Bordeaux - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) challenged Europe to deliver a Single European Sky (SES) by 2012.

“After decades of talks and little action, failure to implement an effective SES is Europe’s biggest environmental embarrassment. In 2007, this failure resulted in 21 million minutes of delays and 468 million kilometres of unnecessary flight. This wasted 16 million tonnes of CO2. This crisis that is gripping the airline industry highlights the fact that airlines cannot afford the EUR 5 billion cost that this brings. And neither can Europe afford the impact on its competitiveness. This must change fast,” said IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani in a keynote address to the European Air Transport Summit being held in Bordeaux.

IATA fully supports the European Commission’s performance-driven approach.

This was proposed in the SES II Package proposed by Vice President Tajani in June. “We need binding performance targets at the national and community levels, functional airspace blocks (FABs) coordinated by a strong network manager with harmonised safety oversight through EASA, and the enabling SESAR technology to allow a Single European Sky to deliver its promised benefits,” said Bisignani.

FABs and SESAR are the critical building blocks for an SES.

The plan to combine European airspace into 9 cross-national FABs will increase system capacity by 70%, reduce average delays to 1 minute or less, cut user costs by 50% and reduce the environmental impact per flight by 10% by 2020 while improving safety. “These 9 FABs cannot be kingdoms operating independently. We need a strong network manager to drive efficiencies and meet binding performance targets. And we need an EASA with sufficient resources to provide safety oversight for airports and air navigation service providers,” said Bisignani.

IATA linked SES to Europe’s proposal to include aviation into the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2012.

“2012 is the year. We need 9 FABs in place, delivering benefits against binding performance targets with a strong network manager. This is the minimum requirement. Even if Europe chooses to overlook the major flaws of its ETS proposal - the unilateral approach is illegal and the regional scope is ineffective - the only credibility that is left is the SES. Airlines cannot accept to be charged for emissions in Europe when the inefficiency of the system forces them to waste 16 million tonnes of CO2 each year,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani attacked 2 persistent myths surrounding the SES.

“First, job losses are a misplaced fear when there is a global shortage of air traffic controllers and SESAR (the technology component of SES) will generate 200,000 highly skilled jobs in Europe. Second, FABs don’t reduce sovereignty. Europe faces the same question with the Euro. Today nobody questions the sovereignty of the Euro-Zone states. SES is no different. Sovereignty is even institutionalised in the independent National Supervisory Authority. These are two myths which we must kill with facts,” said Bisignani.

IATA’s Four Pillar Strategy to Address Climate Change is delivering results.

The strategy - endorsed by industry and government focuses on technology, operations, infrastructure and positive economic measures - including ETS. Since 2004, IATA efforts, including route shortening and working directly with airlines to implement best operational practices, has saved 59 million tonnes of CO2 with a cost saving of US$12 billion. An effective SES would be a key contributor to these efforts.

Europe must contribute to a global solution on economic measures addressing change.

“While focusing technical efforts to deliver the SES by 2012, Europe must aim its political efforts on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol gives ICAO the responsibility to find an effective global solution for aviation’s emissions that is global and voluntary for states. This summer the G8 affirmed this role in their Summit Declaration. With 44 European states among ICAO’s 189 contracting members and with three states on the 15 member ICAO Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC), Europe has a duty to ensure that ICAO delivers a global result and to harmonise its approach with the global solution,” said Bisignani.

Don’t make the ETS proposal any worse.

In the meantime, Bisignani urged Europe not to include its misguided unilateral approach to aviation and ETS in the General Review process of the European ETS. “Don’t make a bad decision worse by including aviation in the ETS General Review. It makes absolutely no sense to review something that has not even started yet, let alone even consider raising auctioning levels beyond the current 15%,” said Bisignani.

View Giovanni Bisignani's full speech