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Need I say Moores

Value for emissions ​

Just as value for money is a priority for airline customers, could ‘value for emissions’ be a better way of balancing the environmental – and economic - impact of aviation.

This fall, environmental protests have dominated worldwide headlines, boosted by the work of Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg and protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

This rising pressure has been mirrored at European aviation events. For example, XR protesters outside Aviation Festival in London complained that the conference agenda did not have an environment panel. I’d argue this is because sustainability is now part of every aviation discussion, rather than a standalone topic.

I’ve also heard just about every airline-CEO speaker being quizzed on the impact Swedish flight-shaming movement. Their replies have been consistent. They haven’t seen an impact on demand, yet, but passengers are beginning to ask more questions. The industry must respond and act. We must do more.

However, the pressure has always been on to ‘do more.’ Even before sustainability rose up the agenda, aviation had every incentive to cut its fuel burn (and emissions), with recent engine issues showing just how hard technology is being pushed. In the words of Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary: “I don’t need an environmental incentive to reduce my fuel bill; I have a profit incentive to reduce my fuel bill.”

Aviation makes up around 2% of man-made carbon emissions, while the fashion industry accounts for 8%. Other industries are many times more polluting, but they seem to get less public scrutiny. Speaking at two events this fall, Emirates Airline president Tim Clark questioned why aviation is the whipping boy (rather than the poster child) for sustainability, when the industry has arguably gone much further than others to manage its environmental impact.

But aviation is a growth industry and that growth comes with a carbon price ticket. That ‘carbon price ticket’ ties in with a new discussion thread, which I’ve heard twice in recent weeks.

Dale Keller is CEO of Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK). While chatting with Keller on the sidelines of Airlines 2050 in London, he made a good point: what about value for emissions. What about the value of that carbon price ticket?

He argued that while aviation may contribute 2% to global CO2, the economic value it delivers for that 2% is massive. The reality is a lot of worldwide business deals and trade happens as a result of those emissions.

Just days later, I read this article by Sky News climate change correspondent Hannah Thomas-Peter, talking along the same lines.

Perhaps this new discussion thread will capture the value, rather than just the cost, of aviation emissions.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@informa.com

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