IATA action plan to tackle environmental concerns

The head of the IATA has revealed his long-term ambitions to combat climate change.
IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani is aiming for zero emissions.
IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani is aiming for zero emissions.


In a speech delivered at the third Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva last month, Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director general and CEO, expressed the aviation industry's commitment to a number of targets related to improved environmental responsibility.

With the overall industry growing at between 5-6% yearly, and with total airfreight weighing in at 40 million tonnes in 2007, Bisignani was keen to accept that despite the sector's praiseworthy efforts in the past, even more hard work was needed in the coming years. He stressed that the assistance of national governments was also required if the benefits of IATA's exertions were to be fully realised.

The director general was scathing in his assessment of governments, whom he accused of failing to provide real solutions to the environmental problem, and outlined two key areas for action: research and development and the improvement of air space.

"Technology is critical. It helped us improve fuel efficiency by 70% over the last 40 years and will drive future improvements on everything from alternative fuels to new materials and radical airframe designs," he said.

"However, governments must cooperate to support and fund research so that the private sector can continue progressing. The IPCC estimates a potential 12% efficiency gain from improvement in how we use air space. That's over 70 million tonnes of potential savings. A single European Sky is the most obvious, but we see potential savings in all regions."


According to Bisignani, the biggest target for the aviation industry is the advent of zero emissions. Pointing towards the speed at which major players had collaborated in the production of a biofuel that a jet could run on, the director general observed that while any scheme would require the cooperation of airlines and manufacturers, a target of zero carbon emissions in 50 years was not impossible. As an initial step, he announced that progress had been made "in evaluating a technology roadmap to carbon neutral growth", which is now in its final stage of development.

As argued in the April edition of Air Cargo Middle East & India, the Middle East's air industry has a slight headstart over other international operators as a result of its comparably younger and more efficient fleet, combined with plans already in place to upgrade these aircraft in the not-too-distant future.

IATA has previously indicated its belief that the air cargo industry accounts for approximately a third of the global emissions released by aviation.

"We have taken this responsibility seriously long before Kyoto with impressive results - a 70% improvement in fuel efficiency over the last four decades," concluded Bisignani. "Today's commitment is unique. What other industry is so united in its approach to the environment?"

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