Eco-Aviation Conference Keynote Speech: Sustainable Aviation – Lessons from the Past to Support Our Future
Eco-Aviation Conference Keynote Speech:
Sustainable Aviation – Lessons from the Past to Support Our Future
By Nancy N. Young, Airlines for America
I am delighted to have the opportunity to give the opening keynote at this, the 6
Conference. ATW has recognized for some time how integrated environmental stewardship is with the
business of aviation. This conference is a terrific forum for demonstrating that.
Twelve days from now, the 191 countries that are Members of the International Civil Aviation
Organization – ICAO – will come together again to confirm standards and policies in support of safe,
secure and sustainable aviation.
While we look forward to and beyond the ICAO Assembly for the future of aviation environmental
protection, it is also instructive to look to the past. To the power of international aviation to bring nations
together, connect people, enable our global economy, and bridge differences to find solutions to complex
In late 1944, representatives from 52 countries met in Chicago for a conference to establish the
foundation to enable modern, civil aviation. The goal of the conference was ambitious. The world was at
war. When cast in that light, the November 30, 1944 edition of Flight magazine characterized the
conference as a “test case to the degree to which, after the war, nations of the world will show good
sense in coming to a workable compromise in their mutual relations.” In his message to the delegates,
President Roosevelt characterized the goal even more dramatically, as he urged the participants “to work
together so that the air may be used by humanity to serve humanity.”
What came out of that conference was the Convention on International Civil Aviation – commonly known
as the “Chicago Convention” – the backbone treaty that enables airlines to fly from one country to
another, providing 2.2 trillion dollars of global economic impact, accounting for 3.5 percent of the world’s
GDP and supporting 56.6 million jobs worldwide.
Although there are many lessons that can be taken from that piece of history, there are two lessons that I
find particularly relevant to where we are in further advancing sustainable aviation.
First is the opportunity that international aviation brings – from the purpose and promise of the Chicago
Convention – to bridge not only physical space but ideological space to advance the common interests of
humanity. As the Chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board, Mr. L. Welch Pogue, said in 1944 when
the Convention was under consideration: “air transport can become the political, economic and social
instrument of an internationalism with new power and promise.”
Second is the lesson of what it took to get the agreement in the first place –stepwise progress and
perseverance over years to come to a full and lasting agreement.
Turning to the first lesson – that international aviation brings opportunity and promise for bridging –there
can be no question that this is critically important for advancing environmental stewardship. The quality
of the environment, like the use of airspace for international flight, is a shared interest. A shared
resource. And proper management of that resource requires commitment and cooperation.
Aviation’s strong environmental record – which is getting even stronger – shows that we have that
commitment and cooperation.
Focusing in on the United States airlines
--Between 1975 and 2012, we reduced the number of people exposed to significant amounts of aircraft
noise by 95%, while tripling enplanements.
--In 2012, the U.S. airlines and airports began implementing a voluntary agreement for further
management of stormwater runoff from deicing activities – an agreement that was endorsed by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
--The airlines have virtually eliminated carbon monoxide and smoke emissions and continually ratcheted
down emissions of oxides of nitrogen – NOx.
--And our airlines are implementing extensive recycling and sustainability programs.
--And the list goes on.
While making advances on any environmental issue takes commitment and cooperation, the poster child
for this has to be in the area of climate change. Indeed, given that greenhouse gas emissions have
global effects, unilateral action by a small set of companies or countries ultimately will be insufficient to
address the problem. Moreover, no entity in the aviation supply chain can improve fuel efficiency and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions on its own.
Again, our commitment and cooperation are evidenced by our strong record.
The U.S. airlines improved their fuel efficiency by 120 percent between 1978 and 2012, saving 3.4 billion
metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), roughly equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road each of those
years. As a result, U.S. airlines account for only 2 percent of the nation’s inventory of greenhouse gas
emissions, yet they drive more than 5 percent of the nation’s GDP. Further demonstrating our
environmentally responsible contribution to the nation’s economy, the U.S. airlines carried 16 percent
more passengers and cargo in 2012 than they did in 2000, while emitting 10 percent less CO2. And
airlines around the world have similar records.
How did our airlines do this?
It is well-known that there are three ways to reduce fuel burn and emissions within this industry –
improvements in technology, operations and infrastructure. While I’d like to say that the A4A member
airlines are solely responsible for their own, strong record, this really is a product of cooperation among
For example, although the airlines’ purchase of new aircraft has had the greatest impact in terms of
improved fuel efficiency improvements to date, that would not have been possible without government-
supported research and development programs and the earnest efforts of airframe and engine
manufacturers working through public-private partnerships.As the Executive Director of the Commercial
Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) will highlight later in his remarks, the incredible progress
we’ve made on the development and deployment of sustainable alternative aviation fuels has only come
about through the constructive engagement of all stakeholders.
And then there’s the modernization of our air traffic management system under the “NextGen” program,
which could bring as much as a 12 percent emissions savings through more point-to-point routing and
airspace efficiency. While supporting the business-cased-based implementation of NextGen, the airlines
do not control the air traffic system in the United States. The U.S. government does. And, that system
must be interoperable with others around the world.
The airlines are keenly committed to continuing to save as much fuel and carbon emissions as possible
through these measures. As noted, positive incentives and collaborative partnerships can help.
Unfortunately, however, harmful, punitive measures have been proliferating.
