Airlines Urge Governments to Agree on Climate Measures

 - February 26, 2013, 11:22 AM
IATA director general Tony Tyler (Photo: IATA)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for governments to reach a consensus on a global approach to market-based measures (MBMs) to help aviation manage its carbon emissions during this week’s Greener Skies Conference in Hong Kong. IATA also stressed the need for governments and industry to align on four pillars of the aviation industry’s strategy on climate change: investment in new technology, more efficient operations, better infrastructure and positive economic measure or MBMs.

Airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers—what IATA calls the aviation value chain—have agreed to work toward achieving a 1.5 percent average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020, capping emissions with carbon neutral-growth from 2020 (CNG2020) and cutting net emissions in half by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.

“The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was a roadblock to establishing a global approach to MBMs,” IATA director general Tony Tyler said at the conference. “With that roadblock removed we are well positioned for a breakthrough on MBMs.  Governments are fully focused on the International Civil Aviation Organization [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 CNG2020. A lot of hard work lies ahead but we are committed to achieving a positive result.”

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,” added Tyler. “And it is critically important to ensure that the agreement preserves fair competition.”

Governments turned their attention to MBMs following Europe’s decision to suspend its unilateral plans to include aviation in the ETS. “Finding a global approach to MBMs is important,” said Tyler. “But attention is needed on all four pillars of the industry’s united strategy. Moreover, MBMs will be a temporary measure. The long-term solution for aviation’s carbon emissions requires progress on technology, operations and infrastructure.”

Tyler specifically cited the need for governments to pay more attention to the commercialization of sustainable biofuels and improvements in air traffic management.

“More than 1,500 commercial biofuel flights have been completed since certification was granted in 2011,” he said. “But the cost is too high and the supply too limited. 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.

Tyler also criticized Europe’s failure to implement a cohesive air traffic management system. “Progress building efficiencies in the air is often hampered by politics on the ground,” he said. “For example, each year, the failure to implement a Single European Sky costs the industry €5 billion and wastes over 8 million tons of CO2. 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.”