Aviation - a green industry painted black?

Industry leaders discussed the failure of the airline community

to communicate its environmental credentials and the folly of limiting or taxing

aviation activity under the pretext of saving the planet.

Chairing the key section was Mike Barclay, IATA's Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific, who reiterated the fact established by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that aviation is an integral contributor to 8% of GDP but accounts for just 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and is responsible for only 12% of transport-related carbon output. Even with programmed fleet growth, the IPCC estimates that aviation will only generate 3% of greenhouse gases by 2020.

However, even armed with such data, the aviation community is a popular whipping post for the environmental lobby, a fact that leads to growing disenchantment with airlines by the population at large. This situation, panel members agreed, needs concerted action by all aviation stakeholders.

Virgin Blue CEO, Brett Godfrey, says that the industry "has been our own worst enemy by not speaking with a single voice." He notes that airlines are among the few industrial actors for whom acting environmentally responsible is positively correlated with the bottom line. "It costs us AUD5 in fuel to fly an unconsumed can of soft drink around for a week," he explained, lamenting the fact that the public does not yet understand this interplay.

Oliver Martin, Associate Director for Strategic Intelligence at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), highlighted the need to improve aviation's image and also the opportunities to be realised by exhibiting its efforts in this areas.

Introducing PATA's upcoming CEO Challenge, which will focus all travel sector participants on ways to harness and publicise their environmental abilities, he explained that PATA surveys suggest that "green travellers" (people who will pay more to travel in an environmentally friendly manner) are the industry's fastest growing segment.

Aviation Outlook Summit 2008 is the fourth meeting of the Centre's annual review of the Asia Pacific and Middle East airline industry and its future prospects. This year's gathering is focused on the need for Asian industry participants to play a leadership role in the events that continue to shape the global aviation sector, especially as the region begins to generate the largest share of world traffic.

Aviation leaders from all segments of the industry have assembled in Singapore to discuss and debate how the regional sector can proactively assert itself in such vital fields as the environment, liberalisation and the necessary evolution of the aviation business model, for both full-service and low cost airlines.

The event's organiser, the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, is the region's leading independent air transport research and analysis group. With offices in New Delhi, Singapore, Geneva, Vancouver and the UK, the Centre is the consensus authority on matters related to all elements of Asia Pacific airlines and airports.