After working to put the airline industry at the forefront of challenging long-term environmental targets for the air transport sector, IATA is now calling on governments to step in and do their part.

"Our message is loud and clear - look, we've set our targets, we're working towards them and we need governments to step up to the plate," says Air Transport Action Group executive director Paul Steele. These targets include achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020, reducing emissions by 1.5% annually in the run-up to 2020, and halving emissions by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.

"There is an enormous amount of work to do to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions," admits Steele, adding that alternative fuels will play a key role in meeting the objectives.

Certification body ASTM International is expected to approve the use of hydrotreated renewable jet fuels for use in commercial aviation this summer, paving the way for these fuels to be scaled up to commercially viable levels. "Airlines are sending out strong noises that they will buy these fuels - the question is, can we get them at competitive prices?" notes Steele. Aviation biofuels have gone "from the drawing board to full certification in three to four years", leading to increased levels of optimism over their potential for widescale use.

Steele predicts that there will be an "incremental approach" to the use of alternative fuels, with airlines blending biofuel with traditional kerosene in increasing quantities as the price tag drops and it becomes more widely available. "There is a bit of a race on and the big question is, how can we get all this stuff to ramp up?" says Steele, who again believes governments should step up their involvement. "It would be great if governments recognised this as a good opportunity and provided the same incentives as were provided to the automotive sector.

"We are working to make sure that governments build biofuels into their thinking."

The same goes for expediting the implementation of the Single European Sky and its US counterpart NextGen, which have the potential, respectively, to reduce emissions by 10% per flight in Europe and save 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2018 in the USA. "Unfortunately the industry has very little influence here - it's politically driven. It's moving very slowly and it needs an injection of political will," says Steele.

IATA also has a lot of work to do to advance the global emissions reduction framework secured by ICAO in October 2010 and presented to the UN summit on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico at the end of last year.

"ICAO continues to work in developing proposals to take it forward, but the challenge is that ICAO is made up of 190 countries. Securing agreement from 190 countries is a major undertaking," says Steele. IATA and ATAG are "being as supportive as we can", but, once again, "it needs political will to move it forward".

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Source: Air Transport Intelligence news