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Date: 4 May 2011

Remarks of Giovanni Bisignani at the World Economic Forum, Cape Town

It is a pleasure to join the launch of this report on Sustainable Aviation. Sustainability is critical for aviation as it is for all industries. Through IATA, which represents some 230 airlines, I spent much time building global consensus across the aviation value chain. Today, aviation has the most aggressive climate change targets of any global industry. The entire value chain - airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers- is committed to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% annually to 2020, cap net emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and cut net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005. Moreover, we are the only sector where governments have managed to agree on a way forward which was achieved through the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Results

It is not just words. Since 2004, we have saved over 76 million tonnes of CO2 by burning less fuel through best practices in fuel management and shortening over 2,000 routes. Furthermore, airlines are investing billions in new aircraft that are on average 20% more fuel efficient than the ones they are replacing.

Biofuels

This report highlights the importance of biofuels in our industry’s climate change strategy. Alternative power sources, wind or solar power for example, are not an option for aviation. When IATA started to talk about sustainable biofuels in 2007, many people thought that they were a pipe dream. Today, they are a tested reality and we expect the first commercial biofuels flights to take place later this year. And the good news is that we can blend biofuels with traditional jet fuel with no modifications to the engines or the aircraft.

We are moving ahead much faster than anybody would have anticipated even a few years ago. We are also determined not to repeat the mistakes of some other sectors. Our focus is on sustainable biofuels that do not compete with the food value chain for either land or water, and it is appropriate that we are launching this report in Africa. Developing a sustainable biofuels industry in Africa has great potential to spread wealth across the continent with local production from sustainable sources. I encourage all governments in Africa and around the world to make this a part of their green economy strategies.

 Moving Forward

Aviation is on the right track with its climate change strategy and targets but some challenges remain. The first is to commercialize the availability of biofuels, but big oil has been a big disappointment. With the notable exception of PetroChina which will supply a transpacific test flight later this year, most of the biofuels tests have been with small entrepreneurial firms. We need the big oil companies on board to generate commercial volumes that will drive the costs to economical levels. And governments have a role to encourage biofuels production by setting the right legal and fiscal frameworks,

The second challenge is to stop governments from taxing us to death. Positive economic measures are a part of our climate change strategy but these must be globally coordinated through ICAO.  This will ensure that they are fair, effective and do not distort competition. That is why we are completely opposed to regional schemes like the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). It is illegal under the Chicago convention and will do nothing to reduce emissions. There is not even a guarantee in the ETS legislation that the money collected will be invested in green technologies.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by saying that we take this report as another endorsement of aviation’s climate change targets and strategy. The industry is united in its focus on real measures to reduce its emissions and we encourage governments and big oil to come on board.

Read press release from the World Economic Forum

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