Boeing calls for state help in green drive

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Boeing is rallying European airlines in calling for vital government assistance to help tackle aviation's costly environmental burden.

At a summit held in London on 29 January, chief executives and finance chiefs from 40 airlines - including Lufthansa and low-cost carrier Ryanair - were joined by some of Europe's leading bankers, senior figures from the manufacturing community, leasing companies and aviation industry groups.

The group met to discuss the financial implications involved in meeting the industry's environmental challenge at a time when Europe's airlines face major additional costs stemming from its imminent entry into the European Union's emissions trading scheme.

Boeing managing director of environmental strategy Billy Glover says efforts will focus on three areas: "Firstly, the focus will be on government policy and regulation so that it is more effective in accomplishing environmental progress and recognises the economic benefits generated by aviation in addition to the obligations involved in the financing of aircraft.

"Secondly, we talked about the need to improve Europe's air traffic system which could deliver the most significant benefits in the near term and, thirdly, support for biofuels at a time when the industry is focused on developing and testing second generation biofuels made from sustainable plant-based feedstocks as a way of reducing aviation's carbon dependency.

"Three years ago we did not think it would be technically possible. Now we believe it's a realistic near-term prospect. All it takes to make this a reality is for these technical applications to receive investment for the industrial to achieve the necessary scale-up. The industry and the many stakeholders involved have made real progress here. We have been on the leading edge and we are now doing our level best to get others engaged in the effort to move forward."

While the summit focused on the industry's current challenges in Europe, Boeing says the environmental challenge faced by aviation is not confined to one continent. However, speaking about the European Union's emissions trading plan for aviation, Boeing Financial Services managing director Kostya Zolotusky says: "Europe's plan creates non-market based dynamics and we hope Europe can blend it into a sensible single global regulation."

Glover says that those invited to the summit committed to "make the debate move forward" and encourage governments to take into account investment needs in aviation's search for long-term sustainable solutions.

The move failed to win the support of Jeff Gazzard of the Aviation Environment Federation: "Adopting an Oliver Twist-like refrain and proffering a begging bowl marked 'bottomless pot' won't wash.

"Boeing and its airline customers should try asking passengers to stump up these sums instead as they are the ultimate beneficiaries. We also need a more questioning approach and value for money analysis of exactly where these billions have gone and which bits actually appear on and in aircraft."