IATA AGM: Carbon neutral goal ?achievable?
Using the four pillars of operations, technology, infrastructure and economic measures, the IATA target of carbon-neutral growth by 2020 can be met by aviation, according to an industry panel at the IATA AGM in Kuala Lumpur.
Session moderator, former IATA senior-vice president Kevin Dobby, asked the panel not only if the target is achievable, but if it is enough. Cathay Pacific CEO – and incoming IATA chairman – Tony Tyler, believes it is, “but only if other partners come to the party; airlines cannot do it on their own”.
Given that caveat, British Airways CEO, Willie Walsh, was unequivocal. “There’s no question in my mind that it can be done. Whether it will be enough – well, there is a different focus depending on where you are in the world. For some governments it may not be,” he warned.
Representing one set of partners, CFM International’s CEO, Eric Bachelet, discussed the value of industry standards for airframe and engine manufacturers being used to achieve the environmental goal. “There’s a lot to be said for having standards,” he confirmed. “We’ve had them on noise and emissions for some time and they have driven progress. They also eliminate the poor performers.”
By 2020, Bachelet believes engines will mainly still be running on the current type jet fuel. “The engines are improving, but that’s not a total answer [to the problem],” he remarked. “I believe biofuels will be indispensable to reach our goals.”
Dobby posed the question of whether airlines would actually be willing to pay for biofuels knowing that they will be more expensive. “Yes, because it’s a way of measuring our environmental performance, not just our financial performance.”
Cathay’s Tyler agreed and added, “If we, as an industry, have invested so much in biofuels, I think we will definitely buy them, because otherwise other industries might look to buy biofuels as they seek to reduce emissions. We will need to buy them as there will be few alternatives for us.”
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, revealed that his airline has been working with a scientific institute in Qatar and an engine manufacturer on the development of a biofuel. “We will give full details at a later date, but we are planning to do a test in October between London Gatwick and Doha,” he outlined. “We are not doing this research just for ourselves, but for the aviation industry in general. Airlines cannot sit passively by because we are being targeted.”
The topic of carbon offsets was raised with the question of whose responsibility it should be for the level of take-up, the individual or the airline promoting it properly.
“Credibility is a big issue with offsets,” declared Walsh. “BA now has a government-approved scheme. There is still not a big take-up, but we know that many of our big corporate clients have their own schemes.”
“Carbon offsets are good, but they must not be an alibi for getting away with bad [environmental] behaviour,” CFM’s Bachelet proposed. “Also, some money from the offsets should go back into helping the ongoing development of biofuels.”
Looking further ahead, all speakers agreed that a global emissions trading scheme needs urgent work and that the industry should be engaging not just with their respective transport ministers, but with their environment ministers.
Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net