The aviation industry is responsible for 2 per cent of the world's man-made carbon emissions, and governments' assistance is being sought to increase the industry's ability to cope with climate change, according to the International Air Transport Associat
The aviation value chain – airlines, airports, air-navigation service providers and manufacturers – has agreed to three sequential targets on climate change. These are a 1.5-per-cent average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020, capping emissions with carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (CNG2020), and cutting net emissions in half by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. It is the only global industry to have set such ambitious targets.
At the Greener Skies Conference in Hong Kong yesterday, Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and chief executive officer, specifically cited the need for greater attention to be focused on the commercialisation of sustainable biofuels and improvements in air-traffic management.
Since 2011, more than 1,500 commercial biofuel flights have been completed, but the cost is too high and the supply too limited, he said.
“Governments can help us by making biofuel production a strategic priority, and following an action list to foster research and development, de-risk investment, agree to global sustainability criteria and support supply-chain collaboration. This is the same way that governments have promoted alternative energy sources such as solar- or wind-generated power.”
Better air-traffic management would also help save fuel and improve environmental performance. Efficiency could improve with governments’ help.
“For example, each year, the failure to implement a Single European Sky costs the industry 5 billion euros [Bt195 billion] and wastes over 8 million tonnes of [carbon dioxide]. It’s encouraging that the Seamless Asian Sky – an initiative by governments to look beyond political borders to avoid bottlenecks in the air – is gaining momentum,” he said.
IATA forecasts that 3 billion people will travel by air this year and nearly 50 million tonnes of cargo will reach its destination on a plane. Worldwide, this activity supports 57 million jobs and US$2.2 trillion (Bt66 trillion) in economic activity.
“A lot is riding on our success. And that will only come if governments and industry are aligned and moving in the same direction,” he said.
The industry now focuses on four pillars on climate change – investment in new technology, more efficient operations, better infrastructure, and positive economic measures.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation will soon discuss the global solution to fight climate change at its assembly, focusing on three options – carbon offsetting, carbon offsetting with a revenue-generating component, and a full global emissions-trading scheme.
“Whichever option is chosen, the devil will be in the details. And it is critically important to ensure that the agreement preserves fair competition,” Tyler said.