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Keeping it Natural

Special Report - Southern Africa

The region has a large number of new aircraft in its fleets, all of which improve environmental performance compared with older models

The soccer World Cup will have an enormous environmental impact, according to studies. Of the anticipated 2.75 million tonnes of carbon emissions, around 67% will result from international travel.

Airlines are working hard to reduce that figure, however. South African Airways (SAA) has begun Required Navigation Performance (RNP) flights into Cape Town, which are shaving 18km off every trip. Vimla Maistry, SAA Acting Head Group Corporate Affairs, says RNP is particularly appropriate to the African aviation environment. “This technology creates a more accurate flight path, particularly for departures, arrivals and approaches to airports,” Maistry explains. “It increases the safety and efficiency of aviation while also bringing environmental benefits. Shorter track miles means reduced fuel burn and carbon emissions.”

Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) is now in operation in the region, further optimising operational efficiency, and so reducing fuel burn. “We are in ongoing discussions with ATNS on how traffic control procedures can contribute towards improved efficiencies,” confirms Maistry.

The region additionally has a high number of new aircraft in its fleets, all of which improve environmental performance compared to older models. SAA, for example, has some new Airbus A330s on the way.

Perhaps, southern Africa’s greatest contribution, however, will be in determining a solution to Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR). “ICAO has a long track record of taking the needs of developing countries into account in setting any global standards,” says Paul Steele, IATA Director, Aviation Environment. “For example, the specific situation of African carriers was accommodated in the ICAO solution on noise. It is important that African countries engage proactively in the debate.”

The region is already in the vanguard of the alternative fuel movement. Steele says the development of biofuels could have an enormous impact on the economies of southern Africa.

“South Africa has been a leader in alternative fuels for a long time with SASOL,” he notes. “Its commercial production experience should give South Africa a headstart on the production and deployment of biofuels.

“New generation, sustainable biofuels can be produced even on land that is otherwise unproductive,” he continues. “If developed under the right sustainability criteria, biofuels have the potential to not only reduce emissions from aviation, but importantly to provide new industries and livelihoods and reduce the reliance on imported oil in southern Africa.”

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