New IATA Chairman says an industry response to climate change will be his main priority during coming year
Tony Tyler, CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways and new IATA Chairman
Fri 12 Jun 2009 – The new Chairman of the IATA Board of Governors, Cathay Pacific CEO Tony Tyler, said at the association’s Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur that the most important task facing the IATA management over the next 12 months was to deliver “a workable and sensible” approach to aircraft emissions. IATA’s Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, told journalists that the cost to the industry of complying with the carbon-neutral growth target announced during the AGM would run into billions of dollars. During the AGM, British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh said IATA must take the initiative over climate change negotiations as ICAO had not done enough.
Speaking to the media after the AGM, Cathay’s Tony Tyler said: “The most important thing we [the IATA management team] can deliver for the industry over the next 12 months is a workable and sensible approach to emissions so that the airline industry can continue to develop and continue to play a vital role in connecting people around the world and facilitating trade and global development.
“My first priority will be to work with Giovanni Bisignani to get the message across that the airlines are serious about meeting their responsibilities as we go forward on the environment and climate change issue.
“I think aviation will be included in the UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen. The issue is how it will be included. I fear that it might be in particular circumstances that don’t suit our industry. It must be within a scheme that is workable.”
Bisignani noted that his country is to host the forthcoming G8 summit and had raised the issue with the Italian environment minister. “This is the first case one sector has set an ambitious target, and leaders should see we have a serious commitment with some firm targets and dates.”
He said the cost of complying with the carbon-neutral growth target would be a “substantial burden” to airlines and IATA would soon be releasing an estimated figure, but “we are speaking of billions”.
Bisignani stated that the industry would shrink its carbon footprint, estimated at 666 million tons in 2008, by 6.5 percent in 2009. IATA predicts that the recession will contribute to 4.7% of the emissions reductions and that efficiency gains will account for the remaining 1.8%, he said.
Idris Jala, President and CEO of Malaysia Airlines, told journalists: “On the environmental challenge, we can’t do this alone. It requires teamwork with the engine manufacturers, together with the fuel suppliers and governments. We want everyone to remember this meeting as the point when the airline industry collectively said it was going to achieve carbon-neutral growth by a precise timeline. We have as well specific ambitions beyond this to 2050.”
Speaking during a round-table discussion during the meeting, Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways, said the airline industry must take the initiative on climate change negotiations. “I don’t think ICAO has done enough and I don’t think they will be able to influence decisions at Copenhagen. That is why it is important for IATA to reach a position.
“Getting our voice heard and being represented is critical. We have got to ask ourselves who is representing the industry at Copenhagen.”
Walsh believed airlines had made an error by focusing their lobbying efforts on transport ministers and not their environment colleagues. “It’s not going to be the transport ministers who will be at Copenhagen,” he said. “We may have been talking to the wrong audience and we have to turn that around very quickly.”
British Airways and Cathay Pacific are members of the Aviation Global Deal Group, which has also this week been setting out its own proposals for a global sectoral scheme that can be taken to Copenhagen (see story).
Damian Ryan from The Climate Group, another member of the AGD, said that AGD and IATA were both heading in the same direction in terms of achieving carbon-neutral growth and ultimately absolute emissions reductions. “The question for both AGD and IATA is the speed at which the shared goal is achieved,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that the AGD members want to see the industry move along the path as quickly as possible.
“As for Copenhagen, it will be important for the industry to have a clear vision on what it wants from the negotiations in order to avoid having a solution externally imposed on it, although most of the detailed work will occur after Copenhagen. What is needed from Copenhagen is enough direction that ensures the sector is set on a path to reducing its emissions, but also enough policy and negotiation space to craft a detailed solution over the coming one to two years.”