Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2007
Q80 John Thurso: Even if we go back
to the absolute figure projected, which is 17.4 against 67, that
still leaves aviation producing an extremely large percentage
of carbon emissions. The current projection in the Government's
aviation White Paper is a 4.25% per annum increase in passenger
numbers and the exponential curve for freight is generally regarded
as being pretty similar. Is not the plain truth that the planet
cannot afford your growth aspirations as long as you are using
a carbon-based propellant?
Mr Wiltshire: Our position is
that the industry like many others is a carbon emitter. It currently
represents a small proportion of carbon emissions. We want to
play our part in dealing with carbon emission problems and helping
to stabilise them. If by pricing carbon into people's activities
they choose to burn it in a certain way then that is up to individual
selection. I do not think we will crack the problem of climate
change by taking a sectoral and, even worse, national approach
and trying to control individual activities at national level.
That is where one gets the 0.1% figure which has been quoted.
Q81 John Thurso: At the end of the
day, we will not be able to afford that much carbon for the activity
of aviation. Therefore, we will have to ration it and the best
way is to have a market mechanism to do that, with which you all
agree, but the plain fact is that any increase in aviation that
is more than 2% a year means that we are in the red zone.
Mr Wiltshire: It means that aviation
emissions may be growing overall, but we need to look at it at
a global level and consider how we are to bring down carbon overall.
We believe that the best way for aviation to play its part is
by way of an international scheme that brings carbon down and
caps it overall.
Q82 John Thurso: What I am driving
at is the fact that there is no viable likely alternative in a
50-year timeframe to the jet engine as the main propellant for
commercial passengers. There is some gain to be had from efficiency,
but it is not huge. Therefore, in order for you to operate you
will remain a constant and increasing emitter as passenger numbers
go up. There are many other industries where there are alternatives
to carbon. For example, the whisky industry which is a major consumer
of carbon through its distilling operations has opportunities
to use non-carbon renewable energy sources and so forth. They
can give up carbon and that will be used by you. The question
is: how much of our carbon do we give you for aviation, and does
the industry not have to accept that it cannot grow at the predicted
Mr Barker: We would like to see
most of the forecasts build in the potential for technology. You
painted a very bleak picture of efficiency gains in future. The
Royal Aeronautical Society has shown that the industry has reduced
its emissions per passenger by 70% over the past 50 years, so
if we look at 2050 it is likely that the technological curve will
continue to allow us substantial efficiency gains. The Stern Review
highlights the ACARE targets for reducing CO2 emissions
from new aircraft by 50% by 2020 and by 80% for NOx, so if there
is a radiative forcing coefficient it is likely to narrow over
the next 15 years. This industry exists on technology. It is a
very capital-intensive industry and has an extremely good track
record of investing in the latest technology to improve efficiency.
The commercial imperatives are here today and ETS will raise that
imperative still further. The problem with taxation of any kind
is that it takes money out of the system. We should be forcing
ourselves to invest as much as we can in pursuit of that goal.
Q83 Chairman: Everything is a bit
complicated. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is
adding up mathematically when it should not do so, or whatever
else. Why does the industry not take the initiative and have an
industry-wide scheme? For example, the submission by flybe says
that shortly it will be announcing a new eco-labelling scheme
for aircraft. The concept is to establish "a system using
a labelling scheme where aircraft are graded based on fuel burn,
carbon emission, noise footprint and total environmental cost.
In doing so consumers would be informed about each flight they
take." Why does industry not come up with such an initiative?
Why does not British Airways, one of the big ones, do that?
Mr Kershaw: There is no question
but that it is important that airlines communicate more effectively
with customers about the environmental impacts of flying. How
does one do that?
Q84 Chairman: There is one example
from flybe. Why does not British Airways think of an initiative
such as that? I do not hear anything from the industry. I think
that in a sense you have been caught in the headlights.
Mr Kershaw: One of the programmes
that we introduced in 2005 was the carbon offset scheme which
was essentially intended as a way to better inform the public.
Q85 Chairman: What you are saying
to me is that you do not really have anything.
