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British Airways Chief Talks Climate Change to UN

September 22, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox

Over by Travel Agent’s east side offices, traffic on Third Avenue has slowed to a crawl as security is beefed up for the Unied Nation’s climate conference. One of the speakers scheduled for today's historic gathering is British Airway’s CEO Willie Walsh, who released portions of his prepared speech in advance.

Walsh called on world leaders to support an unprecedented agreement between airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airports and air navigation providers which sets a target of reducing the industry's net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

"International aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto Protocol 12 years ago," Walsh said. "Now we have a chance to rectify that omission—and we must seize it. Our proposals represent the most environmentally effective and practical means of reducing aviation's carbon impact. They are the best option for the planet, and we urge the UN to adopt them."

With senior executives from Qatar Airways, SAS and the International Air Transport Association, Walsh was taking part in the UN Leadership Forum on Climate Change at the UN headquarters in New York.

The event, part of the preparations for the Copenhagen summit in December, was attended by nearly 250 heads of government, environmentalists and business leaders from around the world.

"The aviation industry is united in its support for a global sectoral approach to emissions reduction," said Paul Steele, environment director for the world airline trade body, the IATA. "This is what Copenhagen can achieve. The alternative of a patchwork of national and regional policies will lead to conflicting and overlapping regulation, competitive distortion and, potentially, increases in carbon emissions."

The 230 IATA airlines, supported by the world's aircraft manufacturers, air traffic control providers and airports, have reached an agreement setting out specific targets for the global industry and a process to secure their achievement:

· to improve CO2 efficiency by an average of 1.5 percent per year up to 2020;
· to stabilise net CO2 emissions from 2020 (i.e., achieve carbon-neutral growth);
· to reduce net CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels;
· to submit to the UN a framework and mechanisms to deliver these targets by November 2010.

"The global air industry has worked very hard to agree this common plan of action, which would give the UN full control over monitoring and regulating aviation emissions worldwide,” Walsh said. "This would enable aviation to play its full part in the global effort that will be decided at Copenhagen to stem greenhouse gases across all economic sectors."

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