Wise Counsel for the ICAO Assembly in its Establishment of Global Aviation Environmental Goals

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ARTICLE: Eco-Aviation Conference Keynote Speech, Sustainable Aviation – Lessons from the Past to Support Our Future


There are few public policy issues for which the general populace’s knowledge is more poorly informed than the impact of aviation on the environment. The disinformation, particularly in Europe, has distorted the debate on what measures should (or must) be imposed on the operators of aircraft.

There are few as expert on this subject than Nancy Young, A4A’s Vice President, Environment Affairs. Her knowledge, based on the information from her association’s members, is encyclopedic. She has been involved in these issues for over 20 years.

The above link is associated with a speech outlining where aviation is in the environmental scorecard. Here are the facts which she marshaled in support of the airlines’ action in support of a greener world:

  • Between 1975 and 2012, we reduced the number of people exposed to significant amounts of aircraft noise by 95%, while tripling enplanements.
  • In 2012, the U.S. airlines and airports began implementing a voluntary agreement for further management of stormwater runoff from deicing activities – an agreement that was endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The airlines have virtually eliminated carbon monoxide and smoke emissions and continually ratcheted down emissions of oxides of nitrogen – NOx.
  • And our airlines are implementing extensive recycling and sustainability programs.

And the list goes on.

Ms. Young, armed with her understanding of the science of the environment and the operations of airlines, proposes the following agenda to guide further greening of her industry:

  1. Establish a set of aggressive emissions targets that are tailored to aviation and premised on government and industry investment in technology, operations and infrastructure measures;
  2. Set rules on the role that market-based measures may play; and
  3. Establish international agreement through and under ICAO.

She bolsters those steps with precise goals expressed in terms of industry-supported emissions targets: annual fuel efficiency improvements through 2020; carbon neutral growth from 2020; and an aspirational goal to reduce aviation CO2 emissions by 50 percent in 2050, relative to 2005 levels.

Her speech is a prelude to the ICAO Assembly where the members are committed to setting the global goals for aviation. Ms. Young’s advice is as follows:

  • Reaffirm the aggressive emissions goals it set in 2010, including having aviation achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 through concerted industry and government efforts;
  • Confirm and advance key pieces of ICAO work, including developing a CO2 standard for new aircraft, advancing air traffic management improvements, and supporting countries’ efforts to deploy sustainable alternative aviation fuels;
  • Expand country-specific action plans for aviation fuel efficiency improvements and emissions savings; and
  • Get the right rules in place for market-based measures. Specifically, we are asking governments to commit to the development of a global emissions offsetting scheme that could be employed to fill the gap should aviation not reach its emissions goals through industry and government investment in technology, operations and infrastructure.

This is great advice from a knowledgeable advocate. The proceedings in Montreal will set the future agenda; good luck to the Assembly Members!

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