Aviation’s green imperative

When the CEO of IATA, Giovanni Bisignani, stood before his membership at the association’s 2007 AGM and challenged his industry to build a future based on zero carbon emissions, many were stunned by his seemingly audacious goal. After all, the issue of carbon footprints, although not new, was hardly at the top of the industry’s agenda. But that was then. Donald Urquhart looks at aviation’s green challenge.

air cargo biomass carbon footprints climate change Giovanni Bisignani IATA

“For some, this was a shock,” acknowledges Bisignani. “But we have a great track record of turning dreams into reality. In 50 years, we moved from the Wright brothers’ Flyer to the jet age.

“Potential building blocks for a carbon-free future already exist,” he proffered, pointing to the existence of fuel cell technology, a solar-powered aircraft that is currently being built and the ability to make fuel from biomass like algae. And all this exists “today,” he emphasised.

An emergent priority
It would be safe to say that now, barely two years later, there is not a company in the aviation industry, nor the supply chain and logistics industry in general, that has not elevated the environment to at least the top two or three amongst its priorities.

In part this is being driven by the rapid and widespread public concern over the quickly deteriorating global environment brought on by human-induced climate change. Rigid government intervention, particularly by the European Union and also by US regulators, is lending the issue more urgency as well. And of course, there was last year’s record high fuel prices that wreaked havoc on the air cargo market.

In the early days of the debate – over the last few years primarily – there was a near denial that the air industry was really part of the problem, but this changed rapidly as global concern for the environment forced a closer examination of all contributing factors.