European Union to fund scheme to reduce aircraft emissions and noise pollution

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The European Union (EU) has announced plans to fund a private-public scheme dubbed "Clean Sky" to reduce aircraft emissions and noise pollution in European aircraft. Officials claim that the project will have large-scale economic benefits, will reduce jet engine carbon emissions by 20 to 40 percent and will therefore offset the large growth in commercial air travel. The proposal comes at a time when European officials are under heavy criticism for not doing enough to reduce aircraft emissions.

The new proposal is outlined in a document that is reported to be likely to be passed by the European Commission. The document says that "Not launching Clean Sky soon will put the European industry in a position of competitive disadvantage, with negative repercussions not only for the industry itself but also for the EU as a whole," and goes on to point out that the US has a comparable scheme, the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy, and points out that progress is beginning to be made in the area by Brazil, Russia, China and India. The paper also highlights the need for public spending in the scheme to ensure it does not fall behind international development. The commission has argued that "the present value, at 2006 prices, of the cumulative direct effect over the period 2010-2035 of Clean Sky on economic output in the EU has been estimated to approximately €100 billion to €160 billion reflecting increased operating profits, labor expenditures, capital investment and other direct effects."

The proposal calls for the aviation industry to contribute €800 million between 2008 and 2014, with companies such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Thales, Dassault and Eurocopter. Universities and research institutions have also pledged support. The funding will be matched with public money from the EU, making the total cost €1.6 billion.

As well as approval by the European Commission, the plan requires approval by the individual EU member states. Britain, though infamously skeptical of large EU projects, has already voiced its support, along with several other countries.

If the project goes ahead, funding will be split between six separate main initiatives, including a "greener" engine, a "smart" fixed wing that continually readjusts itself to maintain best fuel economy, and research regarding lighter materials that could be used to replace metals in aircraft bodies and components.

According to current estimates, the 20 to 40 percent carbon emissions reduction will mean a reduction of two to three billion tons between 2015 and 2050, and the project will also reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 to 60 percent in the same time frame, as well as causing a 50 percent reduction in "perceived aircraft noise."

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