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Aviation and world survival: Finding a sustainable balance

The environment and aviation are going to have to go hand in glove, so finding a balance between survival of the world and survival of the aviation and travel industry is of top priority.

  1. The existential threat really is about travel and tourism, which accounts for about one in 10 jobs around the world – or did in 2019.
  2. At the same time, carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last ice age.
  3. The positive is that aviation emissions will be well below 2019 levels.

Finding that balance between aviation and world survival is not an easy equation. One is an existential threat, and the other one is a threat to our existence, and we need to find that balance. One’s very short term, the other one is short term and long term.

This is what the Centre for Aviation Chairman Emeritus, Peter Harbison, recently said at a live CAPA event addressing the environment, because, as he said, sustainability is obviously a key thing, even though our major focus is obviously on recovery of the aviation industry. Read, or listen, to what the Chairman had to say on this important topic.

The existential threat really is about travel and tourism, which accounts for about one in 10 jobs or did in 2019, one in 10 jobs around the world, and one in five of every new job, according to the WTTC. And in a lot of cases, from Greece to the Pacific Islands, to you name it, are even more reliant on travel. And a large part of that traveling inevitably is by air, so the aviation system is inextricably linked to travel.

On the other hand, the existence threat, this quote from NASA, “Carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last ice age,” which is a good balance. And that graph is quite striking, a vertical line in terms of carbon dioxide levels increasing.

When we did our 2020s outlook at the end of 2018, in airline leader, we were looking at the key issues that were going to be affecting the industry. Sorry, that was 2019, looking at the key issues for the 2020s. And top of the list inevitably was sustainability. There was a lot of noise at the time publicly, and there was a real recognition in the aviation industry that this was going to be a key issue. It wasn’t just something we could public relations away, it was going to be a constraint on growth. And the important thing to remember as we go into a regrowth period is that that is not going to go away. It’s still a critical part of the whole aviation equation.