'Flight shaming' not the answer to air pollution woes – aviation CEO

Some say the answer to climate change is to stop or heavily reduce flying, but that would have grave consequences for people, jobs and economies all over the world, warned Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, earlier in the month.

In his view, this would be a step backward to an isolated society that is smaller, poorer and constrained.

Public concern on environment issues has spiked worldwide, with the publication of a UN report on the impacts of not meeting the Paris Agreement goals. In Sweden, for example, the idea of "flight shaming" those who travel by air has even started.

"Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread. Therefore, along with reducing emissions, we must collectively engage and tell our story more effectively. That means articulating a much clearer path towards our 2050 goal," said De Juniac.

He acknowledged that the environmental issue is a great challenge, but argued that it is also a good example of what aviation can achieve when stakeholders combine forces and tackle common problems. The environmental impact of an individual traveller has, for instance, been cut in half compared to 1990, he noted, adding that the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation will facilitate carbon-neutral aviation growth from 2020.

By 2050 the aviation industry aims to have cut its net carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels – irrespective of growth. This goal will be reached by modernising air traffic management to cut fuel burn if governments make investments to eliminate inefficiencies, he said.

Sustainable fuels

"Our biggest and most practical opportunity is sustainable aviation fuels. They can reduce our carbon footprint by up to 80%. A ‘chicken or egg’ situation of high price and limited supply, however, remains," he said.

"Governments also need to act. They should build supportive policies to invigorate the sustainable fuels industry. But too many are focused on punitive environment taxes instead. This is climate hypocrisy. Putting money into general government coffers does nothing to reduce carbon."

De Juniac would like to see the aviation industry engage in out-of-the-box thinking to see if there are opportunities to work with governments to do even more about the environmental challenge. "We call on governments to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels, new technology and more efficient operations," he said.

"Let’s work together to make flying sustainable. Carbon is not the problem. We can and are doing something meaningful to reduce it. Flying is freedom and the society we live in is better for it."

* Fin24 is a guest of Iata at its AGM.

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