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[LONDON] Heathrow Airport Ltd Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye called for world leaders to accelerate greenhouse gas reductions and push for a mandatory carbon-offset program for the aviation industry to fight climate change.
The head of London's biggest airport signed an open letter also seeking more research into cleaner fuels and better efficiency technology, according to a statement on Wednesday by Heathrow. The letter, released at the Global Sustainable Aviation meeting in Geneva, calls for the International Civil Aviation Organization, the industry regulator, to agree on a new carbon offset market by 2020.
"There's a huge amount we can and are doing, not just around carbon but also more broadly around emissions of nitrogen oxides and around noise," Mr Holland-Kaye said in a phone interview from Geneva.
Mr Holland-Kaye is waiting for the UK government to decide on where to build a new runway in southeast England, after its own Airports Commission in July recommended allowing Heathrow to build a third landing strip. A mandatory carbon offset program would mean any extra greenhouse gases associated with the additional flights would have to be offset, the airport said, an acknowledgment that stricter rules on aviation emissions may make the project more palatable to environmentalists.
Heathrow's expansion is also opposed by local residents and lawmakers within Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservative Party, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Zac Goldsmith, who is favorite to be the party's next mayoral candidate.
"One of the benefits we will get with expansion of Heathrow is getting rid of stacking," Mr Holland-Kaye said. "While you're circling over west London for 10 minutes, that's creating pollution and waste as well as delays, and a lot of that is driven by the fact we are operating at capacity."
The London hub has committed to reducing emissions from the energy used in its buildings by 34 per cent in the three decades through 2020, and it's phasing electric vans and cars into its fleet of airport vehicles. Mr Holland-Kaye said planes are increasingly being supplied with power from the ground while they're at their stands, rather than from their engines. Electric tugs are also being used to take planes to the runway, or aircraft are taxiing using a single engine, he said.
ICAO has predicted that emissions from international aviation will increase to as much as 755 metric megatons in 2020 from 448 megatons in 2010. Greenhouse gases from aviation make up about 2 percent of the global total, a proportion that's rising as other industries rein in their own emissions.
Envoys from more than 190 nations aim to broker a new global agreement to fight global warming at a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris in December.
ICAO agreed in 2013 to make recommendations next year on how to set up a market to encourage carbon reductions and offsets by the airlines industry. The market would start in 2020 and cover all nations, a move unprecedented by any industry.
The agency is debating three options for the market: a program whereby airlines could offset their own greenhouse gases through emissions reductions made outside the industry; a variant of that which also includes a revenue-generating fee; and a cap-and-trade system, setting an overall limit on emissions for the industry.