An inconclusive truth
Any industry expanding at the pace of the airfreight and aviation sector in the Middle East is bound to feel the full force of public scrutiny.
With airports being built as big as countries - on completion Dubai World Central will rival the size of Liechtenstein - it is hardly surprising that airlines tend to face the full brunt of public opinion. The region's skies are filling up and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, a fact that immediately attracts attention and ultimately criticism.
This month's feature on the environmental viability of the regional airfreight industry quite justifiably sees many leading carriers a little on the defensive. While in no way shirking their responsibility to the environment and a sustainable future, current research has failed to lead to any convicting evidence on the effects of air cargo.
At a recent IATA symposium in Rome, the prominent issue once more rose to the fore - yet in a slight twist of irony, clarity was found deep amongst the uncertainties.
IATA members left the event earnestly agreeing that constructive action could only be adopted once data was gathered that conclusively reflected the extent to which airfreight actually does damage the environment.
This most notably involves the research of comparable data that would allow companies to identify whether certain commodities transported by air would affect the environment anymore if say they had been transported by truck or ship.
Pledging to help fund and keep the momentum of environmental research flowing, anticipation now rests on the outcome of industry studies and perhaps more importantly when the results will finally present themselves.
A situation as complex and sensitive as the environment is never likely to draw concrete conclusions on the future state of industry affairs, but there seems little doubt in the minds of everyone involved that current data simply doesn't cut the mustard.
In the meantime, taking active steps for the future seems essential. IATA has already created a four pillar strategy, which snugly fits around the uncertainties by fixing itself around the facts. For example, its not debatable that improving efficiencies and implementing the latest technology can reduce carbon emissions.
There is still room for vast improvement in this field applicable to all airlines the world over. The Middle East is far from an exception, a fact recognised by many of the region's carriers.
The area of public scrutiny that perhaps proves most irksome for all cargo operators is that which questions specific companies or, even more controversially, specific commodities. Truth be told, there seems little in the way of precise data able to counter or support such specifics and until there is the current industry effort merits only encouragement.