'Devil in the detail' on aviation's environmental progress, says Iata chief

'Devil in the detail' on aviation's environmental progress, says Iata chief

The “devil will be in the detail” of attempts to make aviation more environmentally friendly, according to the head of Iata.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has identified 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,” Iata director general and chief executive Tony Tyler (pictured) told the Greener Skies Conference in Hong Kong.

The airline body is calling on governments to agree on a global approach to market-based measures (MBMs) to help aviation manage the 2% of global manmade carbon emissions for which it is responsible.

Iata is also stressing the need for governments and industry to align on all four pillars of the aviation industry’s strategy on climate change: investment in new technology, more efficient operations, better infrastructure and positive economic measures or MBMs.

The aviation value chain - airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers - has agreed to three sequential targets on climate change: a 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020, capping emissions with carbon neutral-growth from 2020 and cutting net emissions in half by 2050 against 2005 levels.

Tyler said: “A lot of progress has been made on aviation and the environment.

“The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme was a roadblock to establishing a global approach to MBMs. With that roadblock removed we are well positioned for a breakthrough on MBMs.

“Governments are fully focused on (ICAO) to agree upon a global solution at their upcoming Assembly. And the industry is united and working hard to support that by finding an equitable way to share the burden of achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020. A lot of hard work lies ahead but we are committed to achieving a positive result.”

But he warned that a long-term solution for aviation’s carbon emissions requires progress on technology, operations and infrastructure.”

Tyler specifically cited the need for greater attention to be focused on the commercialisation of sustainable biofuels and improvements in air traffic management.

“More than 1500 commercial biofuel flights have been completed since certification was granted in 2011. But the cost is too high and the supply too limited,” he added.

“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.”

The failure to implement a ‘Single European Sky’ for air traffic control costs the industry €5 billion and wastes more than 8 million tonnes of CO2, according to Tyler.

“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.

“Our license to grow is contingent on our ability to do so sustainably. That means managing our emissions and other environmental impacts effectively.”

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