The United Kingdom (UK) Government’s consultation on the aviation industry, which was launched in December will draw to a close on 11 April with the minister promising that the process will produce concrete policies by 2020.
The consultation paper focuses predictably on the passenger side of the aviation business, with a nod to airfreight and its growing economic importance along with the crucial, and in the modern transport arena, complex issues around the environment and climate change.
According to Civil Aviation Authority figures for 2017, the last full year that statistics are available, freight-only flights increased 7.2 percent year-on-year, from 788,000 tonnes in 2016 to 844,800 tonnes in 2017 in UK airports. Bellyhold cargo increased by 10 percent, reaching 1.96 million tonnes in 2017 compared to 1.79 million tonnes a year earlier.
The UK’s consultation paper said that there were record amounts of freight handled at UK airports in 2017, which “highlights the growing importance of aviation to the transport of freight. On a global basis airfreight growth was more than twice as strong as global trade in general in 2017, the widest margin of outperformance since 2010.”
This increase in airfreight demand is expected to continue developing, becoming a significant element of the UK economy with the cargo consisting of “high value, high tech products, medicines and just-in-time deliveries.”
Passenger growth is expected to double by 2050, reaching four billion passengers globally. This will mean the potential for substantial growth in bellyhold cargo (cargo carried in the hold of a passenger aircraft), and the additional growth in cargo-only flights will consequently lead to an increase in carbon emissions from the industry, which the UK Government is committed to reducing.
The consultation paper asserts, “The recently agreed global carbon offsetting measure for aviation (CORSIA) is the first worldwide scheme to address CO2 emissions in any single sector and demonstrates the international ambition for aviation to play its part in tackling climate change.”
Neither the UK Government in its consultation paper nor the International Air Transport Association give details of how the carbon offsetting in aviation will work, while the baseline measure for emissions will be 2020. That makes the targets more easily achievable. In the shipping sector the baseline for carbon emissions is set at 2008 levels, a more ambitious target.
Even so, achieving cuts in carbon emissions will be a significant challenge for the aviation industry. The UK Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg pointed out that aviation can develop economic confidence and boost trade and business investment, and Sugg said the departure from the European Union is a watershed moment.
“As we leave the European Union, the UK’s future prosperity depends on our ability to reach out to the rest of the world, to forge new trade links, to connect and compete,” said Sugg.
This will require new technologies such as digital know-how, but more importantly an answer to the greenhouse gas emissions conundrum that all transport modes are now grappling with.
The UK’s consultation paper makes some bold claims on new developments that will allow aviation to meet its climate change goals, including the use of hybrid technologies with electric power and standard fuels in the mix.
The paper concedes that electric power on aircraft poses serious weight problems from batteries, but it claims that progress in battery technology will enable “new power concepts” across all transport modes.
“It is possible that by 2050 we will see some form of hybrid engine technology in use in new aircraft designs that will allow for cruising between destinations using electric power. Hybrid aircraft could potentially start operating on routes of up to 1,000 kilometers by 2035, the equivalent of flying from London to Geneva. This could be transformational in the quest to balance growth in aviation with reducing environmental impacts,” according to the Aviation 2050 paper.
FreightWaves asked the Department for Transport to comment on the consultation process, but the department said, “We wouldn’t comment on the number of responses so far, and we don’t have a specific date yet beyond next year [as to when the policy document from the consultation will be released].”