(Geneva) "The environment is among aviation's top challenges. First we must kill some persistent myths about our approach to the environment. And we must map the way forward with a clear strategy to further improve aviation's performance," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at the opening of the Second Aviation and the Environment Summit.

Bisignani identified five myths that must be debunked with fact:

1. Air transport was excluded from Kyoto and doing nothing on the environment.

Fact: "Domestic aviation is included in Kyoto. International air transport was excluded but with a commitment to find a solution through ICAO by the 2007 Assembly. Airlines took environmental performance seriously long before Kyoto. Over the last 40 years emissions per passenger kilometre have decreased by 70%," said Bisignani.

2. Air transport is a major source of Greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact: "Air transport contributes a small part of global CO2 emissions—2%. By contrast, the air transport industry supports 8% of global economic activity. Even if all air travel stopped, the result is only a 2% global improvement in CO2 emissions. But the impact on global economies would be disastrous," said Bisignani.

3. Air transport is the most polluting form of transport

Fact: "Airline fuel efficiency improved 20% in the last decade, nearly 5% over the past 2 years alone. Today's modern aircraft consume, on average 3.5 litres per 100 passenger kilometres. This is similar to a small compact car but with 6 times the speed. Next generation aircraft—the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 are targeting fuel efficiencies below 3.0 litres per 100 passenger kilometers," said Bisignani.

4. Air transport is getting a free ride by not paying tax on fuel.

Fact: "Air transport pays entirely for its own infrastructure—a US$42 billion annual bill. Airlines pay when they land, when they fly and when they park. This is completely different from both road and rail. On top of that air transport is a cash cow for many governments. In Europe every rail journey is subsidised between €2.4 and €7.4. But every air journey contributes between 4.6 and 8.4 Euros in government revenues and avoided expenditure," said Bisignani.

5. Air transport growth is not sustainable.

Fact: "Air transport is essential. Air transport brings people to business, products to markets, tourists to holiday destinations and unites families and friends around the world. In short, air transport made the global village a reality. 80% of aviation emissions are related to flights over 1,500 km for which there is no alternative mode of transport," said Bisignani.

"Setting the record straight alone will not be enough. The IATA strategy on the environment is designed to achieve maximum benefit with a globally consistent approach," said Bisignani. IATA's strategy consists of four core principles:

  • " Technology is key. Lighter materials and more efficient engines have driven progress so far. Now it is time for governments to ensure that oil companies invest in research on alternative fuel sources," said Bisignani.
  • " Infrastructure and operations must be a part of the solution. Airlines are on track with their voluntary commitment to reduce emissions by 10% between 2000 and 2010. Governments and air traffic service providers must contribute as well. Globally, optimised air traffic procedures could deliver 12% greater efficiency," said Bisignani.
  • " Taxes are not the answer. They do nothing for the environment. And they kill the economic social benefits that air transport brings. We must find a solution that does not limit airlines' ability to invest in new technology," said Bisignani.
  • " Emissions trading may be a part of the solution. But it must be a global solution agreed through ICAO. We are in the process to achieve a result for the 2007 Assembly. There is no time to get distracted with local or regional schemes that will be less effective than a global solution," said Bisignani.

"Environmental responsibility is a pillar of our industry alongside safety and security. We are the safest form of transport because of global standards and harmonisation. The same approach is needed to deliver the best results on environment issues," said Bisignani.