Mr Barker: One matter that may
have inhibited the industry in the past is its competitive nature.
This is the first time we have appeared like this together, and
we take that responsibility very seriously.
Q86 Chairman: You can thank the Committee
Mr Barker: We do thank you. EasyJet
has a similar scheme to flybe. We are about to announce what we
call our environmental code where we publish how efficient we
are in the air and on the ground and what we are going to do about
Q87 Chairman: Say in six months'
time you write back to us and say, "Look, ahead of 2012 we
are taking this initiative so the consumer is informed",
because the previous witness, Professor Ekin, said that the political
environmental was not as well advanced as it should be because
the consumer is largely ignorant of what is happening in the area.
You have a responsibility to educate the consumer, so why not
do it ahead of 2012? Why does not Virgin do that? Richard Branson
has taken lots of initiatives.
Mr Humphreys: I have already explained
that Virgin has taken some initiatives in this area and it is
working on others. We would have no problem at all in what you
suggest, and maybe the industry should look at that.
Q88 Chairman: Let us take Virgin
as an example. I do not see it advertising a new eco-labelling
scheme or whatever.
Mr Humphreys: We are in the process
of coming up with proposals.
Q89 Chairman: But it is something
that all of you could be doing. If you can sit together here for
the first time surely you can get together afterwards and come
up with something in six months' time. Would you do that?
Mr Kershaw: I think we need to
improve the way we communicate.
Q90 Chairman: Would you all sit together,
however painful it might be, and come up with something and perhaps
write to us in six months' time to tell us what you might be doing
ahead of 2012? We are all shy here.
Mr Humphreys: Yes.
Mr Wiltshire: And through the
Sustainable Aviation strategy we have ourselves committed
to do that sort of thing.
Q91 Chairman: Will you write to us
in six months' time?
Mr Wiltshire: Our timescales are
a bit longer than that, but we will certainly be doing it and
we will be reporting on it.
Q92 Chairman: To refer back my earlier
point about doing something in advance of 2012, you stated that
there would be a 2004 to 2006 baseline for emissions. Why do you
not set a tighter baseline for emissions, say 2002 up to 2012?
That is an initiative that you could take ahead of 2012.
Mr Kershaw: That baseline is related
to the EU emissions trading scheme and is set by the European
Q93 Chairman: You are not under any
obligation from now until 2012, so perhaps you should take some
initiative. Why do you not do that with tighter baselines?
Mr Barker: As individual entities
every year commercially we are making huge efforts to reduce emissions.
Q94 Chairman: The answer is no?
Mr Barker: We reduced our emissions
per passenger last year by 3%.
Q95 Chairman: But what about a tighter
Mr Kershaw: The only purpose of
a baseline is to operate within emissions trading.
Q96 Chairman: It is to lower emissions.
Mr Kershaw: If you are suggesting
that we should create a voluntary emissions trading scheme I am
not sure that that would be the best use of our resources.
Q97 Chairman: What I am saying is
that you have a free ride up until 2012 and you are doing nothing.
You are not obliged to do anything until 2012, so why do you not
come up with an initiative and have a tighter baseline?
Mr Barker: Effectively, by 2012
the industry will have grown by then. We will have to pay for
any extra emissions that we have produced post-2005. But all of
us are trying to reduce emissions as individual airlines every
year, and that is a commercial imperative; it is a matter of survival.
Q98 Chairman: Surely, government
should maintain some form of taxation up to 2012, and Stern has
said it himself. It was repeated in one of your submissions to
us. If APD is the wrong tax what is the right tax?
Mr Kershaw: We believe it would
be more appropriate to have something in line with emissions trading
rather than to base it on taxation which we do not believe is
environmentally effective. Equally, we would expect that once
emissions trading was in place as a more effective mechanism there
would be no purpose in having an APD or other environmental tax.
Q99 Chairman: But up to 2012 it is
Mr Barker: The problem with any
tax is that it takes money away from us to invest in the new technology
that reduces emissions. That is a hard and fast fact.