The Sky’s the Limit
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The Sky’s the Limit An overview of prospects for aircraft emissions and strategies for their control Mark Barrett February 2007. Outline. Aviation system and environmental impacts International overview Demand Emission control options Base scenario and global warming

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The Sky’s the LimitAn overview of prospects for aircraft emissionsand strategies for their controlMark BarrettFebruary 2007

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  • Aviation system and environmental impacts

  • International overview

  • Demand

  • Emission control options

  • Base scenario and global warming

  • Emission control scenarios

  • Taxing aviation

  • UK aviation in context with other sectors

  • A local note

    The global studies this lecture is based on are 10-15 years old, but the picture is unchanged except we have ‘advanced’ 15 years further along the high growth aviation scenario.

    More recent energy scenarios for Europe confirm the importance of aviation as compared to other sectors.

    Reports and other material on aviation may be found at:

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Global environmental impacts














(2 to 4 to 15%?)




sulphur, soot...


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The international dimension



  • 2 billion passengers on 47000 aircraft

  • USA 40% of demand and fuel

  • 5-6%/yr growth outlook; fastest in Asia

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Freight demand

UK air freight composition

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Aviation and global carbon

Business as usual aviation is incompatible with climate stabilisation

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Physical control measures










Aircraft size





Traffic control


Route length

Load factor

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Policy measures


  • Telecommunications

  • Local’ leisure markets

  • Transfer of freight to surface modes


  • Better engines, airframes


  • Increase occupancy factors

  • Air traffic control

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Alternative fuels?

  • Engines driven by combusted chemical fuels the only option

  • Current engines of proven reliability – important in aircraft!

  • Even if no net CO2 is produced, these fuels produce water and NOx which cause global warming.

  • Biofuels

    • Very limited biomass

    • Conversion of biomass to high grade liquid fuels – efficiency ~0%?

  • Hydrogen.

    • Expensive renewable electricity for form H2 at ~70% efficiency

    • Hydrogen energy density low so major redesign of aircraft required.

  • Synthetic kerosene from renewable electricity?

    • Where does the carbon come from?

    • What would the efficiency be?

  • No obvious prospects for renewable fuels. The probability is that aviation will be the last sector to give up fossil fuels.

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Policy implementation


  • Emissions, fuel, aircraft movement, passenger/freight movement


  • Emission limits for aircraft and for high altitude pollutants

  • Altered regulation of commercial operation

  • Planning at local, national and international level

  • Emission trading


  • in telecommunications, local environment, other modes, better aircraft, air traffic control


  • advertising, technical advice

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Ownership and control of the aviation problem

International transport (aviation and shipping) subject to international treaties and multilateral negotiations. The problematic results of these are:

  • International transport (aviation and shipping) emissions not allocated to States so they are not included in the Kyoto protocol. They are called “bunker fuels and emissions.”

  • It is not possible for an individual State to separately apply taxes or other constraints to international in-flight items such as fuel or emissions.

  • Technical standards for aviation are set by negotiation through the UN body, ICAO.

    States can:

  • Influence the environmental performance of aircraft using State airports.

  • Apply taxes to tickets

  • Apply charges to Landing and Take Off (LTO)

  • Apply regulation to the airport environment

  • Influence demand and the provision of alternative modes

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The Effects of Taxing AviationPossible charge points

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Taxes and responses

Operator response = change in cost . proportionate response

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Tax study conclusions

o Aviation system complex; modelling simple

o Base scenario: demand increases 600% and fuel use by 400% in 40 years

o Fuel charges reduce fuel consumption and related pollutants by 3 to 20%

o Operator response may make an important contribution to emission control

o Fuel charges may have a significant effect, but will not prevent large increases in pollution emission

oModel should be refined, especially demand and operator response aspects

oOther charges should be explored

oThe framework for charging and emission allocation needs clarifying

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  • Aviation has significant environmental impacts

  • Aircraft emissions will grow even with all control measures except demand management strongly applied

  • Aviation should be subject to limits as tough as other sectors - or maybe tougher as it’s mainly a leisure activity

  • Demand growth is fundamental driver

  • Leisure travel is the biggest segment of demand.

  • The USA accounts for 40% of demand, fuel use and emission

Assume :

  • doubled global population

  • 50% reduction in global carbon emission

  • equal rights to emission


    emission quota of about 0.4 tC/person/year for all activities which is

    one return flight between UK and USA each year, or between UK and Spain including high altitude effects.

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Air quality

Heathrow Terminal 5

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Global and Local

Main local environmental impacts

  • Aircraft: noise; emissions generally small effect on local air quality

  • Surface transport to airport : pollution, noise, land take...

    Interaction between global and local

  • Less demand: less airport capacity

  • Larger aircraft and less empty seats: less aircraft movements, maybe less noise

  • More airport capacity: more scope for demand increase, but less congestion

    Local policies

  • Local planning requirements: numbers and timing of aircraft/passenger movements; operations; surface transport; ......

  • Airport operation: charges, time of day

  • Airport capacity location: given the need for capacity, where should it be?

    Aircraft have to land somewhere

    Currently most duties and powers are at domestic/local level

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Possible EU policy measures

Emission trading

Allocation of emissions from international flights

Global technical standards for all pollutants

Market regulation: liberalisation, deregulation

Route negotiation and airport slot allocation

Allow scope for appropriate fiscal measures

Development of long distance transport infrastructure


Freight switch

Decreased subsidies

‘Local’ leisure markets