What does a sustainable future for aviation look like? – 23 Oct 2019

The environment and, more specifically, climate change have been in the news in the past few weeks, with recent demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion regularly making the headlines. There has also been coverage of the Government’s Environment Bill and the fact the Prime Minister will chair a new Climate Change Committee.

In aviation, we’ve seen a pledge by the owner of British Airways, International Airlines Group, to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We’ve also heard the head of Flybe, now called Virgin Connect, saying they may stop flying between airports where the journey can easily be made by train or road.

These initiatives were covered at last week’s Airlines 2050 conference in London, where I took part in a panel discussion about aviation and sustainability. Speaking alongside me were representatives from the aviation industry, an environmental NGO and the new organisation in charge of modernising airspace. The session was chaired by editor and publisher of GreenAir Online, Christopher Surgenor.

Under the banner ‘Why a sustainable future matters?’, the session set out to address sustainability in its broadest sense – not just how the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint but also what it generates in terms of noise on the ground. While aviation growth will make our climate targets harder to achieve, it also means more people will be overflown, and more frequently. This has implications for their health and quality of life.

As I said when we published ICCAN’s first Corporate Strategy, aviation growth cannot come at any cost. I made clear to the audience last week that noise concerns cannot be subservient to climate and carbon issues. To achieve a truly sustainable future for aviation, one must be considered alongside the other.

I also said that, yes, planes may be less noisy today than their predecessors, but that has largely been a by-product of greater fuel efficiency. I and the other ICCAN commissioners want noise to be a key determinant for government and industry decisions in the future. To do this, reducing noise must be on the agenda of the airlines’ boards, but it needs to also be at the forefront in the minds of manufacturers, regulators and policymakers.

Airlines 2050 sustainability panel

I and the other ICCAN commissioners want noise to be a key determinant for government and industry decisions in the future. To do this, reducing noise must be on the agenda of the airlines’ boards, but it needs to also be at the forefront in the minds of manufacturers, regulators and policymakers.

                                                                                                             – Rob Light, ICCAN Head Commissioner

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