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Aviation industry is committed to addressing climate change impact

South China Morning Post – 20 June 2011

Richard Fielding (“Emissions accelerating, not declining”, June 13) rightly highlights the urgent need for society to address the global challenge of climate change and the role that aviation must play in this regard.

He also points to a little known fact that the aviation industry’s 70 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency since the dawn of the jet age has contributed to significant improvements in the sector’s environmental performance.

However, his assertion that today “aircraft and flights are a major source of anthropogenic emissions” fails to acknowledge that, in 2009, the International Air Transport Association and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global aviation produced 628 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), representing some 2 per cent of more than 30 billion tonnes of CO2 produced by humans worldwide. They measured other activities such as land use change and forestry (25 per cent), energy from buildings (20 per cent) and road transport (13 per cent).

To address the projected increase in aviation’s share of global man-made emissions to 3 per cent by 2050, according to the IPCC, the industry set unprecedented global targets in 2009 aimed at reducing its climate change impacts.

These include capping emissions growth from 2020 and halving net emissions by 2050, based on 2005 levels. Massive investment in new technology, the introduction of sustainable biofuels, improved global infrastructure and adoption of market-based measures such as emissions trading will all be key factors in enabling the industry to meet these ambitious goals.

Mr Fielding links a seven-fold growth in overall global man-made emissions by 2050 under a “business as usual scenario” to the proposal for a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport. But aviation is not on a “business as usual path”. On the contrary, an alternative business model already exists – one that considers climate change as part of a wider need for sustainable development. A third runway, if approved, would be operational by the early 2020s, by which time many of the radical efficiency measures now under development within aviation would have already been realised.

The public can be assured that aviation is fully committed to addressing its climate change impacts, has a strategy in place for tackling them, is investing significantly in solutions and that sustainability is at the heart of our future business model.

Mark Watson, head of environmental affairs, Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293)

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