Aviation's Response to Climate Change: A Northwest Airlines Perspective


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Presentation at the Carbon Management Council's June 5, 2008 webinar, Corporate Action: Designing Practical Sustainability Programs. Presentation by Tim McGraw, Director of Corporate Environment and Safety, Northwest Airlines.

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  • Going green will not be enough - Wally Broecker, 2008.

    Will voluntary measures result in short-term movement toward non-fossil lighter-than-air craft? I hope so. In any case, I think these would be more fun to fly!

    I know Boeing Inc. has long dreamed of building flying wing airships of gigantic capacity compared to the aluminum tubes we fly today. Why not mark out a bold vision toward owning floating cities able to move by slightly reinforcing rippling movements of the outer carbon fabric, perhaps using tiny solar powered nanofiber 'muscles'? You could fly low enough to avoid high, or any, pressurization; imagine the views through the massive 'glass floors' possible in these craft! Geography as it unfolded below would become of avid general interest, though the daylight below would only be preserved with the assistance of many, many exterior sun-dispensing mirrors. Individuals or families could in-flight decide to parasail down within walking distance of their final destinations.

    We could get there by reusing the wonderful lightweight but fuel-inefficient airframes being mothballed to date. Airships could be constructed singly at first, then tied together into a massive latticework. No fancy hydrogen or helium technology, just good old hot air could provide most of the lift in a self-adjusting envelope. It would work like a giant Segue of the skies, undulating, compensating for meteorological conditions, balancing weight and distribution changes effortlessly. Then what if a number of these latticed airships were bundled above one another until a giant square 'balloon' of tremendous mass were built up, able to lift the hull of a cruise ship or aircraft carrier or a mountain of materials? What if several such balloons were coordinated to lift the equivalent of a stadium or small city? The cost to an individual for global intercity and intercontinental transport would drop to micropayments, volume would zillionify, and the cost to the atmospheric composition would be far lower as well. We could all live everywhere across the globe and enjoy a productive world saved from the far worse future restricted to one in ten of us clustered above a barren earth along the arctic rim.

    Imagine asking, 'Do you want to catch the morning or the evening flight? Well, at any time just walk right through any of the open archways on any side of our spectacular floating city, always boarding. Enjoy flying, dining, learning and recreating on NorthSouthEastWest Aircities!'

    Think big! No small plans have the magic to stir the human soul! :)

    -Paul M. Suckow, 30 March 2009 (lunchtime).
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  • Aviation's Response to Climate Change: A Northwest Airlines Perspective

