The fact of the matter: Business aviation leads the way for a sustainable aviation sector

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Taken in 2018 – Róman Kok, EBAA

As we emerge from the second COVID19 wave, many Europeans have realised the crucial importance of connectivity and the ability to travel across the region. With some voices arguing the Business aviation sector can only ever be sustainable through “carte blanche” taxation and banning certain operations, we need to focus on realistic and tangible change through innovation and cooperation.

For those curious about Business aviation, the sector plays a crucial role in European connectivity and is a substantial contributor to the European economy. We are known by many names: unscheduled aviation, private jets, corporate flying, and air taxis.

Business aviation is an industry that provides a solution when time matters most, serving as a lifeline for communities, be it for medical transport or as a tool to help governments and businesses, that also generates local economic development. Crucially, Business aviation has played an important part in the first phase of the COVID19 pandemic.

We appreciate our sector has a different operational model and therefore a different emissions profile, but we are actively working towards decoupling our CO2 emissions from the growth of the sector.

Since 2009, the Business aviation community has been committed to reducing the environmental impact of its products and operations through our climate commitment. In fact, in many ways, it has been ahead of the curve in mitigating its impact on climate change. For instance: over the last 15 years, emissions per hour, per flight, per business aircraft have decreased by 36% (based on EUROCONTROL figures).

This hasn’t happened by accident: our investments in technology such as composite structures, ever-cleaner engines and, Global Satellite Positioning, winglets and other key advancements have enabled us to produce these benefits and in turn genuine emissions reductions.

The Business aviation sector goes through a continuous cycle of designing advanced airframes and cutting-edge propulsion system technologies. Constant product evolution driven by research and development demonstrates why our sector is the catalyst for innovation in aviation and a leader in decarbonising the aviation sector.

An inherent trait of operators of Business aviation, the craving to innovate and improve stems from the ability to offer the best-in-class service possible whilst operating smaller aircraft. In an industry that operates on thin margins, we need to strike a balance between the ability to innovate and taxation.

It is widely misunderstood that Business aviation does not pay taxes on its operations. The fiscal regime for Business aviation in Europe is highly fragmented, with many different taxes being applied differently in the various European member states.

The sector pays its fair share and is not against environmental taxation as long as those taxation derived funds are redirected towards research and development within our industry, which would contribute towards our sector meeting the European Green Deal’s ambitions.

In short; don’t stifle an industry of its ability to innovate by implementing a “carte blanche’  taxation system.

So let’s talk about positive change. The good news is that there are actual short, medium and long-term solutions at hand that can help us achieve our climate targets that do not involve frivolous calls for the banning of certain types of Business aviation operations.

For instance, increased use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) by Business aviation will result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and some state a target of 10% SAF share of all aviation fuel demand by 2030 is feasible in Europe.

In fact, pure and unblended SAF can deliver a net life-cycle reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of up to 80% versus petroleum-derived jet fuel.  I am happy to note the importance of ramping up these fuels is widely recognised by industry and governments alike, such as the imminent publication of the EU Commission’s ReFuelEU Aviation initiative due during the summer of 2021.

Unfortunately, also widely recognised but not implemented, are the emission reductions we could attain overnight with an actual implementation of the Single European Sky (SES). According to Eurocontrol, the modernisation and harmonisation of European airspace can reduce up to 10% of air transport emissions.

It has been more than 20 years since the first conception of the SES, yet we have made little progress. Some argue it is politically too difficult to accept the control of a national airspace by an external air traffic control system.

Let’s face the facts together; if member states worked on the implementation of the SES with the same enthusiasm as they do on environmental taxation, we would already be emitting less collectively and would have been doing so for two decades.

With a climate commitment, climate goals, short term gains and future technologies such as electric aircraft, hydrogen and a basket of measures that we already have on the table, we are collectively ready for a revolution in aviation.

It is now time governments and business aviation leaders stand united behind a plan that will help us actually implement real solutions with real reductions.

Environmental action and economic growth are not mutually exclusive; we can make sustainability a top priority, without sacrificing the modern-day necessity of business flying, which connects citizens, companies and communities to economic opportunities as never before.

If the COVID19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that Business aviation is there when connections need to be made most direly. It will continue to fulfil that role, to the benefit of Europe and Europeans, for many more years to come.

 

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