Aviation industry boss Willie Walsh has stressed that the ongoing post-Covid recovery and growth in air travel cannot continue to happen to the detriment of climate action and sustainability.
The comments from Mr Walsh – the former CEO of Aer Lingus, British Airways and IAG; and now director general of aviation representative group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – come on the back of latest monthly IATA figures showing air passenger numbers continued to recover in December and are back up to 94% of pre-Covid 2019 levels.
Mr Walsh said: “Our push to connect our world even more strongly than before the pandemic must not come at the expense of our environment. The industry’s goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 remains steadfast. To accelerate the transition, we need governments and fuel suppliers to step up and do more. We saw a strong increase in the use of SAF [Sustainable Aviation Fuel] in 2023, but SAF is still only 3% of all global renewable fuels production. That is unacceptable. Aircraft have no option but to rely on liquid fuels, whereas other transport modes have alternatives. A massive collective effort is needed to increase SAF output as a proportion of overall renewable fuel production as quickly as possible.”
“To maximise the benefits of air travel in the post-pandemic world, governments need to take a strategic approach. That means providing cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, incentivizing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production to meet our net zero carbon emission goal by 2050, and adopting regulations that deliver a clear cost-benefit. Completing the recovery must not be an excuse for governments to forget the critical role of aviation to increasing the prosperity and well-being of people and businesses the world over.”