Back to: How we travel agenda
Sarah: So our next speaker is Owen Bellamy from the Committee on Climate Change.
Owen Bellamy: Morning everyone and thanks for coming in this morning. So as Sarah said, my name's Owen Bellamy and I'm from the Committee on Climate Change. And I'm going talk to you this morning about what kind of some of the technologies are for reducing emissions from air travel. I think you probably heard a bit already so far that air travel is one of the areas where it's a bit more difficult to reduce emissions. So I thought I'd start with a few points on why that's the case.#
So think about actually jumbo jets, which is kind of planes that most people go on holiday on. They're actually really big. And I guess the first key point is that it uses a lot of energy to get a jumbo jet off the ground. And so far, no one has really invented something which is as good as normal kind of fossil fuels for giving that power to get planes off the ground. So that's really one of the kind of big challenges for kind of designing new airplanes. The other kind of key issue is the timings and the timeframes. So a really big issue with air travel and airplanes is safety standards. So it takes a long time to kind of design new types of planes, which were quite complicated in a way which passes all the safety tests in a kind of short period of time. So those kind of timings take a long time to develop the technologies. And I guess another important point on the timings is that planes last a long time. So if you think a typical plane lasts maybe 20 to 30 years. But actually we're only talking about 30 years to get to net-zero in 2050. So the scope for designing new planes, kind of getting into pass the safety standards and then be available to airlines to buy, all in 30 years is actually quite a challenge. That is one of the other kind of big issues for why it's hard to reduce emissions from air travel. And the last point I just wanted to make is actually, there's only a few companies that develop new airplanes, so there's a couple of companies that make engines. We have one in the UK. And there are a couple of companies that make airplanes, but those are all big global international companies. So that makes it more difficult in the UK for us to develop new planes ourselves. We couldn't, as the UK say, so a UK company, please make us a zero-carbon plane because there isn't actually a company in the UK that does that.#
So before looking to what the options for the future, I thought is worth looking backward actually what's happened in the past. So although you probably- if I put up a picture of a jumbo jet from 1950 which was when jet plane started, you would almost certainly recognise it. They look very similar today as what they did in the fifties. But actually that hides that as being a lot of advances in the engines and the aircraft designs. So planes are now a lot more fuel-efficient. They use a lot less fuel than they did when jet planes first came out in the 1950s, and actually they use about 75% less fuel. So there has been this kind of gradual, yearly kind of progress by tweaking the engines and tweaking the aerodynamics to make the planes used less fuel. But eventually we will kind of run out of those small annual changes to make. So we will all need to do something else to kinda get us on track to net-zero. So I'm gonna talk about what a few of those different things are that you could do. I'm gonna talk about what some of the new engine types you could put on airplanes are, what some kind of different airplane designs and also what some of the different fuels are as well.#
So firstly, well, what types of new engines could you put on airplanes to reduce the fuel use and to reduce the emissions? So some manufacturers are developing a new type of jet engine and that could come in perhaps another 10 years or so, and that could actually save a fair chunk of emission so it could save maybe 1/3 of fuel and a 1/3 of emissions. But obviously that's not nowhere near 100% which is what we need. An option, which could be actually zero-emission for planes is using electricity, so electric planes in the same way that electric vehicles are zero-emission. And the picture there is an Airbus electric plane. There's being available a few years ago to kind of buy, and that's a one-seater electric plane, as you can see. I think that's really the big challenge with electric planes. You can make a very small electric plane like that in the same way that you could make an electric car. But actually making a jumbo jet with batteries and electric is really, really difficult because you would need so many batteries. So I think people think it could be possible to make electric planes, but only kind of quite small ones, which you could only use on the very short routes, and as Jim said in his slides just before me, actually, almost all the emissions, as you saw, 96% come from the long haul flights, so that is really why making electric planes for kind of international flying is probably not likely to be a potential answer.#
You could actually change some of the aircraft designs as well to make the airplanes more fuel-efficient. So you can use new materials. So some planes, probably some planes have already flown on, use some new lightweight materials. Again you can't save a lot with that. You can potentially redesign airplanes to make them more aerodynamic and more fuel-efficient. So I put a few kind of concepts on there, people are working on to make the planes quite a lot more aerodynamically efficient, and make them fly through the air easier. But they have a quite a big challenge as you can see, they look a bit different. And actually, you would have to change the way the airports are kind of laid out and configured to be able to fit planes, which look a bit similar to that in those airports. So that's actually quite a big challenge.#
And then the last area I wanted to touch on was the different fuels as well. So you probably heard a bit about the biofuels and about the synthetic fuels, which I think Jenny talked about yesterday. So on the biofuel science, these have actually passed the kind of safety certification standards and tests that I mentioned at the beginning. And, if you wanted to, you could fly a plane with half of the fuel and being biofuels. But actually, at the moment it's a very small market. So some biofuel suppliers do supply biofuels for planes. But it's only about 0.1% of all fuel for aviation across the whole world. So it's a very small, kind of new developing market and as I think, Jenny said yesterday, the inputs you use to make those biofuels, so that the trees and the biomass, you can actually use in different areas where you could potentially get bigger savings than using them in planes. So it's not necessarily clear that using biofuels in aviation is really the best way to use that stuff. You could get much bigger emission savings by using in some other different ways, not in aviation or air travel.#
And, just lastly, on the synthetic fuel side. So it is technically possible to make these synthetic fuels, which are carbon neutral. And you have to do that by combining hydrogen with CO2, so with carbon dioxide. But there are few drawbacks to that, which is why not many people are thinking about them. And the first one is that they're gonna be really expensive to make, possibly the most expensive thing you could do across anything you're gonna be talking about over these kind of few weekends, not just in airplanes. Also, you could get the same emission savings, therefore, by using the hydrogen and the carbon that you need to make them in different ways, at much lower cost. So that is really the big drawback with those different fuels.#
And I just wanted to end on the slide leaves nicely on from that one, which was just to talk a bit about what the cost of some of these different technologies might be for reducing emissions from air travel. And when I talked about the new engines and the new airplane designs, actually, they save so much fuel and the fuel is quite expensive, actually, it's not really thought those would actually add much more extra cost onto flying onto plane designs, or that they could even save money overall actually. The biofuels they're a bit more expensive, so they're probably more expensive than normal fuels. So that would require some government kind of support from the government to bring them through. And as I mentioned these kinds of synthetic fuels, which need a lot of those different things to make them, so the hydrogen and the carbon, they're actually going to be probably, we think, you know, really very expensive. And, as I said, possibly one of the most expensive things you could do across not just air travel, but and not just transport, but every single area we talked about this weekend. So that's it from me. Thank you very much.
Transcripts provided by Just Transcription. These transcripts have been automatically created and then reviewed by two editors. If you find an error in the transcription where it does not match the video, please contact us at email@example.com.