Montreal - The International Air Transport Association (IATA), urged governments to show leadership in three critical areas for aviation – safety, security and the environment.

“Air transport is a mass transit system used by 2.2 billion people each year, supporting 32 million jobs and US$3.5 trillion in economic activity. Air transport is crucial to the planet. Governments and industry must be aligned with global standards to deliver on the core promises of safety, security and environmental responsibility,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. Bisignani made these comments in a speech at the McGill University Conference on Aviation Security and the Environment in Montreal, on the eve of the triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Bisignani urged the Assembly to take a global and harmonised approach in the three areas.

  • Safety: “2006 was the safest year ever. Global standards supported a 50% improvement in the accident rate over the last decade,” said Bisignani. Over 160 airlines, covering 78% of scheduled international traffic are on the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry. “I encourage governments to join the growing list of those countries that are incorporating IOSA into their safety oversight programmes. It’s free, effective and complements ICAO’s audit efforts,” said Bisignani. Extending the success of IOSA, IATA is launching the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO). “Ground handling accidents cost the industry US$4 billion a year. ISAGO is a significant step to improving the situation,” Bisignani added.

  • Security: “Airlines are much more secure today than in 2001. But the system is still a US$5.6 billion uncoordinated mess,” said Bisignani. “The common approach to liquids and gels is a step in the right direction towards harmonisation. And it proves that ICAO can deliver results. The next step is for governments to harmonise a risk-based approach to security. We need a constant level of vigilance that is consistently adjusted to deal with specific threats or events and a common risk-assessment methodology to identify high and low risk passengers and freight. Achieving this will be a giant step towards cleaning up the mess and making security both effective and convenient,” said Bisignani.

  • Environment: “Airlines’ 2% share of global CO2 emissions makes them a small part of the big problem of climate change. Air transport’s carbon footprint is growing and that is not politically acceptable - for any industry. We must become an industry that does not pollute - carbon neutral growth in the medium-term and eventually carbon-free,” said Bisignani.

    To achieve this vision, Bisignani challenged ICAO’s member states to set targets aimed at saving 120 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually through more efficient infrastructure and better operations. He also challenged governments to support greener aircraft and fuel with positive economic measures (tax credits for re-fleeting and grants for research) and a stable regulatory framework. “Technology investments are enormous and if the regulatory framework changes mid-way all is lost. Governments must commit and stick to technology goals set by ICAO or financing for serious R&D will be too risky,” said Bisignani.

    “The most pressing economic issue is emissions trading. Europe’s intention to include aviation in its emissions trading scheme was a wake-up call for everybody. But the environment is a global issue requiring a global approach. If implemented unilaterally, the result would be legal and diplomatic fights with limited or negative impact on the environment. We need a global scheme for emissions trading that is voluntary, fair and effective,” said Bisignani.

“Environment is the issue of the day. ICAO’s member states must make some important decisions to define our future as an environmentally responsible industry. We can either follow our successful model for safety or we can repeat the mistakes made in security. Governments have a responsibility to provide a stable regulatory environment for industry growth. Failure to agree to a global way forward on emissions trading will certainly lead to legal battles between Europe and the rest of the world—including the US. An industry that is only just returning to profitability cannot accept this uncertainty. A global solution is critical,” said Bisignani.

Notes for editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents over 240 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic.
  • Mr. Bisignani made his speech at the McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law Conference “Aviation Security and the Environment: The Way Forward.”