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Airline Sustainability Parity Debated in Montreal

Speakers from IATA, including IATA’s Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, addressed the ATAG (Air Transport Action Group) Global Sustainable Aviation Forum in Montreal.

At the event, Tyler argued that the airline industry must work towards a reduced carbon footprint. He also addressed a tricky question: is it fair to impose a single global standard for airline sustainability on smaller and developing aviation markets?

Tyler addressed “unanswered questions” on COSIA, the Carbon Offset Scheme for International Aviation which addresses airline sustainability.

COSIA is part of the industry’s environmental ongoing sustainability programs, which include initiatives to improve technology, operations, and aviation infrastructure.

Tyler argued that all airlines accept that ensuring industry sustainability will involve “manageable” costs. He suggested the industry needs “market-based” costs, rather than “a patchwork of inefficient and ineffective charges and taxes, cooked up to raise cash, not to tackle climate change.”

Global airlines have committed to reducing carbon emissions by 2020. But those airlines from smaller and disadvantaged aviation markets have concerns over keeping up with standards imposed in larger markets. That is, the airlines which have been responsible for growing aviation’s carbon footprint for many decades.

A Practical, Transparent, Fair and Environmentally Credible Path Toward Airline Sustainability

“We must have a practical, transparent, fair and environmentally credible scheme,” Tyler said.

He emphasized the need to agree on this point before addressing “questions of cost and complexity, which will most certainly take time to iron out.“

On questions of equitable standards for airline sustainability, Tyler said:

“We expect the cost will be not insignificant, but manageable–and I think that would be the right balance. I am under no illusion that reaching an agreement will be easy. Airlines would prefer COSIA to apply as equally as possible to carriers across the world, to minimize market distortions. We also recognize that situations vary from airline to airline—as does the perception, or even reality, of what is truly fair.

“ICAO is suggesting a two-phase implementation, to address the concerns of less wealthy nations with small air transport sectors. They don’t want to be penalized for the historic carbon emissions of the developed world. It is an important and understandable view. Indeed, a two-stage proposal may be feasible if the lines are drawn carefully,” Tyler said.

IATA’s Director General and CEO repeated previous statements that aviation is a “force for good,” which aids economic growth and social development. Part of that commitment to contribute positively to society must be a commitment to environmentally responsible action, ensuring airlines meet their sustainability targets.

“The industry is resolute. We are determined to do the right thing in mitigating our climate change impact. We are counting on the 191 member states of ICAO to enable that important result by reaching an agreement later this year,” Tyler said.

Challenges On the Path to Greener Flights

Among the challenges the industry faces are the complications of upgrades to aircraft, new air traffic management systems, and the incorporation of alternative fuels.

With the industry still debating standards, measurements, and actions required, it will take considerable determination to accomplish stated aims.

It is unclear whether the industry could make enough progress or show marked improvement to its CO2 footprint over the next three and a half years.

Featured Image: View of Geneva Airport and Swiss Alps from IATA Headquarters, © FCMedia, 2015 

Read More on Aviation’s Sustainability Initiatives Here

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