In the experience of the Prince of Wales’ first Round Table on Sustainable Aviation, it was difficult to avoid the scale of the challenge. The situation the world faces is increasing air travel, a demand for more runways across the globe and hence rising emissions. This is a sector which, if nothing changes, can be expected to do more and more harm to the problems of climate change.
But there is a recognition that things must change, and a sincere desire to make that change happen, if the people around the Prince’s table are to be believed. The question is, how?
The problem is systemic. In other words, the entire system is required to function across a wide variety of activities, in each of which carbon emissions are a problem. This means that the answer has to be not just found in innovation, but in multiple technology innovations at a granular level that remove and reverse the harm done by current technologies. They can be as simple as the materials used to serve the in-flight meals; or as complex as the release mechanism for lowering and raising the wheels of the plane; as large as the wing of a jumbo jet; or as small as the button that opens the doors in the airport. Each must be re-engineered to be carbon neutral in manufacture, and in use.
How then can this be achieved? Aviation is, sadly, a long way behind the energy sector, which turned to new technologies for renewable energy generation well over 20 years ago. Energy was an easier sector in many ways. Not only was the problem of traditional energy recognised far more clearly than the problems of aviation, but also the technologies for renewable energy generation were already known, especially wind and hydro. Solar was also already familiar from comparatively early on, although solar thermal proved more a problem than solar PV. But energy still had a long way to travel, and is still travelling, in order to find the optimal combination of innovations that transform the entire sector into carbon neutral. Aviation is on that journey.
In my view, the aviation industry now needs to encourage a dynamic innovation culture, from the grassroots up, from which it will be possible to stimulate the multiple technology innovations required across the linked set of systemic problems with regard to Climate Change. These are big words for what are practical problems with a set of little things that all link together. By breaking them down into the individual component parts, we can see what we need, and ask the inhabitants of a dynamic innovation culture to go to work.
It is these innovations that we need so badly. The enthusiasm and commitment of those round Prince Charles’ table can then be engaged. They will provide an escalator like no other to scaling the right innovations across the entire aviation sector. First class, senior brains were at the table from some of the most powerful and prestigious names in the industry. They can make things happen.
But first they have to be given the things. That needs the innovators, the inventors, the entrepreneurs, and the risk takers who will invest. Green Angel Syndicate was pleased to be included in the Round Table, and to be given its change to contribute something towards meeting these innovation needs. Knowing the challenge, it becomes to search for those things that meet the need. To all of you reading this and wondering, what can I do? I would say, seek out the right innovations, and send them to us.