The aviation industry understands the importance of environmental sustainability, now we must inform others that the sector is already doing noteworthy work.

The Northern Hemisphere’s busy summer holiday season is drawing to a close. Once again, the amazing connectivity of aviation enabled countless families to reunite or embark on hard earned holiday adventures. Unfortunately, many see growing connectivity as a threat that needs to be put in check with carbon taxes.

Though a Dutch proposal for a pan-European tax on air travel was rejected at a June conference on carbon pricing, taxes on aviation are proliferating. Austria and Sweden already have taxes inspired by environmental concerns, Germany is proposing to increase its tax, and the Netherlands will introduce a “green tax” from 2021.

A departure tax is due to start in France from 2020, the UK has a proposal for a mandatory carbon offset option and Switzerland and Finland also have tax proposals on the table.

Environmental taxes improve government finances but they rarely result in investments to improve the sustainability of air transport

Environmental taxes improve government finances but they rarely result in investments to improve the sustainability of air transport. That’s why IATA opposes such taxes. Instead, the industry is doing everything in its power to ensure sustainability through initiatives with real impact.

At our AGM, it was accepted that environmental sustainability is the greatest challenge to our industry’s license to grow. We have redoubled our resolve to cap emissions from 2020 through the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and to cut them to half 2005 levels by 2050. Now we need to deliver.

CORSIA is on track help us achieve the first goal. We are mapping the way to our 2050 ambition. Sustainable aviation fuels will certainly play a big role and improving air traffic management will also cut emissions significantly. And it is in aviation’s DNA to continuously look for technological opportunities with the potential to accelerate progress.

The past few months have made some things clear. First, environmental concerns eclipse the strong recognition of aviation’s economic and social benefits. Second, governments and the public have limited understanding of what we have done, and what we will do to mitigate our climate change impact.

Delivering on our commitments is not enough. We must engage in the debate on sustainability. This action must be:

  • Global: The sentiment we see in Europe today will spread
  • Pan-industry: We are engaging industry partners through the Air Transport Action Group
  • Personal: Brands closest to the consumer will have the greatest impact

Each one of us must tell our industry’s story about the actions that it is taking to mitigate climate change impact and its target of a sustainable future. In the second half of 2019, IATA has committed to working with airlines’ government affairs, environment and communications teams to get you involved.

Since 1990 the carbon footprint of every flight has been halved. And we have ambitions to cut net emission to half 2005 levels by 2050. It’s a good story. We must not keep it a secret.

Alexandre de Juniac: Director General and CEO, IATA