IATA pushes Asia to join green debate

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on Asia to participate strongly in the environment debate. “The UN attributes 2% of global carbon emissions to aviation and we are working hard to limit that figure.  The industry has a good story to tell on technical achievements—fuel efficiency improved 70% in the last four decades. And we have a strong message for governments—get on board with efficiency. The UN estimates that there is 12% efficiency to be gained from better air traffic management,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Governments are far too quick to impose taxes—such as the doubling of the UK air passenger duty that puts GBP 1 billion into government coffers. But they are slow to implement air traffic management solutions that will improve environmental performance. The list of potential improvements spans the globe—from Europe’s failure to implement a single sky to an inefficient approach to Hong Kong that can waste up to 25 minutes of fuel. If governments are serious about the environment, this must change. We must send this message loudly and clearly in Asia and around the world,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani was speaking in Hong Kong at the Greener Skies Conference organised by Orient Aviation, where he highlighted the four pillars of IATA’s environment policy.

Technology:  “Technology has driven our progress to date.  The fuel efficiency of modern aircraft is 3.5 litres per 100 passenger kilometres.  The A380 and 787 will be more fuel efficient than a hybrid car.  We target another 25% improvement in fuel efficiency by 2020.  Manufacturing partners must start thinking beyond the 787 and A380 to the next generation aircraft.  Oil companies must also come to the table with alternative fuels,” said Bisignani.  The industry has set a target of 10% conversion to alternative fuels by 2020.

Operations: One less minute of flight time saves 62 litres of fuel and 160 kilogrammes of carbon emissions.  “The role of government in air traffic management is absolutely critical.  Operational progress is a win-win solution.  We can only make progress if governments, including the military, cooperate with industry.  But far too often, we have to battle with governments to get them to see the benefits.  If we are going to meet expectations on the environment, often set by governments, then this must change,” said Bisignani.


Avoid taxes and charges: Airlines are already paying US$42 billion a year for airport and ATM infrastructure.  “We do not get a free ride and are not asking for one.  But many governments think green and see cash.  Taxing airlines and passengers is becoming a popular sport.  More taxes only rob us of the cash to invest in new technology, and the opportunity to further improve our performance,” said Bisignani.

Emissions trading: “Emissions trading makes sense provided it is properly designed.  This means having an open trading system with equal obligations to other industries.  A global solution is critical.  And the best hope for that is through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The technical guidance was agreed in February. We need the political solution at the ICAO Assembly in September,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani also recognised Asia’s efforts in reducing emissions.  The average age of Asia’s fleet is 10 years compared to the global average of 12, making Asia’s fleet more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.  Australia also employs flexible tracks to allow aircraft to take advantage of the best flying conditions and reduce each flight time to Asia by an average of 2 to 3 minutes.

“Asia is a major player in the industry.  Now is the time to shout politely to communicate our story in Asia - to ensure that governments and the public understand the good things we are doing, and to implicate governments in the solutions.  This will be Asia’s best insurance against the same sort of crisis faced in Europe,” said Bisignani.