Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) challenged the aviation industry and governments to bring an aligned global approach on aviation carbon emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference to be held this December in Copenhagen.

“Environmental responsibility is a core promise of aviation, alongside safety and security. But we can only deliver on that promise if governments are aligned with all four pillars of our strategy. Copenhagen will test that alignment, especially on positive economic measures,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. Bisignani made the remarks in an opening address to the annual Aviation and Environment Summit being held in Geneva by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

All players in the aviation industry are united in a Four Pillar Strategy on Climate Change focused on (1) investment in technology, (2) effective operations, (3) efficient infrastructure and (4) positive economic measures.

“I am convinced that we are on the right track with respect to technology, operations and infrastructure. The fourth pillar - positive economic measures - needs our urgent attention,” said Bisignani. “Governments must move beyond punitive economic measures, such as excessive so-called environment taxes, to focus on measures that reduce emissions in a globally coordinated effort. That was the vision of the wise drafters of the Kyoto protocol. But governments are a long way from achieving it.”

The Kyoto protocol took a sectoral approach to aviation, recognising that the global nature of international aviation required a different solution than geographically fixed industries. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was entrusted to handle aviation’s international emissions. ICAO’s 15-country Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) has been tasked with producing proposals and targets in preparation for Copenhagen.

“As GIACC prepares for Copenhagen, three challenges must be met. The first is to marry the unified approach of the Chicago Convention that guides ICAO with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) that is a cornerstone of the UNFCCC process. The second challenge is to preserve the sectoral approach for international aviation that was established by Kyoto. The third is to develop economic measures that are effective in reducing aviation’s emissions. That means replacing the growing patchwork of green taxes, charges and emissions trading proposals with a global system; allocating the funds from that system to environmental projects and treating aviation fairly and in proportion to its 2% contribution to global man-made carbon emissions,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani also highlighted the achievements of aviation in reducing emissions. “The commitment of aviation to a global and effective approach on climate change has never been stronger. The economic crisis has not shifted our vision or diminished our efforts,” said Bisignani. “This year we expect a 7.8% drop in global carbon emissions from aviation. Of this, 6.0% is from an expected drop in capacity and the other 1.8% is directly related to our Four Pillar Strategy on Climate Change, specifically improvement in technology, operations and infrastructure.”

Progress in two areas was noted:

Fuel savings: Reducing fuel consumption reduces emissions. “In 2008 IATA’s efforts saved 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Working side-by-side with our member airlines, IATA’s Green Teams identified savings between 3 and 12% of fuel consumption at each airline visited. We also worked with air navigation service providers resulting in 214 more direct routings and better terminal area management at 103 airports. Our target for this year is to save a further 10 million tonnes,” said Bisignani.

Biofuels: Recent successful tests by Continental, JAL, Air New Zealand and Virgin proved that next generation sustainable biofuels work. “We have made amazing progress. Certification by 2010 or 2011 is a real possibility. Biofuels may even hold the promise of improved fuel efficiency on top of the potential to reduce emissions by up to 80% over the lifecycle of the fuel. A successful biofuel industry would play an important role in energy security and could be a big generator of employment and wealth in the developing world. Commercial production should be a priority for governments encouraged by effective incentives in tax and regulatory frameworks,” said Bisignani.

“In 2007 I set out a vision for aviation to achieve carbon-neutral growth on the way to a carbon-free future. This pushed the boundaries of what people thought was possible. Twenty-two months later we are closer to carbon neutral growth than ever. We cannot, however, be complacent. We have a responsibility to secure the future of the 32 million jobs and US$3.5 trillion in economic activity dependant on aviation. We need global leadership that unites industry and governments with the common purpose of reducing emissions,” said Bisignani.

View Giovanni Bisignani's full speech

Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.