
Mr Dowds: We will engage with
government when it is in a position to start discussing with our
industry what the level should be. Clearly, we expect a challenging
target vis-a"-vis the current level of emissions that aviation
generates. We expect, therefore, that that would decrease over
time and pressure on aviation will increase as it tries to meet
Q573 Emily Thornberry: Your evidence
seems to give the impression that you are looking forward to this
scheme being introduced in the next couple of years. If that is
right you must be thinking in terms of figures by now. You are
not sitting back to wait to see what Gordon Brown suggests?
Mr Dowds: I am unaware of any
particular figure. We have not calculated one.
Q574 Joan Walley: If you have any
information on that we may find it helpful. Finally, do you think
that when we get round to determining what should be aviation's
share of carbon credits they should be given away free or there
should be auctions? Do you have any thoughts or propositions on
Mr Dowds: Again, the short answer
is that we do not think it matters too much as long as it is a
level playing field. We do not think there is a fair case for
arguing that all other forms of industry should get them for free
and because aviation is special it should be charged for them.
If there is any particular mechanism which with more thought seems
to make better sense than giving them away free, fine, but all
we ask is that it is done on an industry-wide level playing field.
Mr Paling: Manchester as well
as a number of BAA airports are very familiar with the scheme
because we are in it in terms of energy generation on site. We
have been in the scheme for over a year now, so we are familiar
with how it works on that basis.
Joan Walley: We have to bring this to
a close. You have been very generous with your time. Thank you