The head of the world’s main association of airlines says it needs to better explain commitments it made years ago to reduce carbon emissions, and not make new pledges collectively – despite rising environmental concerns.
Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said perhaps “arrogance or blindness” led his group to focus on explaining its efforts to industry insiders, not the general public.
“What we have seen is that nobody is aware of our program,” he said in an interview at IATA headquarters in Geneva. “It’s our fault, probably.”
The association made three big commitments on climate action since 2008. It pledged to improve fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year between 2009 and 2020 – and IATA actually achieved 2.3%, de Juniac said. It’s pledging carbon-neutral growth starting next year. And it’s committed to cut emissions to half of the level in 2005 by 2050.
With concerns about the global warming caused by excessive carbon emissions from use of fossil fuels, de Juniac stopped short of recommending that IATA’s members – some 290 airlines – make new efforts together. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says aviation is responsible for 2% of global man-made carbon emissions.
EasyJet, which is not an IATA member, has announced carbon offsets for all its domestic and international flights. IATA members British Airways and Qantas have made similar commitments, de Juniac said.
He said airlines individually should decide whether to follow suit.
“What we don’t want by any means is to make any commitments that we know in advance we are not able or that we are not comfortable (about), or not realistically … able to stick to,” he said. “We are not liars … We are not illusionists.”
The comments came at a presentation at which IATA said it projected the global airline industry will reap net profit of $29.3 billion in 2020. That is up from $25.9 billion expected this year, which has been marred by a US-China trade war and other international tensions that have dented economic growth.
IATA says the industry appears on track toward an 11th straight year of profits by the end of next year.