New Delhi - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reiterated its call for a global sectoral approach led by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to handle aviation’s emissions in the post-Kyoto period.

“We need a global solution that can encompass all of aviation—incorporating the differing situations of airlines from developed and developing nations. The best hope of this is through ICAO which has a proven track record,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

In a speech to an event jointly hosted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and IATA, Bisignani referred specifically to the effective work of ICAO in handling the introduction of quieter aircraft. “ICAO developed a global framework to deal with noise. The noisiest aircraft were phased out between 1995 and 2002. The global solution took into account the difficult situation of some developing nations with an extension to 2005,” said Bisignani.

The remarks are particularly timely as the global climate change debate is increasingly stalled on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility that underpins the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in the run-up to climate talks in Copenhagen this December.

At the recent ICAO High Level Meeting on Aviation and Climate Change, governments agreed to continue to address aviation and climate change through ICAO and to work closely with industry. They also laid the foundations to developing a global sectoral approach—a global framework developed through ICAO.

IATA defines such a sectoral approach as:

  • Accounting for emissions at a global level, not by state
  • Making aviation fully accountable and pay for its emissions once, not several times over
  • Giving access to global carbon markets until technology provides the ultimate solution

“Such a global approach would take advantage of the aviation sector’s proactive approach to addressing the issues of climate change. We are the only industry with a united strategy and targets across the whole value chain. These are tougher targets than even our regulators are prepared to administer,” said Bisignani.

Aviation has committed to three sequential targets:

  • Improving average annual fuel efficiency by 1.5% to 2020
  • Stabilizing emissions with carbon-neutral growth from 2020
  • An aspirational goal to cut net emissions in half by 2050, compared to 2005

Bisignani recently met the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to present the industry strategy and targets. In the meeting, the UN Secretary-General commended the aviation industry’s commitment to contribute to the global fight against climate change and encouraged that these commitments be followed by concrete actions. He stressed the importance of addressing emissions from international aviation and shipping if the world is to achieve its goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to a level that avoids dangerous climate change.

Bisignani singled out sustainable biofuels as an example of optimism in future reductions. “The three biggest opportunities for emissions reductions are technology, infrastructure and sustainable biofuels. Of these, sustainable biofuels are the most exciting because for the first time air transport has the possibility of an alternative to traditional jet fuel. Our attention is on camelina, jatropha and algae which do not compete for land or water with food crops but have the potential to reduce our carbon footprint by up to 80%. Because they can be grown in almost any soil condition or in salt water or even waste water they have the potential to create new industries and livelihoods by bringing sustainable energy production jobs to many of the least developed parts of the planet,” said Bisignani.

Four test flights with sustainable biofuels have proven that they meet the technical and safety standards for use in commercial aviation. Moreover, they can be blended with jet fuel and used in today’s aircraft and engines. “Progress is going at a much faster pace than anybody anticipated. Three years ago sustainable biofuels were a dream. Now we expect certification no later than 2011,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani took the opportunity to comment on the EU’s recently announced policy framework for Copenhagen. “The most important development is their explicit support for a global approach through ICAO. They have set some targets which are more political than technical. As such they are neither credible nor achievable with the timelines described,” said Bisignani

“The most important outcome from Copenhagen for aviation will be agreement to treat aviation as a sector under the leadership of ICAO and working with industry. This should be the focus for all governments seeking to effect real reductions in CO2 from the global aviation sector—from India and China to the EU and the US. If not, we face the risk of uncoordinated competitive government taxation that won’t reduce emissions but will be harmful to global economic development,” said Bisignani.

Access Bisignani's full speech

Notes for Editors:

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