Pilots warn about contrails and their impact on aviation’s sustainability footprint

The British Air Line Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has noted today’s report to Parliament by the Climate Change Committee. It comes shortly ahead of the publication of the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy, which is urgently needed to formulate a path towards a target of net zero for aviation.

 However, it underplays the importance of contrails and their potential effects on global warming. The report is right to note that despite uncertainties, the net effect of non-CO2 impacts “almost certainly contributes a warming effect to the climate. Best estimates suggest that they account for the majority of global aviation’s warming impact on the planet to date”.

This is why BALPA has been campaigning for a comprehensive research trial into the non-CO2 effects of aviation – specifically contrails – and hopes for funding for such a trial as part of the Jet Zero Strategy.

BALPA has helped shape the upcoming Jet Zero Strategy, due in Summer 2022, and wants to see the UK lead the world in supporting aviation’s complex but necessary journey to Net Zero. It was one of the first pilot members’ associations in the world to write and publish a comprehensive position paper setting out our key recommendations and goals on sustainability. 

BALPA continues to seek a place on the UK Government’s Jet Zero Council to share the expertise and drive from its Environment Study Group.

Jeremy Thomson, Chair of BALPA’s Environment Study Group said:

BALPA wants to see a thriving future for the aviation sector in the UK, one that provides jobs for our members and mobility for our population. Yet we are in the midst of a climate crisis and have a moral and legal obligation to ensure our future is a sustainable one.

“Pilots have always been the ‘conscience’ of the aviation industry over safety, helping to create the safest mode of transport ever known. BALPA’s efforts in sustainability will be the conscience of the industry with respect to tackling climate change, ensuring effective solutions to preserve the undeniable benefits of air travel to humanity and business.”