The EU’s environmental performance rating is highly suspect

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Jetliners to Get EU Carbon-Impact Rating So Travelers Can Choose

EASA/EU/Green Party unhappy with ICAO CORSIA

New Iteration: scale aircraft environmental performance

“Political” Direction to Safety Agency not good omen

Europe’s air-safety regulator plans to grade aircraft according to carbon emissions and pollution as passengers demand more information on the environmental impact of flights.

Work has begun on a labeling system similar to that used to rate the efficiency of household appliances such as refrigerators, Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

“Passengers told us they would like to know the environmental performance of the aircraft they are taking,” Ky said in Cologne, Germany. “Customers get smarter and smarter and make more informed decisions about which airlines and airports they use.”

Environmental concerns are becoming a priority for the European Parliament as so-called Green parties win more representation, Ky said. There’s also evidence that passengers in some countries are beginning to make decisions based on emissions, with a slump in Swedish airline bookings and a jump in train travel attributed to the phenomenon of “flygskam” or “flying shame.”

Ky said the eco-labeling could be extended to airlines, airports and possibly maintenance providers. That could be bad news for carriers with older fleets or large numbers of thirsty four-engine jets.

“This is going to be one of the major themes for us for the future,” Ky said. “It is extremely political so we need to be very careful. We want to use indisputable data.”


 

EASA fought a long, unsuccessful battle to force an Emissions Trading system on the rest of aviation. Its disappointment at the practical, yet careful approach called CORSIA is palpable, perhaps driven by the increasing power of the Green Party in the European Parliament.

Tenacity has been a hallmark of this European institution and it has come upon a mechanism to carry its singular view without having to reach international consensus.

The last words of the Patrick Ky’s statement, perhaps, are the most significant when he admits that the project to establish an environmental rating for aircraft, airports and MROs is extremely driven by politics.  That admission may be contrary to EASA’s SAFETY MISSION plus such green pressure likely will impact the objectivity of the CO2 scale to be defined.

The Green influence has already led to “flygskam”, the new politically biased rating may further distort the real environmental impacts of the aircraft, airports and MROs graded. (NOTE: Ky stated, as an example of the need for such environmental scale, “That could be bad news for carriers with older fleets[1] or large numbers of thirsty four-engine jets[2].) Perhaps the quote was meant for the Green Party audience’s benefit; perhaps the Director of EASA is that out of touch with airline trends.

A technical challenge to setting this rating will be the introduction of new greener airplanes. The environmental finding that are part of these new vehicles certification will provide a hard data baseline for this new inventory.

Aviation Safety and politics do not mix well and when the task is tinted by some social agenda, the problems are even more evident. It will be interesting to see if Director Ky can actually base his CO2 scale on “indisputable evidence” or numbers acceptable to the EU Parliament.

 

[1] A 2013 study stated that 83% of the EU fleet was less than 19 year old. aircraft manufacture.  By ICAO standards much of the EU aircraft would be Stage IV and heading to Stage V.

[2] Mr. Ky may have not noticed that most airlines are retiring the B-747s and the carriers that bough the French A-380 are being grounded because their operating performances are uneconomic.



 

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