Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It's a pleasure to address the 2nd Wings of Change Europe event. A special thank you to our host, Lufthansa, for welcoming us to this great city of Berlin.
I feel it is especially appropriate we are here at this time, when Berlin is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the end of the Berlin wall, which cruelly divided a country and a continent, but more importantly families and friends, for more than a generation.
If the fall of the wall teaches us anything, it is that the desire for people to connect and to be unrestricted by artificial borders is one of our strongest natural impulses. It's that same impulse that drives people to travel, explore, trade, study, and make their homes in foreign lands. That is the enormous privilege and opportunity that has been made available to us today.
It is the freedom to fly that makes it all possible. And aviation is the business of freedom.
Industry Environmental Action
This year more than four-and-a-half billion passengers will travel across a network of 22,000 city-pair routes. The demand to fly is a response to our most positive desires. It creates wealth, and prosperity, and social good. But, like every human activity, there is an environmental impact. It is no secret that calls to curb flying for environmental reasons have risen. We've all heard a new word, "flygskam", aimed at shaming people about their flying.
I don't believe that there is shame in flying. I do believe that we must reduce emissions to make flying sustainable. And I am confident that we are on the right track.
And that's not as a result of recent pressure. Aviation's commitment to control and reduce its emissions goes back more than a decade. And our voluntary targets align with the Paris Agreement. These comprise:
- Continuous improvements in fuel efficiency
- Carbon neutral growth from 2020
- Reducing CO2 to half 2005 levels by 2050.
Achieving such ambitious targets will be very hard work. As the developing world catches up with the developed, people in those markets will expect the same opportunities to fly. So, we can expect passenger demand to continue to increase. And we must reduce absolute emissions levels despite the growth in demand.
When aviation faces challenges, we come together and deliver. That’s what we have done on safety. And already we can demonstrate tremendous progress on environmental performance.
- The average passenger journey uses half the CO2 that it did in the year the Berlin wall fell
- Governments have agreed the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, to come into effect from next year. CORSIA will provide $40 billion in climate financing to mitigate more than 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2.
- More than 200,000 flights have been operated using a blend of conventional and sustainable aviation fuel. Sustainable fuels offer the opportunity to cut emissions by up to 80%.
- Advances in airframe and engine design continue to improve the efficiency of each new generation of aircraft by around 20%. And the prospect of electric and hybrid aircraft for short-haul journeys no longer looks like an impossible dream.
How governments can help
We want to go much further and faster with the implementation of these sustainable technologies and procedures. Governments can help. We are urging the EU to adopt a regulatory framework to encourage more production of sustainable aviation fuels. And we continue to push for the long-overdue modernization of European air traffic management.
The Single European Sky has been on the drawing board for 25 years – almost as long as the Berlin wall stood. It offers the chance to cut emissions in Europe by 5-10%. Why is this not the number one priority for Europe's governments? Instead, they waste energy debating how more and more taxes and charges should be loaded onto passengers.
The latest example is right here in Germany, where it is proposed that the existing passenger tax be almost doubled. It is completely the wrong approach.
People are rightly skeptical about environmental taxation. They know it isn't spent on environmental programs. That's why they expect governments to encourage investment in sustainable fuels and green technology.
A recent EU report on the external costs of transportation showed that aviation, uniquely among public transport modes, covers its own infrastructure costs. Taxes are not the way to cover our environmental costs. Taxation is a crude and inefficient method.
And it picks a fight with the wrong enemy. The goal must not be to bluntly cut people's access to flying by making it unaffordable. Neither should it be to cripple tourism industries which create jobs and drive development. And it should not stifle airline finances, which must be healthy in order to invest in greener technologies.
The enemy isn't flying—it is carbon. Government policies should aim to help people fly sustainably.
Sustainability in all its forms
Sustainability is a holistic term. It is much more than environmental sustainability, including social and economic sustainability too.
Financial sustainability remains a challenge for Europe's airlines. The four bankruptcies we saw in September and October demonstrate that running an airline in Europe is not easy.
The average profitability of European airlines is about EUR 6 per passenger, but that is generated by a small number of leading airlines. There is a long list of airlines that are making no money at all. That means they cannot finance new routes, generate more employment, offer better wages, buy greener aircraft or give returns to investors.
Airlines sustain 12.2 million jobs across Europe and EUR 750 billion in GDP. We are the motor of innovation, reducing inequalities, and generating life opportunities. We all gain from a sustainable, strong aviation industry.
How can Europe foster a stronger aviation industry?
Our first issue is infrastructure. We face a capacity crisis. On present trends, more than a million flights will have nowhere to go in 2035 because Europe will not have sufficient infrastructure capacity.
Some governments are finally waking up to the challenge. Poland, with its proposed Solidarity Hub, and Turkey's new airport in Istanbul, show the ambition to become global connectors. Even the UK and France are inching towards expansion at Heathrow and Paris CDG, albeit at costs which cause us considerable concern. The airport story in Germany is more typical of the European experience. We continue to await the opening of the Berlin Brandenburg airport. Frankfurt and Munich airports remain restricted. There is some good news regarding airspace modernization. The German aviation sector is pushing for a national airspace strategy to be developed and we are hopeful the government will be an active supporter of that.
Elsewhere in Europe, airports cannot expand, costs and taxes are a burden, and operations are hampered by inefficient airspace. Proposals to eliminate seasonal time changes, the failure to reform regulations such as EU261, and the way monopolistic airports impose their charges, and suggestions to diverge from the Worldwide Slot Guidelines all move us in the wrong direction. And this shows that—despite the European Aviation Strategy—we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that governments work with the industry in partnership for the greater goal: an efficient and sustainably connected Europe.
In a speech a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the great Willy Brandt talked of "seeing the parts of Europe growing together again." He was talking about the political reunification of a continent split by ideological division. But in the intervening years, we have seen a physical growing together of Europe.
Air transport has been at the heart of European integration. Europe is now connected by 23,400 daily flights, carrying 1 billion people a year. That should be a cause for celebration, not shame. And the same spirit of optimism of the new Europe that has been forged over the past 30 years should be turned towards conquering the challenge of sustainability. Not in a backwards-looking, negative way, but in a positive way. The solutions to sustainably connect this continent and keep it accessible to all its citizens exist.
Sustainability is the theme of this conference. And I firmly believe that now is the time for Europe to lead the way in the development of positive climate solutions. Now is the time for a true partnership between industry and governments to create a vision for sustainable aviation. And now is the time for that vision, powered on the wings of change, to turn the hope of emissions-free flight into reality across the world.
I wish you all a stimulating, thought-provoking and valuable conference.