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NEWS Last modified on May 1, 2014

Growth and the future of aviation debated in close of ATAG summit

The Global Sustainable Aviation Summit ended in Geneva yesterday with industry leaders looking to the future and reflecting on efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Final sessions at the 7th aviation environment summit co-ordinated by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), focused on preparing for growth, the next 100 years, and closing remarks by organising groups.

In Wednesday’s first debate, Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, told delegates that increasing airport capacity in a sustainable way is ‘crucial’ to the industry.

He warned of the struggle that small airports are facing and says growth at European gateways, will take place, but not at a fast-pace like other regions, and explains he was worried about the trade-off by reducing emissions and the industry needed to see the benefits.

Jankovec also explains: “I am really worried about technology and community relations, which is needed to operate in Europe and a new way is needed.”

Growth is surging in the Asia Pacific region like no other, but Tan Lye Teck, executive vice president of Changi Airport Group, highlighted the need for action to be taken now on developing infrastructure.

“We are not moving fast enough to take up this doubling of capacity and demand and new airports and terminals. If we do not start now and plan, we will be playing catch-up,” he explains.

The final session, centred on what the next 100 years holds for aviation, and the panel included Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Airlines Group.

He warned governments: “Politicians believe there will be aviation growth anyway. But governments don’t understand that if aviation does not start to exceed its cost of capital, then it won’t be around.”

Walsh praised the work of the Airports Commission in the UK, and says he expects a thorough report from the Sir Howard Davies led commission.

As for carbon emissions, he emphasised the need of the ICAO’s decision to create a market-based global emissions measure, which he says is ‘crucial’, while the issue of environmental efficiency and economic efficiency in his view goes hand-in-hand.

Governments lack of urgency and action on expanding airport capacity to meet rising demand, also formed much of the session’s debate.

In the opinion of Eamonn Brennan, chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority, decisions by politicians on new airports ‘do not happen’, in comparison to immediate calls taken on public infrastructure projects such as rail station developments.

He used the example of the recent announcement to build a new airport in Sydney, 22 years after it was first raised, and urged: “People love to fly. We need to harness that love.”

The need for collaboration and co-operation within the industry was also a central theme of yesterday’s summit, and Rick Piccolo, chairman of ACI World and CEO and president of Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, urged: “Collaboration with airports is crucial for local credibility with communities and politicians."

Much patting on the back was also given to the industry for pushing to reduce carbon emissions, and for setting ambitious targets, unlike other industries.

In her closing remarks, Angela Gittens, director general of the Airports Council International (ACI World), explains collaboration is the key to reducing the industry’s impact on the environment.

“The reason why the aviation industry has come so far is co-operation and collaboration. Aviation no longer has a target on its back from the environmental side due to the co-operation led by ATAG.

“I urge governments to provide the right regulatory framework to aid growth. All industry players play a part in the long-term solution to receive its permission for growth – airports are doing their part.”

ICAO’s landmark commitment to develop a global market-based measure for aviation carbon emissions dominated discussions on Tuesday.

The decision made at the ICAO Assembly in September 2013, where governments agreed to develop a global measure by 2020 was at the heart of the summit’s discussion.

In his final remarks, new ATAG executive director, Michael Gill, explains in his opinion partnerships are the key to reducing carbon emissions.

“Partnerships have been the reoccurring theme running through the conference. There is a real desire on all sides to work in a collaborative manner and our industry is clearly unique in engaging with civil society.

“Looking forward, our focus has to be on climate change and the work at ICAO. There is lots to do and we are in touching distance, but it is clear that failure is not an option.”

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