Hong Kong - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on Asia to play a leadership role in driving the aviation industry towards carbon neutral growth leading to a zero-emission industry.

“By 2010 Asia will be the largest single market for aviation. With size comes leadership responsibility. And that includes environment issues,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO in a keynote address at the Greener Skies for Asia 2008 conference in Hong Kong.

“My focus is on reducing carbon emissions. And reducing fuel burn is at the heart of the issue. Every litre of fuel we can save reduces CO2 emissions by over 3 kilograms. By shortening routes, improving air traffic management and spreading best practice in fuel conservation IATA helped save up to 25 million tonnes of CO2 in the last two years,” said Bisignani.

“There are lots of opportunities in Asia,” said Bisignani citing examples for innovation from around the region, including the introduction of new air traffic procedures in Japan, more efficient routings in China and the ASPIRE air traffic management joint initiative of AirServices Australia, the US FAA and Airways New Zealand.

Bisignani said that implementation must speed up, noting particularly the air traffic management system for the five airports in the Pearl River Delta region of China. “We have seen some improvement in delays in the Golden Triangle of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong/Guangzhou. But the time required to sort out the Pearl River Delta’s complicated system is frustratingly slow. We appreciate the cooperation of all involved. But cooperation without results is not effective. We must speed up with some interim solutions,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani identified three opportunities for Asian leadership:

  • 1.Communications: “Asia must avoid the mistakes we made in Europe by communicating clearly aviation’s good track record on the environment, as well as a relevant and clear vision to governments and the general public,” said Bisignani.

  • 2.Air Traffic Management: “Asia has an opportunity become a model of best practice in air traffic management. Last year the APEC Transport Ministers announced a plan to improve air traffic efficiency that is completely aligned with the industry’s strategy,” said Bisignani. The average age of the Asian fleet is 9.8 years, compared to a global average of 11.8. “The region has a head-start with a modern fleet. Now we must drive improvements in air traffic management by harmonising across the region and maximising the capabilities of modern aircraft to set a benchmark of efficiency for others to follow,” said Bisignani.

  • 3.Technology Investments: Investments in technology are critical. “Asia’s airlines are investing billions in the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft available. Governments must also play a role in driving this further with coordinated basic research into future technologies - including alternative fuels - to further improve aviation’s strong environmental track record. Asia’s enormous sovereign wealth funds could make an important contribution with some innovative investments,” said Bisignani.

“Asia is our industry’s future…and it is our today. As we move forward with the vision towards carbon neutral growth on our way to carbon-free technology, Asia has a leadership role to play. I am confident that the contributions of this region will be significant - clearly demonstrating the commitment of our industry to set a new and high benchmark of environmental responsibility for other industries to follow,” said Bisignani.

Full text of speech

Editors Notes:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents over 240 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic.