One way to improve the airline industry’s perceived environmental impact is for carriers to shout louder. Ironically, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) calls for operators to make more noise comes as airlines claim to have reduced sound levels by 75 percent in the past 40 years.
In addition, fuel efficiency has been improved by 70 percent and soot eliminated, according to IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani. He conceded at the group’s annual meeting in Vancouver this month that airlines will increase their carbon footprint by a half by 2020, but said the fleet would be 25 percent more fuel efficient by 2020.
“We have been weak communicators. So we are working to raise the volume,” said Bisignani, who believes that the industry needs a wake-up call. “Our carbon footprint is growing and that is not politically acceptable. Air transport must become an industry that does not pollute.”
He concluded that the way forward was marked by four challenges. “The first is for governments and air-navigation services providers to [cut] inefficiency in air-traffic management (ATM) in half by 2012.” Three mega-projects could deliver results quickly: a Single European Sky, an efficient Pearl River Delta in China and a next-generation U.S. ATM system.
The second challenge, according to Bisignani, is for ICAO to “deliver” a global emissions-trading scheme and to set demanding environmental targets for governments and industry.
Third, the longer-term technological challenge was to build a zero-emissions aircraft in the next 50 years, said the lobbyist. “The U.S., Europe, Canada, China, Brazil, Russia and Japan must coordinate basic research and apply it effectively. We need a clean fuel but governments have cut funding for research. It’s time for governments and the oil industry to make some serious investments so that in 10 years 10 percent of our fuel is from alternative sources.”
Finally, said Bisignani, the airlines must implement green strategies: “[IATA] is developing Project Green to help members put environmental responsibility alongside safety and security.”