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Creating a sustainable future for the airport industry

4 April 2016  •  Author(s): Michael Gill, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group

Michael Gill, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group, reveals how the industry is working collaboratively to meet ambitious CO2 emissions targets.

Creating a sustainable future for the airport industry

The global aviation industry connects our world like no other mode of transport and has been one of the driving forces of globalisation. Over 3.5 billion passengers a year, a third of world trade by value, and half of all international tourists travel by air. Aviation supports around 60 million jobs and 3.5% of global GDP. However, it also produces around 2% of the world’s human-induced CO2 emissions.

The aviation industry recognises its contribution to climate change and is determined to lessen its impact on the environment. In 2008 aviation was the first transport sector to set global goals and to manage its contribution to climate change proactively. These goals include capping net CO2 emissions from 2020 and a longer-term goal to reduce net CO2 emissions from aviation to half of 2005 levels by 2050. The other short-term goal of an annual average 1.5% increase in fuel efficiency between 2009 and 2020 is already being surpassed.

The industry is united in taking on the climate challenge and much work has already been undertaken worldwide. The industry’s strategy is based on four pillars: developing new technology, improving operational efficiency, creating better infrastructure and; supporting work on developing a global market-based measure for aviation at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The most important developments driving overall fuel efficiency are, of course, the release of new models of aircraft and engines. On average each new generation of aircraft is 15-20% more fuel efficient than the one it replaces. In the last decade we have seen the introduction of new designs from the makers of both aircraft and engines. These have made a considerable contribution to the sustainability of the industry and will continue to do so. Airlines have spent over a trillion dollars on these next generation models since we set the climate goals in 2008.

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