Airlines call on governments to ‘complement’ climate action

Twenty-eight chief executives and aviation association leaders have penned an open letter to global governments urging them to commit to a joint approach to help deliver emissions reductions across the sector.

The letter, coordinated by the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), has been signed by executives of companies representing over 90% of the world’s air traffic with a combined revenue of nearly a trillion dollars.

It calls on governments to work with aviation companies to introduce a meaningful market-based measure – which considers ‘fair and equitable solutions’ for all countries under a range of circumstances – to reduce aviation emissions.

Deadline looming

Governments should support the aviation industry through actions such as air traffic reform, support for new technology research, and funding for operational and sustainable fuels, the letter states. It also calls for correct policy frameworks to be installed to accelerate alternate fuel use.

Michael Gill, executive director of ATAG, said: “This is an influential set of business leaders adding their voice to those supporting climate actions in the lead-up to the COP21 negotiations in Paris and one year ahead of aviation’s own climate deadline – the 39th ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] Assembly. We are urging governments to back industry and civil society efforts to deliver this market-based measure.

“Since we set the goals, the aviation sector has been actively undertaking fuel efficiency projects through the deployment of over a trillion dollars of new technology, improved operational procedures and moving towards more advanced infrastructure. However, government regulation and national political environments prevent us from fully influencing our own future. Today’s letter urges government action in five key areas to complement the significant action already taking place within the industry.”

On the rise

The signatories also want world leaders to agree to the implementation of a global offsetting scheme which will stabilise air transport carbon emissions, and to endorse an historic global CO2 standard for new aircrafts – both of which are being discussed and potentially finalised at the next International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly in 2016. 

The aviation industry was the first transport sector to set global climate change goals back in 2008. These goals included a CO2 emissions cap by 2020 and a long-term goal to reduce net CO2 emissions from a 2005 baseline by 50% by 2050.

However, a recent report from the New Climate Economy warned that global carbon emissions from the world’s aviation and maritime sectors could rise 250% by 2050 without tangible targets from governments.

Policy frameworks

Earlier this week, edie spoke with the world’s largest travel and tourism business, TUI Group, whose director of sustainability Jane Ashton spoke about the need for policy framework.

Ashton said: “We’ve been instrumental in trialling new fuels and they’ve performed very well for us. But we’ve also been highlighting the need for policy frameworks to incentivise and ease investment in sustainable fuels across the aviation industry. We know the fuels work, we just need the policy frameworks that will help scale them up and ease distribution.”

The aviation industry recently held meetings with government and civil society representatives at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. This letter comes 60 days before the crucial COP21 climate talks in Paris. 

Matt Mace

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