    1. 1. Aviation’s Response to Climate Change A Northwest Airlines Perspective Tim McGraw, Director Corporate Environmental and Safety Northwest Airlines, Inc. June 5, 2008
    2. 2. Today’s discussion <ul><li>Brief background on aviation’s emissions reductions </li></ul><ul><li>Why is climate change relevant to airlines? </li></ul><ul><li>Industry response </li></ul><ul><li>NWA response </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    3. 3. Introduction to aircraft emissions <ul><li>Aircraft emissions are complex and have multiple effects </li></ul>Local air quality Global effects <ul><li>Emissions at low altitude </li></ul><ul><li>Contaminants: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Carbon monoxide (CO) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nitrous Oxides (NOx) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ozone (O 3 ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Particulates (PM) </li></ul></ul>Respiratory diseases, toxic gases, acid rain, smog <ul><li>Emissions mostly at high </li></ul><ul><li>altitudes </li></ul><ul><li>Greenhouse gases (GHGs): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Carbon dioxide (CO2) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Water vapor (contrails) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nitrous Oxides (NOx) </li></ul></ul>Contribute to global climate change
    4. 4. The concern with aviation’s GHGs <ul><li>The industry is projected to achieve a 1% reduction in per-passenger fuel burn per year in the next 10 - 15 years </li></ul><ul><li>. . . but traffic is growing at 5-6% per year </li></ul><ul><li> Aviation’s emissions are growing fast </li></ul><ul><li>Aircraft global CO 2 anthropogenic emissions estimated to become a large percentage of world total: 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1992: 0.14 GtC/year (2% of world total) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2050: 0.28 - 1.5 GtC/year (4% - 12% of world total) </li></ul></ul></ul>1 Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1999) Aviation and the Global Atmosphere. Availabe at: http://www.grida.no/Climate/ipcc/aviation/index.htm
    5. 5. Why is climate change relevant to the industry? <ul><li>Flying public increasingly aware of climate change </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate clients concerned about their carbon footprint </li></ul><ul><li>Regulation of aircraft emissions imminent </li></ul><ul><li>Fuel burn and GHG emissions closely linked ( reducing fuel burn reduces emissions) </li></ul><ul><li>Airline employees also concerned about climate change </li></ul>External factors Internal factors GHGs emissions reductions can lead to win-win situations
    6. 6. Industry response & Regulatory Framework Worldwide policies and regulations for civil aviation National policies and regulations Harmonization Representation Representation Coordinated positions Consultation Negotiation Regulation Coordination Regulation Representation ICAO (Intl. Civil Aviation Organization) Trade groups (IATA, ATA, etc.) Civil Aviation Authorities (e.g. FAA) Airlines Airports Manufacturers Etc.
    7. 7. Industry response <ul><li>Acknowledge role of aviation on climate change </li></ul><ul><li>Industry is taking proactive steps to reduce its impact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fuel efficiency has improved 70% over the last 4 decades </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CO 2 emissions have been reduced 20% over the last 10 years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Goal of 25% fuel efficiency improvements by 2025 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Working towards unified positions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Support voluntary measures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology upgrades (engines, airframes, fuels) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Operational improvements (ATC modernization) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Standards for market-based mechanisms (emissions trading) </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. “ At Northwest Airlines, we understand the importance of minimizing our impact on the environment for the benefit of our employees, customers and shareholders, for the communities we serve around the globe and for future generations. Our commitment is to always strive to improve in this critical area of corporate responsibility.” – Doug Steenland Northwest Airlines President and CEO <ul><li>NWA’s Message to Stakeholders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NWA cares and will continue to care </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NWA invests and operates wisely to conserve resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NWA strives to minimize its impact on the environment </li></ul></ul>NWA response
    9. 9. <ul><li>Program introduced in 2007 that includes all of the company’s environmental initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Climate Change Commitments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Support industry-wide goal to be 25% more fuel efficient by 2020 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support voluntary programs as the best means to achieve reductions in GHGs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support technological improvements in airframe and engine design and air traffic management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support research into alternative fuels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Committed to working towards carbon neutral growth from its operations </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. <ul><li>NWA’s eight-point environmental strategy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop Robust Environmental Policies and Procedures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enhance Environmental Performance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepare Proactive Communication Plans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participate in International Policy Development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create Partnerships with Environmental Aspects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop Domestic Legislative Coordination Plan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engage our employees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluate Carbon Trading Opportunities </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Eight Point Plan <ul><ul><li>Develop Robust Environmental Policies and Procedures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Environmental policies and procedures always evolving </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>nwa.com and intranet environmental sections being revamped </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>2. Enhance Environmental Performance </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continue $6B fleet upgrade campaign </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Replaced DC-10s with A330s </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>First North America operator of fuel-efficient Boeing 787 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>New 76-seat regional jets </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100-seat replacement for DC-9s </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Current fleet achieves over 53 passenger miles per gallon </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continued focus on core environmental compliance to build credibility </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continued commitment to Fuel Cent$ program </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>NWA facility recycling programs being expanded </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More rigorous emissions inventory assessment (facilities and fleet) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. CO 2 Emissions Reductions <ul><li>23% reduction in CO 2 emissions between 2000 and 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Emissions are 3% lower than 1990 (Kyoto-like reduction) </li></ul><ul><li>Reductions are a result of fleet upgrades and condensed capacity </li></ul><ul><li>New transatlantic fleet and 76-seat airplanes are 30-35% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft they replace </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>3. Prepare Proactive Communication Plans </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prepared materials for internal communications </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Published environmental package for domestic sales force </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Developed external and internal websites, including a corporate environmental responsibility document </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.nwa.com/corpinfo/aircares/earthcares.html </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recent awards: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Minnesota Governors Award </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Schiphol Environmental Capacity Award </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>Eight Point Plan (cont’d)
    14. 14. <ul><li>4. Participate in International Strategies </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continued work at IATA and ICAO </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>IATA Strategy and Planning Committee (SPC) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>ATA SAC Climate Change Task Group </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>ICAO CAEP and IATA ENCOM </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborate with SkyTeam </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Consistent product offerings </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>DL, CO, AF, and KL are all considered “Leaders” on the Environment </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Participating in the development of a SkyTeam Corporate Sustainability Statement </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>Eight Point Plan (cont’d)
    15. 15. <ul><li>Create Partnerships with Environmental Aspects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Nature Conservancy – Northwest EarthCares founding partner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>NWA gift of $1 million to TNC to protect land in the Lower Mississippi River Valley </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Other TNC projects in which NWA customers will be able to participate: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Minnesota’s Forests and Prairies </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Michigan’s Upper Peninsula </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>China’s First National Park (Yunnan province) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Opportunities for NWA customers to contribute: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Online donations at nwa.com </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Frequent-flyer miles donations </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Purchase of carbon-offsets </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>Eight Point Plan (cont’d)
    16. 16. <ul><li>6. Develop Domestic Legislative Coordination Plan </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Working with Government Affairs both in Washington, DC and Minnesota </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reactive and proactive responses to Congress and White House </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Member of Minnesota and Michigan Governors’ panels on climate change </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>7. Employee engagement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fuel Conservation – Fuel Cent$ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Employee Involvement Team focused on reducing fuel </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How we fly </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How we fly light </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How we execute on the ramp </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How we maintain aircraft </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>600 Ideas from employees so far </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Employee ideas contributed to fuel savings of 12 million gallons in 2007 and a projected 16 million gallon savings in 2008 </li></ul></ul></ul>Eight Point Plan (cont’d)
    17. 17. <ul><li>8. Evaluate Carbon Trading Opportunities </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Significant opportunity here as well as risk </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Steep learning curve </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Market maturity needed for carbon </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Timing and influence will be important </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Offer carbon-offsets to NWA customers through The Nature Conservancy ® </li></ul></ul></ul>Eight Point Plan (cont’d)
    18. 18. Conclusions <ul><li>Climate change taken seriously by airlines </li></ul><ul><li>Strong incentives to reduce GHG emissions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Customers want it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Policymakers will make decisions soon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fuel burn reductions make business sense </li></ul></ul><ul><li>NWA has developed a comprehensive eight-point plan to address its impact on climate change </li></ul>http://www.nwa.com/corpinfo/aircares/earthcares.html