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24 Dec, 2007

ICAO Issues First Aviation Environmental Report

Responding to the concerns over the impact of aviation on climate change, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has issued the first of a series of triennial reports on what is being done by the aviation industry to alleviate the problem.

The 260-page “ICAO Environmental Report 2007” is downloadable free [http://www.icao.int/env/].

In layman’s language, it provides a comprehensive wrapup of the major challenges facing aviation as it seeks to “maintain an appropriate balance between the growth of the air transport industry and environmental protection,” according to President of the ICAO Council, Roberto Kobeh González.

Unlike organisations like the International Air Transport Association and the Pacific Asia Travel Association which are misguidedly lashing out at those whom they claim are “unfairly targetting aviation,” the ICAO report admits that aviation is a part of the problem and can do more in order to be a part of the solution.

A key chapter on aviation emissions says in no uncertain terms: “Emissions from global aviation activity currently contribute about 2% of both total anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. However, this is forecast to rise, both in terms of absolute emissions and as a percentage of the total.

“Meanwhile, many countries are planning for significant reductions in other emissions. Demand for aviation is increasing faster than anticipated improvements in fuel efficiency, hence increasing emissions, while, in other sectors, much larger emission reductions are possible through a wide range of measures such as energy efficiency, alternative fuels, carbon capture and storage and demand management.”

Says Mrs. Jane Hupe, Chief of ICAO Environmental Unit, “About 2.2 billion passengers fly on the scheduled services of the world’s airlines per year, one third of them on international flights.

“Initiatives to promote the sustainability of aviation activities in synchronization with the growth of the industry over the past four decades have been quite successful, with noise from aircraft reduced by 75% and CO2 emissions intensity by 70%.”

However, she adds, “New advances in technology and operational measures will not be sufficient to offset the projected growth of the sector and new strategies to achieve sustainability must be developed and implemented.”

In his introduction to the report, Mr Gonzalez recognises this: “As the global forum for international civil aviation, ICAO has succeeded for more than forty years in bringing the world together around increasingly stringent regulations for noise at airports and aircraft engine emissions, yet more must be done.

“The growth of air transport in many parts of the world is outpacing our capability to limit the impacts of air travel on local air quality and climate change.

“Fortunately, there has emerged in recent years a willingness to confront the problems. Environmental concerns now permeate the planning and strategies of global aviation stakeholders. There is a growing recognition that solutions must and will come from the aviation sector.”

In addition to the technical and policy aspects of both aircraft noise and engine emissions, the report analyses the scientific information, looks at the legal issues and explains the complexities of Emissions Trading Schemes and Carbon Offsets, thus making it eminently understandable and usable by ICAO Contracting States, the aviation community and the general public with an interest in the subject.

The six-part report covers the full range of issues, developments and trends: Aviation Outlook; Aircraft Noise; Local Emissions; Global Emissions; Modelling and Databases; and International Cooperation.

Each part begins with an overview, followed by more detailed articles from experts. The Report also contains advertorials which provide the opportunity for stakeholders to promote their own perspective and activities.

Mr Gonzalez stresses, “Leadership in environmental protection requires consensus among a wide variety of stakeholders, sometimes with widely diverging interests, on highly complex social, economic and technological issues.

“We need to find the most effective way of reaching and maintaining an appropriate balance between the growth of the air transport industry and environmental protection.

“As we proceed, it is imperative that we base our discussions and decisions on the most authoritative and credible technical and scientific information available.

“We must ensure that whatever action is taken is done so in a harmonized manner, taking into account diverging views on addressing environmental matters. Our common focus must remain an appropriate balance between aviation and the environment.”

Adds Mrs Hupe, “As with all of ICAO policies, those that deal with the environment are developed in keeping with the fundamental principle that aviation is a global industry and, as such, requires global solutions. In fact, this may be more so with environmental matters.”

She says the Report is intended to “stimulate productive and enlightened discussions on aviation and the environment, while at the same time demystifying commonly-held beliefs and misconceptions.

“Arriving at optimal solutions begins with clearly defining the challenges and these can only be done using the most recent and sound information available. This is especially true for climate change, one of the most pressing societal issues of this early part of the 21st century and a priority for both the UN and ICAO.

“Without a global approach, unilateral actions may well lead to fragmented and ineffective measures.”

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