By Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO
As we approach 2012, Europe’s plans to include international aviation in its emissions trading scheme are top of mind in the air transport industry. Rightly so. Ensuring that aviation develops sustainably is a top priority for the industry.
A lot of people and companies count on aviation’s success. About 2.8 billion people are expected to fly safely in 2011. That directly creates employment for 5.5 million people worldwide. And the catalytic nature of this activity multiples this impact sixfold.
It is precisely the global scope of aviation that has focused all parties—governments, industry and NGOs—on finding global solutions to allow it to grow successfully. The aviation value chain is committed to capping net carbon emissions from 2020 and cutting them in half by 2050. To achieve these ambitious targets, we are working with ICAO on an agenda that combines new technology, more effective operations, more efficient infrastructure, and positive economic measures. This is the industry’s Four Pillar Strategy.
While Europe may think that its relentless push forwards with a regional emissions trading scheme is helping, it is having the reverse effect. The United States, China, Russia, India, and others have all made very clear their opposition to Europe’s ETS plan. We must channel this opposition into support for ICAO’s commitment to develop a global framework for economic measures by the time of its 2013 Assembly. The job is already half done as the principles for such a framework were agreed at the last Assembly in 2010.
But we must remember that economic measures are just one element of our Four Pillar Strategy. Recent achievements demonstrate the progress on the other three.
One of the biggest milestones was the approval of sustainable biofuels by the ASTM International Committee on Petroleum Products and Lubricants. Five airlines are already performing commercial flights using sustainable biofuels. The race is now on to commercialize these biofuels. Along with ensuring sufficient supply, successful commercialization requires prices that make economic sense for an industry that spends over a quarter of its money on fuel while making less than a 1% margin.
Another milestone was reached with the conclusion of iFlex test flights on the Johannesburg to Atlanta route by Delta Air Lines. By focusing stakeholders on the common goal of making the route as efficient as possible, an average saving of eight minutes per flight was achieved. Annualized for a schedule of two flights per week, that alone will save 2,000 metric tons of CO2. We are now working to multiply this impressive result with implementation of iFlex on routes around the world.
And finally, the concept of a Seamless Asian Sky is gaining traction. As the United States and Europe struggle to solve air traffic management problems with NextGen and the Single European Sky, Asia is thinking ahead of the curve. Taking a regional approach to air traffic management will avoid gridlock in the skies that reduces efficiency and environmental performance. Concrete actions now will ensure that aviation has the infrastructure needed to continue as a sustainable catalyst of long-term economic development.
Aviation is at the forefront on environment. No other industry is taking such a comprehensive and global approach. So we should not be shy about reminding governments of their responsibility to match our efforts. Whether delivering a global framework for economic measures, providing the legal and fiscal framework for a green economy powered by sustainable fuels, optimizing existing operations or building for the future, governments have an important role to play. They must be an integral partner for global aviation in its efforts to provide an important motor for sustainable development.