Tomorrow, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will start its High Level Meeting on International Aviation and Climate Change. Our approach to reducing carbon emissions will play a key role in determining the future shape of our industry.


At our 2007 Vancouver AGM, I announced a vision to achieve carbon-neutral growth on the way to a carbon-free future. We backed it up with a four-pillar strategy based on technology, operations, infrastructure and positive economic measures.

IATA’s focus on reducing emissions delivered over 68 million tonnes of CO2 savings by sharing best practice, shortening hundreds of routes and flying more efficiently. This year we expect aviation’s carbon emissions to fall by 7% - 5% due to the recession and 2% as a direct result of our strategy.


The potential for future reductions is tremendous. Sustainable biofuels made from camelina, jatropha and algae could cut our carbon footprint by up to 80%. Three years ago, biofuels were a dream. Today they are a reality, tested in flight by four airlines. Governments still need to develop the fiscal and legal frameworks to support commercial production. And distribution and oil companies must make serious investments.


To move forward even faster, we added three challenging targets to our vision at our Kuala Lumpur AGM in June. We will improve fuel efficiency 1.5% on average per year through 2020. We will stabilize emissions with carbon-neutral growth from 2020. And by 2050, we will cut our net emissions in half compared to 2005.

The IATA Board took this bold decision unanimously. IATA worked with our partners, airports, ANSPs and manufacturers to make these targets a common industry position. This industry-wide commitment was then formalized in an industry working paper for this week’s ICAO High Level Meeting.

No other global industry is as united, ambitious or determined.

ICAO High Level Meeting

Now we must mobilize to bring governments on board. I have asked all airline CEOs to make sure that our industry position is known at the highest levels of government. I will also be carrying the flag tomorrow. I will represent the industry’s 32 million jobs and US$3.5 trillion in economic activity at ICAO.

Our message to governments will be simple. We need a global sectoral approach and they should make our targets part of their solution. I will offer the IATA tools and expertise that successfully rolled-out electronic ticketing to every corner of the planet to ensure implementation.

I will also take this same message to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next Monday in New York. And later this month, I will be in Delhi with Nobel Prize winner Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to again demonstrate our proactive approach.

Governments must act

To meet our targets, governments must now act. Not with layers of taxes like the UK’s Air Passenger Duty that pays for bank bailouts but does nothing to reduce emissions or with proposals to place the burden of an Adaptation Tax for developing nations only on airlines.

The problem is emissions. Governments must focus on solutions that lead to reductions. That means sharing industry’s vision for an even more efficient air transport sector and backing it up with investments in better infrastructure. We especially need air traffic management projects including the US NextGen system, which last month I strongly encouraged President Obama’s administration to make a White House priority.

Global Sectoral Approach

Governments must take advantage of our united sector and our unique ability to mobilize and deliver global results. That is why we are asking for the December Copenhagen climate conference to adopt a global sectoral approach for aviation.

This means delivering emissions reductions by accounting for emissions at a global level and as an industrial sector not within national targets; ensuring that airlines pay for their climate cost once not several times over; driving change with global standards on a level playing field; and monitoring progress through ICAO with the help of IATA.

This will be the most effective and responsible way for aviation to secure its future and meet its environmental commitments. And it will be a role model for industry cooperation with the United Nations in driving important change.

I hope that Greener Skies will send this message loud and clear for all to hear. I wish you a productive conference and hope to join you in person next year.