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Aviation Industry Should Keep Working On Emissions Cuts

September 17, 2010

The UN’s climate chief on Thursday urged the air transport industry to continue its strategies in curbing emissions, highlighting that it held “critical keys” to confronting global warming.

The aviation industry produces nearly two percent of the global emissions from human activity which “if left unchecked, will have further impacts on climate change,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told an industry conference on aviation and the environment.

Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the “world will continue to need a strong aviation industry” but the airplane must also be a “symbol of pro-active action to address climate change.”

Since 2007, airlines associated with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), backed by the aerospace industry and airports, have set goals for curbing carbon emissions.

The goals include a 1.5 percent yearly increase in fuel efficiency by 2020, carbon neutral growth thereafter and a 50 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

More efficient modern aircraft, better flight management and infrastructural improvements are all helping to cut back on emissions, as well as ongoing development of biofuels.

However, industry experts warned that they needed a global and coordinated approach from governments to issues such as aviation emissions, flight paths and to stimulate the growth in biofuels.

Paul Steele, head of the Air Transport Action Group, told the AFP news agency that 12,000 new aircraft would be needed at a cost of 1.3 trillion dollars to meet the 2020 target.

Carbon neutral growth “is probably the most crucial target and probably the most difficult one, and it’s certainly politically the most contentious one,” said Steele, noting that currently the industry is only seeing the emergence of “a fragmented approach.”

The industry is urging the 190-nation International Civil Aviation Organization to agree on a global agenda on emissions at its assembly starting on September 28, before aviation and shipping are picked apart at the UN climate conference in Cancun in December.

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