Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Tony Tyler said today at the Greener Skies conference in Hong Kong that international aviation emissions must be addressed under a comprehensive global sectoral approach at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit to be held in Copenhagen in December.
Stressing that aviation is serious about environmental issues and is keen to be included in the successor to the existing Kyoto climate agreement, Mr Tyler, who is also the current Chairman of the IATA Board of Governors, said there must be a "recognition that international aviation, as a global industry, is best tackled at a global level by a single global sectoral agreement, encompassing all air transport operators."
Mr Tyler's remarks came in his keynote address this morning at Greener Skies, where key players from the regional and international aviation industry have gathered to demonstrate a collective commitment to the goal of a more sustainable future. Cathay Pacific is a sponsor of the conference as well as official airline.
Mr Tyler said that within the aviation industry there is now a consensus around the need to tackle carbon emissions at a global level. Looking ahead to December, he said there were several key principles that need to be endorsed by those at the climate change summit, first and foremost being a need to see international aviation emissions addressed under a comprehensive global sectoral approach.
"After all, how can the emissions from an international flight be assigned to one country for measurement, quota and reduction purposes? National or regional solutions are just not practical. They will only lead to a patchwork of conflicting and overlapping regulations, leading to competitive distortion between carriers and a significant administrative burden. And higher fares for our customers.
"We would like an acknowledgement that our industry, through IATA, has committed to ambitious emissions reduction targets which should be enshrined in the Copenhagen outcome. In short, we are calling for aviation emissions to be included under a fair, pragmatic and environmentally effective global policy solution which is enforceable and easy to implement. The costs of implementation should be kept as low as possible. Targets should be fair, achievable and non-punitive.
"Most important, we want to be part of a scheme that avoids competitive distortion and the notion of so-called ‘carbon leakage' where emissions in one part of the world are effectively transferred to another by the poor design of policy instruments. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is a good example of where businesses could set up operations outside of the EU to avoid paying for their emissions inside."
But Mr Tyler recognized there were tough hurdles to be cleared if a global agreement is to be secured at Copenhagen, including the complex plethora of individual or state level approaches and a proliferation of national taxes which don't actually benefit the environment directly – "the UK's Air Passenger Duty [APD] being the worst offender here," he said.
"We have determined, ideologically driven detractors in the environmental lobby who actively support aviation being subject to further charges, perhaps in the form of a global levy on air passengers. Frankly, such a levy would simply make us a sitting duck for governments looking to raise revenue. And show me a government that isn't.
"What might start off as a six dollar levy, as has been suggested, could quickly go to 10, then to 12 or … think of a number. That is the nature of taxes. Look what's happened to the UK's APD – introduced in 1994 at 5 pounds a head for short haul, 10 for long haul. From next year it will be as high as 170 pounds for premium long-haul. Once a tax is in place it's so easy to increase it. We all know that.
"Another way the proposed global levy resembles its UK APD cousin is that the money collected won't go towards reducing emissions, which surely has to be its only sensible objective. It's supposed to be targeted at adaptation measures. Call me a cynic, but I wonder how much of it will reach those targets.
"No, we need a scheme that addresses the cause, not the symptoms. We need to be sure that money raised from our industry goes to CO2 reduction. We simply must capitalise on the opportunity that Copenhagen presents and fight tooth and nail to win this battle. It is a battle we can't afford to lose."
More information on Cathay Pacific's environmental commitment and initiatives can be found in the airline's Corporate Responsibility Report, which can be downloaded from www.cathaypacific.com (About Us > Corporate Social Responsibility).