Public pressure grows on aviation industry to do more about climate change

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Iron Hide)

Public pressure to reduce flying’s impact on the environment has seen a substantial increase over the past year, according to new research commissioned by air traffic service, NATS

In its Aviation Index 2020 report, the company found that 70% of people are now demanding that climate change should be the aviation industry’s top priority, an 18% rise in just two years. 

Statistics from the report also demonstrate how public opinion has changed since last year on various issues. Figures revealed that only 39% of people are showing support for the expansion of airports, compared with 59% last year. It also found that 32% of those surveyed believe that people should be discouraged from flying due to the environmental impact, compared with 22% in 2019.  

By offering airlines more direct routes and enabling carbon savings of 10.1 million tonnes since 2008, NATS has reduced the impact aviation has on the environment. Although it appears efforts are being made, it’s also clear from this report, that the public believes more needs to be done.  

Although the pandemic has taken its toll on many aviation operations, that does not mean that efforts have halted to increase environmental sustainability. Before the pandemic, the coalition of British aerospace industry stakeholders, Sustainable Aviation, announced a decarbonisation roadmap that committed the UK sector to net zero emissions by 2050. 

Ian Jopson, NATS’ head of sustainable operations, commented: “Aviation is an intrinsic force for good in the world and the pandemic has shown us how much we all rely on making human connections.  

Flying unites people, cultures and businesses while also employing 80 million people around the world, and yet the results of the Aviation Index are sending us a very clear message – we must urgently address climate change. It is up to us as an industry to demonstrate that we can do that without sacrificing the enormous benefits that flying brings to us all.”  

In September, European aircraft manufacturerAirbus unveiled concepts for zero-emission aircraft and a new project working with NATS to see whether aircraft flying in formation like migrating geese can help reduce emissions.  

The low traffic levels caused by the pandemic present a rare opportunity for the aviation industry to establish how airspace in the UK can be redesigned to help cut emissions and fuel burn.