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NEWS Last modified on October 3, 2017

Biofuels and sustainable development goals on the agenda at Aviation Summit

Aviation’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and biofuels, which could account for 25% of all jet fuel by 2050, were just a few of the topics discussed during today’s opening sessions of the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva.

The scene for the day at the annual Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) organised summit was set by ICAO president, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, who praised aviation’s commitment to the environment and the success the industry has achieved in persuading the world’s government to join the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for international aviation (CORSIA) from its outset in 2021.

To date 72 countries representing 90% of the world’s international flights have agreed to join the initiative, which he admitted had “exceeded our expectations.”

"CORSIA isn’t just important for the aviation industry, it is important for the planet,” Aliu told delegates.

ATAG’s executive director, Michael Gill, said that the countdown had begun for airlines and governments to prepare for CORSIA, which was agreed by governments meeting at ICAO 12 months ago.

The CORSIA is designed to offset the growth in carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation after 2020.
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The first six years of the scheme, negotiated by governments and supported by the industry, will be voluntary for States to join. In later years, it will be mandatory for all but the smallest aviation markets.

“Airlines included in CORSIA will need to offset their emissions from 1 January 2021, but the scheme comes into effect before then, with compliance needing to begin as early as one year from now,” said Gill.

“Not enough airlines and governments are aware that there are two parts of the CORSIA: the monitoring of emissions; and the offsetting.

“All airlines that fly international routes will need to start monitoring and reporting their fuel use to governments from 2019, with very few exceptions. This applies whether their government has signed up to volunteer for the CORSIA or not.”
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To raise awareness of the need to prepare for the incoming scheme, ATAG is working with IATA, International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and regional associations.

He went on: “We are very pleased to see 72 States now volunteering to join CORSIA from the beginning. This means over 80% of the growth in aviation CO2 after 2020 will be offset.

“It is especially heartening to see small island states and least developed countries showing both climate and aviation leadership by signing up. These are states, which would likely have been exempt from the scheme entirely.

“We repeat our call to all other governments to volunteer - let’s try and get as many of the 191 ICAO member states on board as possible. It is a vital part of the international community’s commitment to climate action and will make the CORSIA even more effective.”

He also took the opportunity to highlight ATAG’s newly released report, Flying in Formation, which he described as a guide for the air transport industry to help understand the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in an aviation context.
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“We hope Flying in Formation will provide ideas for how companies and partners across the sector can build the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their own corporate strategies,” said Gill.

“Whilst the SDGs are developed by and for governments, there are a number of reasons why companies also need to respond.

“Following the SDGs makes good business sense. Businesses thrive in societies with healthy, prosperous and stable populations, clear rules of engagement and open borders.

“Governments will also increasingly make legislation and regulations that follow the themes of the SDGs, particularly in emerging and developing economies. And the SDGs provide a very convenient template for a business to look at its own sustainability agenda.
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Gill said that companies do not need to initiate actions for all 17 SDGs when shaping their strategy, but they should at least consider them.

“Whilst there are actions being undertaken across all 17 SDGs by partners in the industry, we certainly have a major global influence in seven of them and at least some influence in a further eight,” insisted Gill.

“The leadership role industry is showing on climate change should be used as a model for industry action in other areas. We are a unique sector that has the power to effectively transform the world through partnerships and collaboration.”

The report can be downloaded at www.aviationbenefits.org/SDGs. It looks at the importance of the SDGs, how aviation is already working to help deliver the SDGs already and some ideas for how air transport companies and governments can further that opportunity.
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A keynote address by Ovais Sarmad, deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), spoke about the economic and social importance of aviation, praised the industry’s ability to adapt, innovate and change and warned that it faced many challenges ahead, possibility the biggest of which is climate change.

“Our goals are to achieve carbon neutrality in the middle of this century and the biggest challenge to us achieving this is time, as we no longer have the luxury of thinking that climate change is something we can deal with tomorrow," said Sarmad.

"Tomorrow is today, and climate change is happening now. What we do over the next five years could determine whether we are successful or not.

"From every continent in every corner of the world we are hearing about and reading devastating stories about those who have suffered from extreme climate events. There has been a huge cost to these events, and they cannot be measured in any numbers.

“NASA recently reported that the first half of 2017 was the hottest year on record. The previous hottest year was 2016. This is unacceptable and we must do something about it now.”

He stated that working in partnerships with all stakeholders was the way forward in terms of finding solutions and said that the industry “needed to raise its level of ambition” to combat climate change.

Biofuels came under the microscope in a session called ‘Taking alternative energy to new heights’, in which IAG’s group head of sustainability, Jonathan Counsell, stated that biofuels would account for 25% of jet fuel by 2050.
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There have now been well over 40,000 commercial flights operated on sustainable fuel, and Counsell noted that IAG’s customers are increasingly calling for the introduction of biofuels, although he felt that they might be so keen if it led to an increase in the price of a ticket.

He noted that IAG’s commitment to the cause recently led to it unveiling plans to open a biofuel plant in the UK in partnership with Velocys, but noted that the airline group would not and could not pay a premium for the fuel.

The panel also included San Francisco International Airport’s chief administration and policy officer, Julian Potter, and Geneva Airport CEO, André Schneider, who outlined their biofuel ambitions for their respective gateways.
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Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s director general, brought the morning sessions to a close by revealing that 199 airports, which account for around 40% of the world’s traffic, are now accredited under ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation scheme.

The total includes 35 airports that are carbon neutral, and such has been the success of the programme that ACI Europe has now doubled its carbon neutrality target and is committed to achieving 100 carbon neutral airports by 2030.

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