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Alexandre de Juniac

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Environment 27 September 2016

Keeping Aviation Sustainable​​

These last weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as I continue to settle into my new role. As IATA DG and CEO you really do  get to appreciate just how connected aviation has made our world. In the last four weeks I have set foot on four continents! 

For the next two weeks, the focus of the civil aviation world is on Montreal. Our partners at Airports Council International (ACI) are holding their world annual general assembly. The first Montreal Civil Aviation Week began as Aéroports de Montréal celebrates its 75th Anniversary. And all that is happening alongside the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

I have to admit that most of my attention is on ICAO. It is my first Assembly and there is a palpable feeling of excitement. The top government officials in aviation from around the world are here. And the agenda is weighty—to say the least.

Environment is the issue on everybody’s mind. Rightly so. The delegates to this Assembly have an opportunity to make history. On the table is a proposal called CORSIA. That’s short for Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. It’s not the most inspirational sounding acronym among the plethora that are used in aviation. But if governments can come to an agreement on CORSIA, they will take another significant step forward in aviation’s quest for sustainability.

Why CORSIA? The aviation industry is asking governments, through ICAO, to provide a global tool to help manage its carbon emissions. The industry is working hard on investing in advanced technology, more efficient operations and better infrastructure to improve sustainability. But these ongoing efforts will not be enough for us to keep our promise of carbon neutral growth from 2020. In addition we will need to offset some of our emissions. And to do that fairly, effectively and efficiently across an industry that operates in every corner of the globe, we need a scheme that is equally global.

This may sound simple and logical. But achieving agreement among the 191 member states of ICAO is no small feat. Each see the issue with different nuances and in unique circumstances. The industry is here in force to encourage these governments in their important work.

I am optimistic. A few months ago, it became clear that the scheme would begin with voluntary participation. Since then, some 60 states have signed up, and the list is growing. There are some heavy aviation hitters on the list—the US, China, Japan, 44 European states and Singapore among them. But even more significant is the participation of Indonesia, Mexico and the Marshall Islands. These three states would normally not be required to participate. They are volunteering to show their commitment to leadership on sustainability. 

My job at the Assembly is to make it clear to governments that the industry supports CORSIA and wants an agreement. If we are successful and CORSIA is adopted, aviation—the business of freedom—will be the first industrial sector with a global carbon offsetting and reduction program. And, I am optimistic that next Friday, as the Assembly winds down, we will be celebrating an historic achievement that will keep aviation at the forefront on sustainability.​

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