Meeting the environmental challenge vital for consumers to continue to benefit from strong choice and good value in aviation

Date: 20 December 2011

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today said that aviation’s sustainable development does not have to be held back by a deadlock between its economic and its environmental impact.

The aviation regulator set out its view in Aviation Policy for the Environment, the second of three Insight Notes the CAA is publishing to help the Government frame its aviation policy for consultation next Spring. The Insight Note covers the environmental impact of aviation on carbon emissions, noise and local air quality.

The CAA identifies that current capacity problems in the South East have partly been caused by an inability to move beyond local community concerns over aviation noise, which highlights the need for a radical approach to the issue to allow capacity increases.
Iain Osborne, CAA Group Director of Regulatory Policy, said: “To be able to develop sustainably aviation has to embrace and tackle both the noise nuisance that impacts communities around airports and climate change caused by carbon emissions.

“Dealing with the noise issue demands a two-sided approach. We need to consider how to reduce noise, but also recognise that it will still have a big impact on people living close to airports. So Government noise policy must find ways to help airport owners and local communities to engage more constructively on noise.

“On climate change the ideal solution is global, but an EU-wide approach is a highly valuable transition. We advise the Government to continue to push for a global emissions trading scheme and support the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System and to set up a policy framework that supports industry in further technological and operational solutions to reduce noise. There is also an important role for the CAA in providing trusted, reliable information to consumers about CO2 emissions performance to drive improvements."

The Note focuses on aviation noise nuisance and aviation’s climate change impacts, where the CAA has considerable experience, and suggests ways forward for Government. The other major environmental issue aviation must address is Local Air Quality, which is not covered in detail as it is not a current area of CAA expertise.

Aviation Noise
Aviation noise is likely to be a significant concern surrounding the development of any new capacity, which is likely to be vital to secure choice and value for consumers in future. To meet that concern and manage sustainable capacity development anywhere in the UK will require Government to lead a more constructive and inclusive debate on aviation noise than is happening at present.

Noise is a local issue and policies need to be applicable at the local level to provide a robust platform for the aviation policy. The CAA recommends an approach to aviation noise within the policy that focuses both on reducing the numbers of people affected by noise and encouraging industry to better engage with their local communities to try to create consensus in support of sustainable development.

The CAA suggests it may be possible to set out a noise limit for airports, within which growth would be allowed, to reflect that it is aircraft noise that damages local communities’ quality of life rather than aircraft themselves, so where noise is reduced, flight numbers could be allowed to increase.

Aviation noise at Heathrow has reduced significantly over time, with technological improvements mitigating increasing flight frequency. The numbers of people affected dropped by 60% between 1988 and 2010 and the total area affected shrank by two-thirds. However, in spite of these reductions Heathrow still accounts for more than one in four people in Europe affected by aviation noise.

Climate Change
On climate change the CAA suggest that without a global ‘cap and trade’ scheme, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is the next best option for meeting the carbon challenge. What’s more, there are significant benefits to be drawn from operational and technical measures to combat climate change, such as modernising airspace. Initiatives which the CAA worked on include new green incentives for NATS, pioneering the Future Airspace Strategy and promoting Continuous Descent Approaches and Continuous Climb Departures.

Notes to Editors
1. Aviation Policy for the Environment is available on the CAA website here: www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?pageid=12375
2. Today’s Insight Note follows the publication of the CAA’s response to the Department for Transport’s Aviation Policy Framework Consultation (Link: www.caa.co.uk/SAFScopingResponse.
3. Aviation Policy for the Environment is the second of three Insight Notes to be published by the CAA in December and January 2012. It was proceeded by Aviation Policy for Consumers (Link: www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=589&pagetype=90&pageid=12796), published on 14 December and will be followed on 5 January 2012 by Aviation Policy for the Future.
4. World Economic Forum data can be found in its Global Competitiveness Report 2011-12 (link: www.weforum.org/reports/global-competitiveness-report-2011-2012.
5. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.