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Lufthansa, Southwest named green aviation leaders

Lufthansa and Southwest Airlines have been named among the greenest names in aviation.

The airlines both picked up gongs from Air Transport World‘s magazine’s first eco-aviation awards, designed to honor companies which are trying to reduce the environmental impact of the flights that we take.

German airline Lufthansa took a gold award for its program to reduce fuel and emissions by modernizing its fleet and the burnFAIR project, which saw it launch biofuel flights in routine service from 2011.

Southwest Airlines, the American low-cost carrier, was a surprise winner of an eco-pioneer award thanks to its focus on efficiency.

According to ATW, that focus on efficiency to trim costs allowed it to be “an eco-pioneer long before the industry recognized environmentally sound business practices.”

The eco-airport award went to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, thanks to its adoption of technology to reduce emissions — last year, it used some 87 million kilowatt-hours of electricity created from renewable wind energy.

Airlines are increasingly paying attention to their carbon footprint, not least because it’s becoming an issue for passengers too.

Last month, a survey conducted in the US by travel review giant TripAdvisor suggested that 71 percent of travelers plan to make ‘eco-friendly’ choices when it comes to travel, with half admitting that they would shell out more money for a greener experience.

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Stronger will needed for green aviation

GreenAir Online reports that in a keynote address to this year’s Asia-Pacific conference of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), President of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed, said that with new air traffic management technologies and measures, as well as greater aircraft efficiencies, it was possible to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint and make a contribution to a cleaner environment.

However, even more than facing the technological challenges, what was also required was a will to act, take decisive steps and make a difference in addressing climate change, he said. The 11,000 Maldive islands, none of which has a point higher than 1.5 metres, is at serious threat from the rising sea level effects of climate change, which was already causing environmental damage and an enormous burden for small island countries such as his, said the President.

Dr Waheed said air travel was synonymous with modern life and was the world’s fastest growing means of transportation, with total passenger traffic doubling every 15 years and freight traffic growing even faster. He commended CANSO for its vital role in global aviation management and for its vision and commitment in transforming the sustainable growth of air traffic.

“This, I believe, is very important for the sake of our environment, for our survival, for our future,” he told delegates.

However, he noted that international aviation emissions from developed countries had risen by 65% between 1990 and 2005, and since 1990 the sector’s overall CO2 emissions had increased by 87%. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also had projected in its base scenario an increase from nearly 500 million tonnes of CO2 from aviation in 2002 to 1,200 million tonnes in 2030, even assuming fuel efficiency gains – an increase of over 250%, he said.

“The toll on the global environment from unsustainable policies and actions is very evident now,” claimed Dr Waheed. “The consequences of environmental neglect and complacency are no longer debatable. The message is very loud and clear.”

Despite the rhetoric and pledges, he added, global greenhouse gas emissions had been steadily increasing.

“The consequences of these are very obvious,” he said. “The evidence is very apparent. You can now look around and understand why the Maldives is very nervous and concerned about even a few centimetres rise in sea level.”

The President said institutions like CANSO could bring about changes to redress environmental damage and neglect. He noted IATA’s aim for a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions reduction by 2020 through technology, operational enhancements and the introduction of new aircraft such as the A380 and Boeing 787. He also praised innovative developments in sustainable alternative aviation fuels, singling out Qatar Airways, an airline serving the country, for its investment in developing such fuels.

He added: “I understand that with new air traffic management technologies and with new better air traffic management measures, such as operational concepts and improved airspace design and procedures, it is possible to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint and to develop the civil aviation industry’s contribution to a clean environment.”

On climate change, Dr Waheed concluded: “This issue requires the will to act, the will to take decisive steps and the will to take leadership. This is the defining issue of our generation.”

Also addressing the conference, Mohamed Ibrahim, CEO and MD of the Maldives Airports Company, said the country was an appropriate location to discuss the role of air traffic management in the context of climate change and the sustainable growth of air transport.

“As a small island nation, building sustainable transport systems is essential for the country’s development; not only for the growth of the tourism industry, but for healthy and vibrant island communities,” he said, calling on delegates to learn from the examples set by other regions, and to embrace change and new technologies for improving air traffic management efficiency.

Greg Russell, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific CANSO CEO Committee and CEO of Airservices Australia, noted that the projection for the growth in annual traffic in the region was more than 7% compared to the global average of 5.1%.

The challenge is managing substantial aviation growth efficiently as possible, he said, adding that airspace users were looking to air navigation service providers to help them save fuel and cut CO2 emissions through ATM efficiency improvements.

Referring to a recent CANSO-Boeing white paper (see article), CANSO’s interim Director General, Samantha Sharif, called on aviation stakeholders to work together to accelerate ATM efficiency improvements and deliver a step-change in ATM performance.

“The aviation industry has set itself a goal of carbon neutral growth by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050,” she told delegates. “Air traffic management is currently 92-94% efficient but there is much more work to be done.”

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