Climate change

Global airline body tackles harmful emissions on mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am


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An international organisation representing 260 airlines has been working with mainland authorities over the past three years to improve airport operating efficiency on the mainland in an attempt to cut down on flight times and harmful emissions.

International Air Transport Association director-general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani said aircraft running idle engines while waiting to take off or approach gates at major mainland airports was a key contributor to global carbon emissions and this must be tackled.

Flights operating from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai often suffered from delays that were 'hours, not minutes', he said.

He said IATA had been working with mainland military generals and air traffic controllers to improve airport operating efficiency and had seen encouraging progress over the past three years.

The association has been working to shorten routes and streamline procedures to cut flight times, and hence harmful emissions.

Citing United Nations figures, Mr Bisignani said the aviation sector contributed roughly 2 per cent of carbon emissions, while vehicles accounted for some 18 per cent of emissions. Airlines in Asia also have relatively young and more fuel-efficient fleets averaging 10 years compared to 12 years for the rest of the world.

Industry forecasts point to air travel volume doubling in the next 25 years with emissions projected to increase 150 per cent by 2012. Growth in per capita income and population are the two main factors driving passenger travel.

The association is keen to see efforts to hammer out a global emissions-trading scheme realised but stipulates that such a scheme must be open and not cause competitive distortions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is handling the guidelines.

At a Greener Skies forum yesterday, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines called on the aviation organisation to develop an emissions-trading scheme for the industry that could be applied globally.

Cathay is also developing a carbon offset scheme that will let it compensate for part of its carbon emissions by investing in projects in the Pearl River Delta that will help improve the environment. The scheme will offset emissions associated with Cathay staff travelling on business. Passengers can join the scheme voluntarily. Similar schemes provide passengers with the option of paying for carbon credits to cancel out emissions associated with their travel.