Partnerships are a key driver to achieving international aviation climate goals, says new ICAO Secretary General
ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu (photo: Vanda D’Alonzo)
Thu 17 Sep 2015 – With the expected future growth in aviation traffic, it is essential to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the wide-ranging benefits of air transport tomorrow on an environmentally sustainable basis, said ICAO’s new Secretary General, Dr Fang Liu, in a keynote address yesterday to an environmental seminar held by the UN civil aviation agency. The seminar is taking place in advance of a major UN summit in New York next week that is expected to adopt global Sustainable Development Goals effective from 2016, and sessions of the seminar have been aligned to the appropriate goals. The event has also been planned to showcase actions by the international aviation sector to reduce emissions ahead of the forthcoming Paris COP climate conference. Former ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González told delegates that international aviation CO2 emissions were projected to grow by more than four times over the next 30 years unless urgent action was taken under all of ICAO’s ‘basket of measures’.
In her keynote, Dr Liu said: “Through invaluable partnerships and determined cooperation between States and industry, the international aviation sector has been actively progressing a comprehensive strategy to address its CO2 emissions. Our States have agreed to achieve ICAO’s global aspirational goal of improving fuel efficiency by 2% per year and to stabilise sector-wide CO2 emissions at 2020 levels.”
Dr Liu, who recently took up her leadership post, said ICAO’s activities and actions effectively contributed to 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, with 10 of them relating directly to global environmental and climate change mitigation objectives. Such activities that supported the goals included the new CO2 emissions standard for aircraft, which is expected to be finalised by February, sustainable alternative fuels, end-of-life aircraft recycling and the development of a global market-based measure (MBM) to tackle international aviation CO2 emissions growth.
“We now find ourselves on a shared journey towards achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020,” she told delegates in her first speech covering environmental issues. “I strongly believe that this can be achieved by continuing to work together and actively pursuing further partnerships.
“Under Goal 3, we must all be taking urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts, and ICAO’s capacity building and active engagement of States in their development and implementation of voluntary action plans for aviation emissions reductions is a good and practical example of our commitment. Cooperation, partnerships and innovation are the keys to our successful future and to the eventual realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
In his address to the seminar, Kobeh, now an ICAO Council Goodwill Ambassador, said that despite substantial progress by ICAO on environmental activities, urgent action was required to achieve the 2% fuel efficiency goal. “And,” he added, “if we are to be ready for carbon neutral growth in 2020, we need to act now – climate change science clearly tells us that.”
Despite progress and improvements in technology and operational measures, as well as the development and deployment of alternative fuels, he said some of their benefits would not be fully ready by 2020 and ICAO trends for international aviation CO2 growth showed there would be a future substantial gap in emissions above 2020 levels. ICAO was responding to the challenge, he said, through partnerships with other international organisations, support for States through capacity building and the submission by States of their action plans to reduce emissions.
Kobeh said the agreement by the last Assembly on the development of a global MBM reflected the strong support of States for a global solution for the aviation industry, although “significant efforts” needed to be undertaken in order for a decision to be taken at the next Assembly on implementation from 2020.
“I have seen aviation experience many challenges,” observed the ICAO veteran. “The environment, and climate change in particular, is a significant one.”
In a seminar presentation on greenhouse gas trends in aviation to 2050, Gregg Fleming of the US Department of Transport’s Volpe Center said current projections showed the international aviation emissions gap in 2050 compared to 2020 would be over 1,000 million tonnes. This would be despite future contributions from technology improvements and improved air traffic management and infrastructure use.
International aviation fuel efficiency is expected to improve to 2050, he said, but additional measures above aircraft technology and operational improvements would be required to achieve the 2% annual fuel efficiency aspirational goal and to achieve carbon neutral growth relative to 2020. Although experts on ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) were still analysing the future availability of sustainable alternative fuels and their potential life-cycle emissions savings, he believed State targets could close up to 25% of the gap and if the maximum potential contribution from alternative fuels could be achieved, and assuming zero net carbon, the gap could be closed completely.
Fleming noted there was greater uncertainty in predicting future aviation demand than that associated with the range of contributions from technology and operational improvements.
The two-day ICAO Global Aviation Partnerships on Emissions Reductions (E-GAP) seminar features sessions covering aviation and climate change scientific understanding; aircraft life-cycle design and technology; operational improvements and eco-airports; sustainable alternative aviation fuels; carbon markets; financing for environmental initiatives; and State Action Plans and capacity building.