VANCOUVER - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued four challenges to drive the air transport industry towards its vision of zero emissions.

“The environmental track record of the industry is good: over the last four decades we have reduced noise by 75%, eliminated soot and improved fuel efficiency by 70%. And the billions being invested in new aircraft will make our fleet 25% more fuel efficient by 2020. This will limit the growth of our carbon footprint from today’s 2% to 3% in 2050,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO.

“But a growing carbon footprint is no longer politically acceptable—for any industry. Climate change will limit our future unless we change our approach from technical to strategic. Air transport must aim to become an industry that does not pollute—zero emissions,” said Bisignani.

The four challenges are:

  1. Air Traffic Management: Governments and air navigation service providers must eliminate the 12% inefficiency in global air traffic management. “Cut air traffic inefficiency in half by 2012 and we immediately save 35 million tonnes of CO2. Three mega-projects could deliver real results: a Single Sky for Europe, an efficient Pearl River Delta in China and a next generation air traffic system in the US,” said Bisignani. “But governments are dragging their feet. The Single European Sky could deliver a 12 million tonne reduction in CO2. But it has been a 15-year European circus of talks, talks, and more talks—with no results. This is inconsistent and irresponsible,” said Bisignani.
  2. Technology: The aerospace industry must build a zero emissions aircraft in the next 50 years. “I challenge the US, Europe, Canada, China, Brazil, Russia and Japan to coordinate basic research on a zero-emissions aircraft and then compete to develop products based on this research. Clean fuel is also critical. Governments have cut alternative fuel funding while oil companies are busy counting the US$15 billion in increased refinery margins that the airline industry is now paying. The first target is to replace 10% of fuel with low-carbon alternatives in the next ten year. And the second is to begin developing a carbon-free fuel from renewable energy sources. It’s time for governments and the oil industry to make some serious investments,” said Bisignani.
  3. A Global Approach: Climate change is a global issue, requiring a global solution. “The challenge is for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and its 190 member States to deliver a global emissions trading scheme that is fair, effective and available for all governments to use on a voluntary basis. The September ICAO Assembly is an opportunity that cannot be missed. The relevance of ICAO depends on its ability to deliver a global solution on this important issue,” said Bisignani.
  4. Green businesses: “The final challenge is for airlines to implement green strategies across the business. IATA is developing IATA Project Green to help airlines implement global best practice Environmental Management Systems. This will place environment alongside safety and security as a core promise to our 2 billion passengers,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani noted, “This will not be achieved overnight. And nobody has all the answers. But the airline industry was born by realising a dream that people could fly. We can already see the potential building blocks for a carbon-free future: fuel cell technology, solar powered aircraft and fuel made from biomass. By working together with a common vision, a green industry is absolutely achievable.”

Bisignani cautioned that governments are too easily sidetracked. “Politicians think green and see cash. In the name of the environment, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown doubled the Air Passenger Duty. The environment has not benefited, but airlines and their passenger are paying a billion pounds for his green credentials. And Europe is rushing to include aviation in emissions trading at the same time as governments are looking at carbon offsets. The policies are schizophrenic. We have had enough PR. It’s time to deliver some real results,” said Bisignani.