The aviation industry supports a better way forward – a global sectoral approach under ICAO. Together,
the world’s airlines, manufacturers, air navigation service providers and airports have put an aggressive
proposal on the table for consideration by the countries that will convene at ICAO later this month.
Our proposal has three big-picture elements:
First, a set of aggressive emissions targets that are tailored to aviation and premised on
government and industry investment in technology, operations and infrastructure measures;
Second, rules on the role that market-based measures may play; and
Third, international agreement through and under ICAO.
At this point, I hope you all are familiar with the industry-supported emissions targets: annual fuel
efficiency improvements through 2020; carbon neutral growth from 2020; and an aspirational goal to
reduce aviation CO2 emissions by 50 percent in 2050, relative to 2005 levels.
I have already foreshadowed how we meet these targets – through advances in technology, operations
and infrastructure, with a potential role for carbon credits to bridge the gap if needed. To accomplish this,
however, we need not only the concerted efforts of the entire aviation industry, we need the concerted
efforts of governments. Yes, we need research and development for advanced airframe and engine
technologies, modernization of the air traffic management system and expansion ofpublic-private
partnerships to make sustainable alternative aviation fuels commercially viable.
But we also need rationalized government policy in support of our efforts.
The 191 countries that comprise ICAO have an opportunity to further advance such policy at the
upcoming ICAO Assembly. The global aviation industry position breaks this down into four, main actions,
calling on the ICAO Member States to
First, reaffirm the aggressive emissions goals it set in 2010, including having aviation achieve
carbon neutral growth from 2020 through concerted industry and government efforts;
Second, confirm and advance key pieces of ICAO work, including developing a CO2 standard for
new aircraft, advancing air traffic management improvements, and supporting countries’ efforts to
deploy sustainable alternative aviation fuels;
Third, expand country-specific action plans for aviation fuel efficiency improvements and
emissions savings; and
Fourth, get the right rules in place for market-based measures. Specifically, we are asking
governments to commit to the development of a global emissions offsetting scheme that could be
employed to fill the gap should aviation not reach its emissions goals through industry and
government investment in technology, operations and infrastructure.
Last week I had the privilege of being an Observer when the ICAO Council – the 36 countries that serve
as a sort of executive body for the 191 ICAO Member States – met to discuss the elements of what will
be put forward to the ICAO Assembly for agreement. I was heartened that the discussions signaled
significant agreement on the first three points.
Undoubtedly, the market-based measures issue remains a difficult one. But progress is being made. At
a minimum, the countries seem to be recognizing that market-based measures may have a role to play.
However, MBMs can only do so in a meaningful, constructive way if agreed rules are applied.
Industry wants the governments to make progress on those rules at the upcoming ICAO Assembly.
Specifically, industry is urging the governments to agree to the following:
• A roadmap for developing a single, global market-based measure – in the form of an offsetting
mechanism– to be agreed at the next Assembly in 2016, for implementation from 2020;
• The principles on which the mechanism will be based;
• A work program for monitoring, reporting & verification and offset quality; and
• Means for ensuring the MBM is in a package with technology, operations and infrastructure
improvements and contingent on government and industry partnership.
We firmly believe that a global approach is the way to go. At the same time, we firmly oppose apatchwork
quilt of local and regional market-based measures that will siphon away the funds we need to invest to
get further emissions reductions within this industry. And the patchwork quilt is a direct threat to gaining
agreement on a global scheme.
Speaking directly to the case of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme – we greatly appreciate
that the EU “stopped the clock” on the extraterritorial application of that scheme over the past year. But
the EU must extend the “stop the clock” until there is full agreement on a global mechanism.
The upcoming ICAO Assembly will involve difficult negotiations. But I have confidence that significant
progress will be made. Why? For that I turn back to the second lesson from the Chicago Convention.
That agreement did not happen in a day, or a week, or a year, or even a decade. It took stepwise
progress and perseverance to put the pieces in place over time.
Consider this. Before the Chicago Convention could be, there was the Paris Convention of 1919 and the
Havana Convention of 1928. Critical ideas for transitioning to what later became the Chicago Convention
were floated for many years. Then, a significant push finally camefrom discussions between Churchill
and Roosevelt at the Anglo-American Conference in 1943. After a year of extensive preparatory talks,
the Chicago Conference was convened. Even so, it took thirty-seven difficult days of negotiation at the
Conference to get the agreement in 1944.Still, there were several issues that were expressly left open to
be filled in later. Yet the Chicago Convention became the endoskeleton around which international
aviation connects the world.
There is opportunity for significant progress at the upcoming ICAO Assembly.
The pieces are in place. There has been stepwise progress leading to this moment. Not just from the
work done over the last year, but work going back to the over the past several years, including – but not
limited to --
the 1999 sector-specific study of the climate change impacts of aviation;
ICAO’s 2003 guidance on the measures for reducing fuel burn and emissions;
ICAO guidance on voluntary agreements and emissions trading between mutually agreeing
ICAO’s Program of Action;
And the 2010 ICAO Assembly Resolution, which confirmed the aggressive emissions targets we
now aim for, the comprehensive set of measures we are pursuing, means of tracking progress,
principles for the implementation of market-based measures, and the work program that queued
up the proposals to be put before the ICAO Assembly twelve days from now.
Industry is committed to working with governments to seeing this through.We ask that governments join
us inwielding the “power and promise” of international aviation – to – as President Roosevelt urged the
delegates at the Chicago Conference, “work together so that the air may be used by humanity to serve