Aircraft makers, airlines, airports and air traffic controllers have pledged to work towards "carbon-neutral growth" and reduce their industry’s contribution to global warming, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The declaration committed commercial players including Embraer, Bombardier, Boeing and Airbus to support cleaner fuels, improve fuel efficiency, better manage air routes, and work "to achieve greenhouse gas reductions wherever they are cost-effective."
"We are committed to a pathway to carbon-neutral growth and aspire to a carbon-free future," the signatories said. They also urged governments to develop a global emissions trading scheme for the aviation sector.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, said the stakes were high for a European Union proposal to make all airlines flying into and out of the bloc buy pollution permits, and to gradually buy emissions certificates at auction.
"It is hard to exaggerate the importance of emissions trading," Walsh told hundreds of industry representatives.
He said that an emissions trading scheme, in line with what Brussels has proposed, would give airlines room to grow their businesses while not fanning climate change. This was preferable to taxes that can be too blunt an instrument, Walsh said.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report last year that the aviation industry made up three per cent of mankind’s total contribution to global warming in 2005. That proportion is expected to rise to 5 per cent by 2050.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders said that new technology and other innovations, particularly in fuel, were the key to making air travel more sustainable over the long term.
"If our growth is restricted, so are the benefits. So are the benefits aviation can bring to the world," Enders said, noting Airbus was experimenting with fuel cells as a way to decrease overall emissions.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson said his firm was looking at algae-based products as an alternative to biofuels that are part of the food system. Prices for dietary staples including corn and wheat have shot up in past months, partly due to demands on crops for use as alternatives to oil and natural gas.
Philippe Rochat, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, said the climate change declaration should help draw the industry together around a common goal, as has already been done in safety standards and e-ticketing initiatives.
"We are devoting the same energy, investment and sheer determination to ensure the industry has a sustainable future," he said.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also put its weight behind the declaration. IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani joined the industry’s other top leaders in the signing ceremony at the 3rd Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva, Switzerland.
“This declaration is a great step,” said Bisignani. “IATA’s four-pillar strategy on climate change is now an industry commitment. This commitment will drive us forward – first to our 25% fuel efficiency improvement target, and more importantly towards our vision of carbon neutral growth leading to a carbon emission free industry.”
“Environmental responsibility is a core promise of the aviation industry, alongside safety and security. We have taken this responsibility seriously long before Kyoto with impressive results – a 70% improvement in fuel efficiency over the last four decades. All the industry partners have a common goal – to keep aviation as a benchmark of environmental responsibility for others to follow,” said Bisignani. “Today’s commitment is unique. What other industry is so united in its approach to environment?”
“But governments must play their part if we are truly to succeed. They must invest more effectively in environmental technologies – from alternative fuels to radical dynamics. And they need to match our efforts at efficiency – such as implementing next generation traffic management systems globally. A Single European Sky could save 12 million tonnes of CO2 at a stroke,” said Bisignani.
Sydney Airport also joined the global aviation industry in the "Declaration on climate change" that was signed by industry leaders at the Aviation & Environment Summit in Geneva.
Russell Balding, chief executive officer Sydney Airport said: "In signing up to the declaration, Sydney Airport has reaffirmed its commitment to the environment. We will work with all players across the industry to target carbon-neutral growth as a step towards a carbon-free future for aviation."
"Already Sydney Airport has implemented a range of environment initiatives aimed at improving the Airport’s environmental performance and reducing our carbon footprint."
Also at the first meeting of the Sydney Airport Environment Forum today, participants including airlines, retail and ground transport operators and other on airport businesses, committed to working together on environment issues," Mr Balding said.
The Environment Forum agenda included climate change, water cycle management, resource recovery and the Airport Ground Travel Plan.
Commenting on the signing of the Declaration, Robert J Aaronson, director general of the global trade association of airport executives, Airports Council International, said: "Airports around the world are already implementing energy efficient operations; this Declaration further demonstrates aviation’s coordinated efforts in tackling environmental challenges. All sectors of society, business, governments and individuals have a role to play in addressing climate change. This Declaration confirms aviation’s intention to grow and contribute to economies, in a sustainable way."
The declaration can be found at: www.enviro.aero/declaration.