IATA Director General calls for environmental leadership from Asia's aviation industry
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO
Tue 26 Feb 2008 – Speaking at the Greener Skies for Asia conference in Hong Kong, IATA’s Director General, Giovanni Bisignani, called on Asia to play a leadership role in driving the aviation industry towards carbon neutral growth leading to a zero-emission industry. He also warned Asia to avoid the mistakes made in Europe over ineffective communication with governments and the general public.
“By 2010, Asia will be the largest single market for aviation. With size comes leadership responsibility. And that includes environment issues,” Bisignani told delegates.
“My focus is on reducing carbon emissions, and reducing fuel burn is at the heart of the issue. Every litre of fuel we can save reduces CO2 emissions by over 3 kilograms. By shortening routes, improving air traffic management and spreading best practice in fuel conservation, IATA helped save up to 25 million tonnes of CO2 in the last two years.”
He praised the introduction of new air traffic procedures in Japan, more efficient routings in China and last week’s signing of the ASPIRE air traffic management joint initiative of AirServices Australia, the US FAA and Airways New Zealand. However, he said the time required to improve the traffic system in the Golden Triangle of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong/Guangzhou was “frustratingly slow”.
With an average fleet age of 9.8 years in Asia, compared to 11.8 globally, “the region has a head-start with a modern fleet,” said Bisignani. “Now we must drive improvements in air traffic management by harmonizing across the region and maximizing the capabilities of modern aircraft to set a benchmark of efficiency for others to follow.”
Investment in technology is critical, he went on. “Asia’s airlines are investing billions in the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft available. Governments must also play a role in driving this further with coordinated basic research into future technologies – including alternative fuels – to further improve aviation’s strong environmental track record.” He called on Asia’s sovereign wealth funds to “make an important contribution with some innovative investments.”
Bisignani also told delegates that “Asia must avoid the mistakes we made in Europe by communicating clearly aviation’s good track record on the environment, as well as a relevant and clear vision to governments and the general public.”
He strongly criticised European politicians and governments for wanting “to paint themselves green”. He said Europe was “pursuing a different agenda with a single-minded unilateral focus on emissions trading. Why? It was more interested in politics than facts. A Single European Sky would save 12 million tonnes of CO2 and two to three billion euros and make travellers happy with shorter trips and reduced delays. But a Single European Sky is tied up in 15 years of talks and political hot air. By comparison, emissions trading has a timetable of less than five years.
“We have to ask what difference emissions trading will make. The answer is ‘not much’. This year’s fuel bill will be $149 billion – 30% of our costs. Already this is the biggest incentive of any industry to reduce fuel burn and improve environmental performance. Europe’s unilateral approach, in contravention of the Chicago Convention, will only invite legal and trade battles from the US and others.
“When the European Parliament got involved in the debate, folly turned to farce. In just 30 minutes, Members voted on 100 amendments to the European Commission’s emissions trading proposal.
“The final form of the emissions trading proposal is still being discussed, but we know that it will not be cheap – at least 2.3 billion euros in the first year, rising to 8.8 billion euros annually after 10 years.
“To be clear, IATA does not oppose emissions trading. An effective, fair and global scheme has a firm position in our strategy but the strategy also includes technology, operations and infrastructure. If we must pay to pollute, governments must do their homework and make sure that the infrastructure is efficient so that airlines can fly with minimum emissions. And we cannot accept regional schemes that do not play a role in achieving a global solution to a global problem.”
Bisignani confirmed that IATA is developing a standard scheme for passenger carbon offset programmes, which it hopes to have running by the end of the year with, he says, at least six airlines participating.