15 June, 2007
Day three of Green Week and I attended two sessions. The first one (which I had to moderate) was on the climate change impact of aviation. The second one was the Transatlantic video dialogue between EU and US policymakers on the state of play on climate change and energy security on both sides of the Atlantic.
The aviation session lived up to its promise (but then as moderator, I might be a bit biased). Lively, provocative, with an excellent Caroline Lucas (UK Green MEP), who managed to get Ryanair’s Jim Callaghan in a corner with her outspoken plea for demand reduction (read: less aviation). But Jim responded well with his arguments that some commercial companies like his own are doing their utmost (for cost reasons, not because they are ‘greenies’) to make their flights more efficient but that they have to compete with the likes of Alitalia and other state-supported airlines which fly much older and less fuel-efficient planes.
What I concluded from the session is that the aviation industry (which was not included in the Kyoto Protocol) should insist that it will be included in the next climate change framework (to prevent being seen as the “bad boy” of climate change) and that it should work as hard as possible (with government support) on developing new types of airplanes (zero-emission airplanes by 2050?) and alternative fuels (but there also respecting environmental constraints, e.g. on the use of biofuels). But I also feel that because of the expected air travel growth (what if all middle class Chinese and Indians start travelling for tourism as we Westerns do?) there will come a time when international policymakers will have to “define” the kind of air travel that is still absolutely necessary (cargo, business) and the air travel that is for leisure (can this best be done via the price mechanism?).
I also think the issue of the “right to fly” will become even more political once European policymakers start to worry about declining energy reserves (see yesterday’s article in The Independent).
That’s it for now. I will come back to the Transatlantic debate later.
Today’s Economist has an excellent article which highlights the industry’s efforts in making flying a bit more green.Author : Willy De Backer