Aviation sector taking action to improve fuel efficiency and stabilise carbon emissions, ICAO chief tells UN Climate Summit

Aviation sector taking action to improve fuel efficiency and stabilise carbon emissions, ICAO chief tells UN Climate Summit | UN Climate Summit

ICAO’s Dr Aliu addresses UN Climate Summit, watched by ATAG’s Michael Gill and outgoing EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard (photo: ATAG)

Wed 24 Sept 2014 – As world leaders met in New York for the UN Climate Summit yesterday, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, Council President of ICAO, told the gathering the aviation sector was taking steps to continue improving air transport fuel efficiency and stabilise net CO2 emissions from 2020. He announced a commitment on climate action between ICAO and the aviation industry to expand on work already being undertaken to reduce emissions across the sector. A joint Action Statement and Action Plan were unveiled at the event by ICAO and the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). Meanwhile, to mark the Summit, Finnair operated an Airbus A330 on a commercial flight from Helsinki to New York using sustainable biofuel made from recycled cooking oil supplied by SkyNRG Nordic.


“Governments, working through ICAO, are working with determination and in league with industry to mitigate aviation-related emissions and help humanity meet the wider and very challenging global targets now before us,” said Dr Aliu. “Working cooperatively, our sector is taking proactive and concrete action which will continue improving air transport fuel efficiency and stabilise the sector’s net carbon dioxide emissions from 2020, consistent with our historically strong record in this regard, while permitting air transport to continue to bring citizens, societies and business together, promoting peace and prosperity wherever aircraft fly.”


The joint statement was co-signed by international industry groups from the sector including Airports Council International (ACI), Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Coordinating Council for Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA) and International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).


The statement pledges additional work will be undertaken under ICAO “to explore the sector’s long-term global goal, recognising the aviation industry’s existing goal to halve net CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.”


To achieve these ambitions, it goes on, mitigation actions and measures are being rolled out across four main areas:

  1. New, more efficient aircraft technology and sustainable alternative fuels;
  2. Operational improvements to reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft already in service;
  3. Better use of infrastructure, particularly air traffic management; and
  4. Designing an effective, global market-based measure for international aviation.


Alongside Dr Aliu on the Summit platform was ATAG Executive Director, Michael Gill. “Today’s announcement builds on the collaborative action taking place across the commercial aviation sector,” he said. “It is impressive to see all parts of the industry working with each other, and with partners in research, government and other sectors to deliver the climate actions we have committed to as an industry. Aviation is a force for good in the world, supporting economies, fostering tourism and allowing global cultural exchange. We believe that we can continue to deliver these benefits to the world whilst also addressing our climate impacts.”


Ahead of the Summit, International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh said carbon pricing was the most effective means for business to address climate change.


“We support international efforts to develop a global system for airlines that will use carbon markets to put a price on carbon emissions by 2020,” he said in a World Bank video. “An effective system will increase incentives for the aviation industry to accelerate the introduction of low-carbon technology and lock in the great potential to decarbonise air transport.


“Our industry has committed to ambitious and challenging targets to improve our environmental performance, including a 50% reduction in net aviation carbon emissions by 2050. We’ll do this through the investment of trillions of dollars in new aircraft, and engine technology with vastly improved fuel and carbon efficiency, through sustainable alternative fuels and, importantly, through carbon trading.”


Finnair’s commercial flight using sustainable fuel yesterday from Helsinki to New York was made in cooperation with Airbus and SkyNRG Nordic, a joint venture between Amsterdam-based SkyNRG and Statoil Aviation.


“The Summit is an important gathering to fight climate change and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the climate benefits of more widespread adoption of environmentally sustainable biofuels in aviation,” explained Kati Ihamäki, Finnair’s Vice President of Sustainable Development, who also revealed the airline was currently investigating the possibility of establishing a biofuel hub at Helsinki Airport. “Finnair is committed to working further with industry partners and government bodies alike to help develop the biofuel supply chain and bring down the cost of sustainable biofuel for everyday use.”


Added Airbus VP Environmental Affairs Andrea Debbané: “Airbus and Finnair share the aviation industry’s ambitions to reach carbon neutral growth by combining the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft with optimised air traffic management and operational procedures, while also pushing for the commercial use of affordable sustainable jet fuels.”


SkyNRG CEO Dirk Kronemeijer said the flight marked the start of a push alongside its partners to accelerate the local supply and production of sustainable and affordable jet fuel for Nordic countries. “With a common effort and united purpose, including crucial support from governments, we can realise a sustainable and long-term future for aviation.”




UN Climate Summit

Aviation Action Statement and Action Plan



World Bank – Willie Walsh video

Finnair – Environmental Responsibility

Airbus – Eco-efficiency




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