The aviation industry is highly regulated, both for safety and many of its wider operations, so we therefore operate within a very defined framework. Similarly, our environmental impact is almost entirely from aviation activity – flying planes. Fuel is our largest single cost item, so we are heavily incentivised to minimise its use, and therefore CO2 emissions. But this also means that there are no easy ways to further reduce our emissions.
Unlike many companies we face a very limited set of choices in our efforts to reduce our environmental impact. We are constrained by the technology available to us, the development of which is a highly regulated and lengthy process. Our steady growth almost inevitably means that easyJet’s total emissions will increase, as we are already at the front of the technology curve. However, easyJet is one of the most efficient airlines for short-haul European travel, an easyJet passenger is responsible for 22% fewer emissions than a passenger on traditional airline to the same destination and using the same plane. So as we gain market share over other less efficient operators we are improving the overall efficiency of European air travel. Significantly reducing our environmental impact requires technological change across the industry, so our environment policy focuses on these long-term gains. easyJet is actively engaged with the major manufacturers and providing operational data to influence new technology.
The aim of our business is to be as efficient as we can be – this applies to our environmental impact as well. Our environmental policy is governed by three promises:
Many people within easyJet help deliver our environmental aims. Oversight of our environmental policy is carried out by a manager in our regulatory team, and the executive management team receives regular updates on environmental policy as part of the reporting on regulatory issues.
In total we emitted 4.51 tonnes of CO2 in the year and per passenger trip this was 96.9kg. Our CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre decreased again in 2010 to 84.4 grams per kilometre.
We believe the most important environmental issue facing the industry is climate change. We have focused on ensuring the industry plays its role in tackling climate change and on improving the efficiency of our flying in terms of CO2 emissions.
Over the last ten years, easyJet has successfully improved its CO2 efficiency every single year. Emissions per passenger km (the standard industry measure of efficiency) has improved every year, from 116.2 g/km in 2000 to 83.1 g/km in 2010. We have continued to reduce CO2 emissions per passenger journey, from 97.7 kg in 2009 to 96.9 kg in 2010.
Aviation has three main environmental impacts:On climate change
Aviation contributes to climate change through both the direct emission of CO2 from fuel burn and due to other non-CO2 effects from the emission of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), particles and aerosols and cloud formation. The science surrounding the impact of aviation’s CO2 emissions is very well developed, while the science surrounding non-CO2 effects remains uncertain. It is clear, however, that the long-lasting impact is from CO2 emissions.On local air quality
Local air quality impacts arise from NOx emissions during aircraft take-offs and landings. We operate the latest standard CFM (with the Tech Insertion upgrade) engines on 40% or our fleet, and are continuing to invest in this upgrade so that it will be in place across the fleet. This reduces emissions (by about 1%) but also reduces NOx emissions by 20% to 30%. These engines are the best in class and help minimise our impact on local air quality.On noise levels
Aircraft noise clearly has an impact on residents around airports. easyJet complies with local rules that govern noise at airports (such as curfews and routeings to avoid built up areas). Our aircraft meet the tightest international noise standards (ICAO chapter 4). Our focus on improving the efficiency of our flying has also reduced our noise impact; by changing the flap settings used for landings we have both improved fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels at landing.
Climate change is the dominant global environmental issue and it is also of long-term strategic importance to the airline industry. We have therefore focused our reporting and public policy work on this issue.
Addressing our environmental impact is clearly part of our responsibility as an airline. However, it is also a business imperative. Environmental concerns have a significant impact on public policy towards aviation, from restrictions on airport expansion to passenger taxes. It is therefore in our own interest to ensure that both we and the wider industry properly address environmental concerns. This is why we have focused on considering public policy solutions to the challenges the industry faces.
Aviation emissions have increased steadily over time, despite significant improvement in environmental efficiency – the growth in air traffic has outweighed the efficiency gains. Over the last ten years, global aviation traffic has grown by over 5% a year, while efficiency gains have been about 2%. This has led to concerns that aviation emissions will continue to grow into the future and that this will be inconsistent with the overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are needed to limit the impact of climate change. This is clearly unsustainable and needs to change going forward.
We believe that the main environmental challenge facing the industry is to ensure that emissions are put on a downwards path. There is a real risk that if the industry does not achieve this on its own, it will have growth constraints placed up on it. We have already seen suggestions of this in the UK, where the Committee on Climate in its December 2009 report on aviation emissions suggested the growth of the industry would need to be limited to 60% over the next 40 years to control UK emissions.
To ensure the industry does not face any artificial constraints we need to significantly improve the efficiency of flying, through step-changes in technology and the right incentives to ensure that airlines and passengers fly as efficiently as possible.
Our promises revolve around actions we can take in the short-term to directly improve the environmental efficiency of our business and at the same time working to deliver a sustainable long-term outcome for the industry. The latter involves changing the framework within which the industry operates to ensure it delivers sustainable outcomes.