ATAG is a great reminder of the incredible teamwork that is unique to the aviation industry.

You have already heard from Airports Council International and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization on the work that the airport and ANSP sectors are undertaking to deliver environmental improvements. Shortly we will hear from the International Business Aviation Council, the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations, and the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation about other aspects of our industry’s approach to environmental issues, including the incredible technological progress that lies ahead.

We are all focused on achieving challenging targets. You know what they are, but they bear repeating:

  1. A 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020
  2. Carbon-neutral growth from 2020
  3. And cutting our net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005

No industry has a long-term future if it is not sustainable. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that, for aviation, achieving our environment targets is a key element of our license to grow.

Aviation’s ability to grow is important. Aviation- enabled global connectivity is a force for good. Our positive impact goes beyond the millions of people for whom aviation provides jobs and the trillions of dollars in economic activity that aviation generates.

This year airlines will transport over three billion passengers and deliver goods exceeding $6.4 trillion in value. It would be difficult to find an economic sector that does not have some link to aviation. And there is enormous additional scope for aviation to be a catalyst for economic development and prosperity.

Aviation’s sustainable development is as important to governments as it is for the industry itself. That alignment is critically important because the industry targets can only be met with a team effort that includes governments. That we are meeting on the eve of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Symposium on Aviation and Climate Change – Destination Green is symbolic of the cooperation and common interest that we share with governments.

There is already a common understanding on strategy. The long-term solution will come with improvements to technology, operations and infrastructure. But in the short-term we will also need access to positive market-based-measures (MBMs).

As preparations continue for ICAO’s 38th Assembly, three topics stand out as urgently needing the attention and action of governments.

Governments must put more political will into sorting out air traffic management mega-projects such as the Single European Sky. And they have a critical role in setting the right incentives for the commercialization of sustainable biofuels with a cost structure that the industry can afford. But the most urgent political issue that we face is finding a global agreement for MBMs.

As I mentioned MBMs are critical to meeting the industry targets in the short-term. But they must be implemented in line with a globally coordinated approach.

The European Union’s unilateral attempt to bring international aviation into its emissions trading scheme brought us to the edge of a trade war—highlighting how badly this could go wrong. And with the clock stopped since November we have a unique opportunity to make progress.

It’s a priority for the IATA Board of Governors. They recognize that finding an agreement among governments will be challenging. That is why they have tasked IATA to support government efforts by finding an agreement among airlines on how to share the burden of carbon-neutral growth fairly.

This is also proving a challenging task. The financial stakes are significant. And our members—rightly—are concerned about the impact that MBMs will have on their businesses and the competitive environment. In a few weeks’ time—when we meet for our Annual General Meeting in Cape Town—we will be calling on our membership to balance their individual short-term interests with the long-term future of the industry as a whole. And it’s very important that we find a united position that will demonstrate our commitment to sustainability.

The message to governments is that we are counting on them. ICAO’s provisions for special circumstances and respective capabilities have proven capable of bridging gaps between states. But we need the non-European states that successfully opposed Europe’s unilateral plans to now be fully engaged advocates for a global solution.
We are a team with a very important common goal—sustainable aviation. We all need to do our part.

I wish you all fruitful discussions today.