Clear Vision on Climate Change

23 August 2007 (Last Updated August 23rd, 2007 18:30)

For Philippe Rochat, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, debate over climate change has been uneven. He tells Future Airport about his new web-based initiative to inform the public of the aviation industry's efforts to combat environmental damage.

Clear Vision on Climate Change

The aviation industry is entering a new era of change as we aim to meet our environmental challenges. The industry is in the midst of a transformation that is as comprehensive as the one that took place a century ago when we went from Orville Wright flying for a few seconds in 1902 to the first daily passenger flights from London to Paris in 1919. This stunning speed of innovation has not abated, and the next two decades will be among the most daring and progressive in aviation history as people in all parts of the industry work on new technologies and processes to limit aviation’s impact on the environment.

Climate change is a significant challenge for the entire transport industry. As the number of flights increases, CO2 emissions are set to slowly rise, so the industry is already taking steps to proactively limit its emissions. Indeed, it has already achieved a great deal.

Aircraft operations are 20% more efficient than only ten years ago, and a further 25% improvement is projected by 2020. Despite this, there is a disturbing tendency to lay all the world's environmental ills at the door of the aviation sector.

Our challenge is to inform the general public about the facts and the actions we are taking to ensure a future for aviation that balances environmental and economic responsibility. We must leverage the current attention on aviation and the environment and use it as an opportunity to communicate our message.

A CROSS INDUSTRY INITIATIVE

We as an industry have been improving our environmental performance for the past 50 years through better technology, operations, infrastructure and air traffic management. Today, we are examining every aspect of the aviation experience to see where the industry can continue to improve efficiency and limit emissions, and the near future has great potential. There is still much to do and it's the kind of work that attracts the best and brightest minds in advanced aerodynamics, alternative fuels, composite materials, alloy technologies, computer modelling and engine design. The industry has a successful track record of enhancing efficiency, the vision and talent to continue these efforts.

The aviation industry has devoted time and effort to discussing environmental challenges. Many national and international aviation organisations have hosted conferences or events at which CEOs, experts, regulators and representatives of civil society can meet to consider environmental impacts and develop strategies to address them.

AN UNBALANCED DEBATE

But to date, the industry has failed to communicate successfully all that it has done to the public – its most important audience. Therefore, aviation leaders have launched an initiative to give the industry the means to do so. At the core of this is a new website, www.enviro.aero.

There are many myths and untruths about aviation's impact on the environment. The first aim of the Enviro.aero initiative is to set the record straight. We recognise that aviation has an environmental impact and is part of the problem. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that aviation represents some 2% of global CO2 emissions.

"The initiative has consistent, coordinated and repeated messages."

This is small compared to the principal sources of CO2 emissions, such as power generation and road transport, but this does not mean that the aviation industry is ignoring its commitment to combating climate change proactively.

Our second aim is to remind the public about the beneficial impacts of aviation. Air transport brings mail from all over the world, people to business, tourists to holiday destinations, products to markets and unites families and friends.

INTERACTING WITH THE PUBLIC

Enviro.aero is the first unified industry activity to talk with the public about the environmental impact of the aviation industry. Each part of the industry is playing an important role. Enviro.aero highlights this in its library of case studies, ranging from lighter plane fuselages and shorter flight routes to continuous descent approaches and fuel cell-powered ground operation vehicles.

The initiative also offers a unique opportunity for the public to ask experts from the aviation industry questions related to aviation, environment and climate change. The answers are posted on the website for other visitors to see and read. One goal of the site is to provide information that balances the debate and allows members of the flying public to make up their own minds.

An example of the initiative in practice is the IATA's development of a series of seven print advertisements, to demonstrate that aviation takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. IATA has also produced a short video that focuses on what flying does to bring people and cultures together under the slogan 'Flying's a Wonderful Thing'. Since the start of the campaign in March 2007, more than 20 airlines are using the print advertisements and more than ten are
using the video.

THE KEYS TO SUCCESS

There are two key reasons why this initiative will succeed. First, everyone will be on board; the initiative requires participation from all industry players. From placing the website banner on a homepage to running an editorial in an in-flight magazine, every area of the industry is getting involved.

"This initiative is the opportunity for the whole commercial aviation industry to communicate positively about aviation."

The initiative is open to all who have a stake in the aviation industry: airline associations, airports, air navigation services providers, manufacturers, travel groups, tourism offices, hotel associations and tour operators.

Secondly, everyone will communicate in harmony – the initiative has consistent, coordinated and repeated messages. These core messages will be underpinned by specific messages relating to the particularities of different regions and of different parts of the sector.

However, the core messages will be the 'rocks' upon which this initiative will be built.

To conclude, this initiative is the opportunity for the whole commercial aviation industry to communicate positively about aviation, to fight back against the industry's detractors and to redress the balance of the public debate on aviation and the environment. It will act as a catalyst in changing perceptions for the good, putting aviation back on the front foot in debates about climate change and the environment.

We invite you to visit www.enviro.aero and join in the effort.