Message from the Director General

Angela Gittens by Angela Gittens | Aug 1, 2019

ACI takes a leadership role in the aviation industry in promoting sustainable development which actively addresses environmental impacts while ensuring delivery of the economic and social benefits of aviation.

There is no doubt that environmental concerns have been brought more to the fore in recent months and that a concerted campaign on social media on the climate impact of aviation has drawn attention to the issue.

While scrutiny of our efforts in this area is expected and welcomed, it is important that the considerable and measurable efforts of the aviation industry in making flying more efficient and more sustainable are recognized. The industry as a whole is committed to developing further solutions towards decarbonization of the sector while continuing to bring valuable connectivity to people, business and communities.

Airports – as a key part of the aviation industry – have been taking active steps to address the environmental impact of operations for decades but we must step up our efforts.

The aviation industry’s commitment to sustainable development

Over the last 40 years, the aviation industry has invested billions in research and development which has resulted in measures and practices which have made significant progress in reducing its environmental impact. Collaboration across the whole industry to reduce emissions follows a four-pillar strategy of:

  • new technology (including sustainable aviation fuels)
  • efficient operations
  • improved infrastructure
  • market-based measures

Technological advances have also resulted in modern jet aircraft being 75% quieter than the models that first entered service, and each new generation of aircraft continues this trend. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 80% (per seat kilometer) since the advent of the jet age.

Through a combination of new technology, operational efficiencies and infrastructural improvements, more than ten billion tonnes of CO2 have been averted since 1990.The increased use of sustainable aviation fuels could reduce CO2 emissions as much as 80% compared with traditional fuel (a million commercial flights will have taken place using a blend of alternative fuel by the end of 2020, it is estimated).

And, following a historic agreement in 2016 of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, the industry is working with governments to implement the world’s first sector-wide market-based measure for offsetting the growth in international aviation CO2 post-2020. By 2050, the industry has committed to reduce its net carbon footprint to half of what it was in 2005. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) is currently working on the pathway to achieving these goals. ACI recognizes ATAG’s role as well as the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding international aviation emissions.

Towards a net-zero economy by 2050

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report has highlighted the need for the entire global economy to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 to avoid the most adverse impacts of climate change. This means the aviation industry should find alternatives of decarbonizing the sector. Climate change is a global challenge and, working towards a net-zero economy by 2050 requires the aviation industry at large to develop more ambitious CO2 reduction goals to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

ACI World has established a Task Force to work on a long-term carbon goal for airport operators, including considerations of net zero carbon airports by 2050.  In addition, ACI Europe recently launched a comprehensive Sustainability Strategy which commits the European airport industry to reach net-zero carbon emissions generated by the airport operator by 2050. Three airports have already achieved this goal – Luleå, Visby and Ronneby airports in Sweden, and 190 others have undersigned this new industry commitment. However, it is for each airport, nation, and region to commit to a strategy that considers local conditions. ACI World aims to support the global membership by identifying potential pathways to more ambitious targets.

ACI will also continue to work with ICAO, industry partners and our members on mitigating not only climate change, but the full range of other adverse environmental impacts, including noise, local air quality and local water quality.

ACI has developed programmes and services to help our members reduce their carbon emissions. They include the Airport Carbon Emission Reporting Tool v.5.1 (ACERT), the Airport Ground Energy Systems Simulator (AGES-S), the Airports’ Resilience and Adaptation to a Changing Climate policy brief, and  ACI Global Training programmes that cover areas including CO2 reduction, Airport Energy Management and other key environmental areas.

Socio-economic benefits of aviation

Aviation plays a vital role in facilitating global economic and social prosperity, particularly in developing countries by fostering sustainable development; through tourism and trade, it generates economic growth, provides jobs, improves living standards, alleviates poverty, and increases revenue. According to the latest ATAG Aviation Benefits Report, Aviation’s global economic impact – direct, indirect, induced and catalytic – is estimated at $2.7 trillion which is equivalent to 3.6% of world gross domestic product and supports a total of 65.5 million jobs globally.

The benefits that the aviation industry delivers should be seen in parallel with its ongoing pursuit of sustainable development, which necessarily includes environmental responsibility. The future of aviation depends on our dedication to the cause of sustainability and ACI will continue to work with the global aviation sector and stakeholders on paving the way towards global agreements and more ambitious commitments.

Angela Gittens

Angela Gittens

Director General, ACI World
Angela Gittens began her tenure as Director General of ACI World in 2008. She was formerly airport CEO for Miami and Atlanta and Deputy at San Francisco International Airport. In other roles, Gittens led HNTB Corporation’s airport business and strategic planning practice and, at TBI Airport Management, she oversaw the transition to private ownership of London Luton Airport and managed operations contracts at several airports in the US and Canada. She is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and has served on numerous aviation industry boards and committees.
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