Through the 'Clean Sky' Joint-Technology Initiative launched in Brussels on 5 February, industry hopes to develop technology that will allow aircraft noise to be cut by half and emissions of CO2 and NOx to be slashed by 50% and 80% respectively by 2020.
The initiative comes as the EU is attempting to stem rising air pollution from the rapidly growing aviation sector. It is part of a three-pillar approach, which features a controversial proposal to include airlines in the EU's carbon emissions cap-and-trade system (see LinksDossier on Aviation & ETS).
It is one of six planned joint-technology initiatives (JTIs) created by the Commission in order to avoid fragmentation of research efforts and boost large-scale and long-term investment in strategic research fields (EurActiv 7/03/07).
So far, the 'Clean Sky' initiative incorporates 54 industries, 15 research centres and 17 universities across 16 countries.
It will be financed equally by EU money under the 7th Research Framework Programme and industry funds, and will focus on six specific projects, including the design of greener engines, adapting wing technologies to make new aircraft more energy efficient and developing lighter materials.
The EU hopes that this will help European aircraft manufacturers compete in the race to build the world's cleanest planes. "Aeronautics' future expansion relies on its ability to reduce its environmental impact. Vast resources are needed and neither the EU, nor industry, nor scientists could achieve this on their own," said Potočnik, welcoming the launch of the very first JTI as the other five initiatives continue to suffer from serious delays (EurActiv 23/11/07).
While pointing out that aviation only contributes 2-3% of total EU CO2 emissions, Åke Svensson, president of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), nevertheless stressed: "We recognise that this carbon footprint is not acceptable." However, he added: "We see industry not as being part of the problem but rather the solution."
Marc Ventre, chairman of the Clean Sky Provisional Executive Committee (PEC) said he expects new technologies to be tested and validated by 2015, allowing the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft to begin entering into service from then on.
Airlines have welcomed the initiative but, at the same time, have urged EU governments to focus more on the third pillar of Europe's strategy to limit the environmental impact of aviation – the creation of a 'Single European Sky'. The Association of European Airlines claims the latter initiative could cut carbon-dioxide output by around 12% by improving infrastructure and operational inefficiencies.