International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac said the airline industry has to be guided by three core principles if it is to continue delivering the benefits of aviation-enabled activity. Those principles – environmental sustainability, a policy framework encouraging competition and innovation, and infrastructure which is both efficient and affordable – were second only to safety, the highest priority.
De Juniac was speaking at the Wings of Change Americas conference in Chicago, close to where the landmark Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention) was signed in 1946. The convention set up the framework for international air travel and created the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
However, de Juniac cautioned that the rise of anti-aviation sentiment poses an immediate challenge to efforts to grow aviation’s benefits, while addressing its climate responsibilities.
“Governments, particularly in Europe, are piling on so-called environmental taxes that penalise airlines and air travellers but do little to support industry efforts to reduce emissions. I have yet to see any aviation environmental tax actually being used to help reduce aviation’s environmental impacts.”
De Juniac said that aviation is also working towards its 2050 target of achieving a 50% reduction in net CO2 emissions compared to 2005. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) potentially will play a huge role, but for that to occur, governments need to enact policies supporting commercialisation of SAF. Advances in airframes and propulsion systems such as the development of all-electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, will also play a big part in cutting aviation’s emissions in half by 2050. It will also require operational improvements and greater efficiency from air navigation services providers.
“Environmental sustainability is the greatest challenge to our industry’s license to spread the benefits of air connectivity. We are already helping people to fly sustainably. The environmental impact of an individual traveler has been cut in half compared to 1990, and we have decoupled emissions growth from underlying traffic growth.
“Now we are moving forward on our interim goal of capping net CO2 emissions through carbon-neutral growth. Since 1 January, airlines have been tracking their emissions and they will begin reporting them to governments in 2020 under CORSIA, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, agreed by member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Carbon offsetting through CORSIA is expected to mitigate around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 and generate over $40 billion in climate finance between 2021 and 2035.”