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Hammond announces a new aviation policy

8th November, 2010

The ConLib transport minister made his first major speech on aviation on 25th Oct. Perhaps tellingly, it was made to an aviation business lobby group, the Airport Operators’ Association.

The most important tangible aspect was the announcement that there would be a new aviation policy:

So in the New Year DfT will issue a scoping document setting out the questions we are seeking to answer as we develop this policy. Then we will open a dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders to seek their views and to draw on their knowledge and experience. My intention is to publish a draft policy document for formal consultation early in 2012.”

Hammond made extensive reference to environmental impacts, especially climate change. Eg:

No government with a commitment to carbon reduction targets can adopt a crude “predict and provide” approach to aviation capacity while aircraft CO2 remains an unresolved issue.

And no responsible government can ignore the local environmental impacts – especially noise – of airport development.”

But worryingly, he seems to be looking mainly to technology to solve the problem of climate change:

So I want to look at how we can incentivise the decarbonisation of air travel and encourage businesses in the industry to invest in low-carbon technologies and fuels.  [But there are no realistic alternatives to burning fossil fuels for aircraft] …        

Meanwhile, we’re seeing the development of aircraft that pollute less and carry more passengers; the development of lightweight composite materials; more fuel-efficient operations .. With a new aircraft today typically using 70% less fuel than sixty years ago ..   [But analysts and the government itself only expect very modest improvement in fuel efficiency of about 1% pa from now on.]

..  the future use of sustainable biofuels .. [But neither the industry nor others expect biofuels, let alone ‘sustainable’ ones, to make a great impact for decades]

.. it is clear that technology can and must provide a convincing answer to those who see demand management as the only solution in the medium term to aviation-produced carbon ..  [Carefully worded by Hammond, but begs the question as to how one can reduce emissions from aviation without primary emphasis on demand management when demand is rising at up to 5% pa (worldwide) while efficiency is only improving at 1% pa.]