Faster Thinking

Good target practice

Jonathon Counsell has just been appointed as Group Head of Sustainability for British Airways' parent company, IAG, following 15 years working in BA's procurement, planning and environment teams. He is also chair of the UK's cross-industry group, Sustainable Aviation

What is British Airways doing to reduce its climate change impact?
BA's climate impact is directly linked to how much fuel is burnt. Every tonne of fuel saved is more than three tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions. We have a target of reducing our net emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 compared with 2005 - which we intend to achieve through a combination of increased fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and carbon trading. CO2 per passenger-km has fallen from 111g in 2005 to 101g last year.

How are you improving fuel efficiency?
New aircraft play an important part. Our Boeing 787 fleet emit up to 30 per cent less CO2 than the aircraft they are replacing, and our A380s and future A350s also represent big improvements. In addition, we are working on a number of operational initiatives to reduce fuel burn.

These include slower approaches to Heathrow to cut time spent circling the airport before landing; using in-flight wind-and-temperature data to calculate optimal efficiency flying speeds; reducing usage of aircraft power units when on the ground and taxi-ing out on one engine rather than two. And we're always looking to reduce weight on the aircraft- every kilo less saves fuel and CO2.

What about biofuels?
BA is working with Solena Fuels to deliver the London Greensky project at Coryton, on the Thames Estuary. This is a truly industry-leading initiative It will be the world's first advanced fuels facility to convert waste into jet fuel, providing an innovative, sustainable green energy and low-carbon fuel solution for the UK's aviation sector.

What are the prospects for a global emissions deal for aviation?
We believe a global carbon trading deal would be far more effective than a patchwork of regional arrangements such as we have in the EU and elsewhere. Our group is a driving force in efforts to secure a deal to cap growth in net aviation emissions from 2020. This is a huge area of work, involving industry groups and governments across the world. But we feel we are making progress.

What is BA doing about aircraft noise?
Our target is to reduce average noise per flight by 15 per cent by 2018 compared with 2008, and we're on track. Among other things, we've developed the use of segmented and slightly steeper approaches to reduce noise impact on local communities. (See graphic, above). Trials on our Boeing 777s have been evaluated by the manufacturer as being up to three decibels quieter beneath the Heathrow arrival flight path.

Meanwhile Airbus has calculated a five-decibel noise benefit from using advanced noise abatement departures for the A380. In 2014, the BA short-haul fleet topped the Heathrow Fly Quiet League, which compares the quietness of 50 Heathrow airlines. We're determined to continue pushing down noise levels through investment in new aircraft and innovation in operational techniques.