Aviation and the Environment

"I make no apology for highlighting the environment as the single most important issue facing the industry today."

Gordon Page, President, Royal Aeronautical Society, May, 2007

The Australian Divison, at its Divsion Council meeting in March 2014, approved release of the latest update to this paper (dated Apr14).  As the paper notes, much has changed since the first and second position papers were endorsed by the Australian Division Council in 2009 and 2011.  This latest version, titled "The next 50 years -emissions, environment and biofuels", provides an important update. Available for download here.

The Australian Division, at its Division Council Meeting in August 2009, approved release of an update to the 2007 position paper on the Aviation Emissions and Climate Change prepared by Andrew Drysdale, Robin Stanier and Brad Wheatley. Available for download here.

Aviation has a very positive influence on world trade, employment and tourism which must be sustained. However, it comes at an environmental cost which is being increasingly recognised. A position paper suggests that the RAeS Australian Division become more active in this debate, seeking to influence Government policy and working with other organisations such as Engineers Australia, the Australian Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuels and relevant Government Departments, particularly where RAeS has contacts.

The RAeS is one of the few organisations to have the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide informed debate and guide public policy in aerospace matters.” Aerospace International Oct 2011. 

This paper states the position of, and proposes actions for, the RAeS Australian Division on aviation emissions and climate change. Australia’s unique position in the global and regional aviation community provides an opportunity to act decisively and to lead efforts to lessen the effect of aviation on the environment and to contribute to resolving what is a global problem. There are economic and political benefits arising directly from such action.

 

The impact of aviation on the environment is a topical issue and a critical one for the aviation industry. Much has been done to improve fuel efficiencies, but major technological breakthroughs are necessary if aviation is to continue to grow at 5% without increasing its impact on the environment through greenhouse gas emissions.
In August 2007, the Australian Division and Engineers Australia released a joint policy on Aviation and the Environment. The full policy paper was updated in released in 2009 and is available here.  It included the following recommendations.
The RAeS Australia Division and Engineers Australia should participate in the debate about aviation and climate change by:

  • Encouraging the aviation industry to recognise the impact of aviation on the environment is an issue which public debate will demand must be taken into account in any climate change mitigation and abatement policy;
  • Contributing to the development of Government policy and initiatives to mitigate the impact of aviation on the environment;
  • Promote research programs contributing to global research into reducing the impacts of aviation on the environment. Examples of areas where Australia could contribute are: Greater use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance- Broadcast (ADS-B) including management of aircraft movements on the ground, on approach and landing; the impact of long range flying on fuel efficiencies with respect the optimum payload range research into combustor design for reduction in nitrogen oxides; and contrail reduction. Collaborative research and other activities with Cambridge University and MIT on the “Silent Aircraft initiative”, ASD on the Clean Skies Initiative; Rolls-Royce on combustion chamber design to reduce Nitrogen Oxides; Boeing and Airbus on the next generation concept designs; “Greener by Design” to promote the issue of aviation and the environment; and APEC countries on reducing aviation greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Assist in development of policy options to reduce aviation’s contribution to climate change.

Greener by Design is a collaborative industry group formed in 1999 to bring together experts from every part of the aviation industry with Government bodies and research institutions to seek practical and environmentally and economically sustainable solutions to the challenge posed by aviation’s impact on the environment.
The group that actively contributes to more environmentally friendly aviation by:

  • Researches, assesses and advises Government and industry on operational, technological, economic and regulatory options for limiting aviation’s environmental impact;
  • Promotes best practice across the aviation and aerospace sectors;
  • Promotes a balanced understanding of aviation’s true environmental impact and its environmental programmes;
  • Holds annual conferences on sustainable aviation; and
  • Maintains a web site and library comprising a definitive archive of documents relating to sustainable aviation.

More information is available at the official Greener by Design site.