Towards a Global Vision of Sustainable Air Transport
Angela Gittens, Airports Council International Director General, at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Transport Symposium, highlighted the need for airports to continue to grow if we are to cater to the needs of present and future generations.
ICAO’s Air Transport Symposium was held in Montreal from 18 April–20 April.
At the Symposium, Gittens stated, “ACI forecast worldwide passenger traffic to double between now and 2029; that is from over 5 billion today to 11 billion however global society. Expansion is critical to economic facilitation worldwide and permission to grow is needed if our industry is to continue operating in benefit of communities worldwide”.
To accommodate that growth, airports need better collaboration and cooperation from air transport stakeholders in industry, government, regulators and NGOs.
Many airports are still viewed by regulators as simple providers of infrastructure, as regulators have not grasped the evolution of airports into diversified businesses and community partners. In order for airports to provide social and economic benefits to communities, airports need permission to grown from local governments.
Government regulatory decisions must be structured in a way that enables airports to attract the interest of the private sector. “As stated in ACI’s 2011 Economic Survey, some 135 billion $US in capital expenditure are planned at airports worldwide between 2013 and 2016, not including the current projects in the Middle East and it only includes two airports in mainland China.” Gittens went on to state in her speech, “An increasing number of countries are calling on the private sector for the development of aeronautical infrastructure, be it in the form of outright privatizations or public private partnerships. This necessarily implies the need for states to provide the right economic regulatory framework to allow airport companies to generate the type of financial returns required to attract private investors”.
On the aviation side, the industry needs to demonstrate environment stewardship and in keeping with this responsibility, the industry has introduced its CO2 Roadmap and ACI has demonstrated its commitment with ACI Europe’s Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme. Airports must also focus on local community issues such as noise, air quality, water, waste and land use if local government and communities are to provide permission to grow.
“At the Sixth Aviation and Environment Summit last month in Geneva, the leaders of our industry—airports, airlines, air traffic control and manufacturers—stated that will do their part to maintain and grow a vibrant, sustainable air transport industry. However, we need permission from governments and society if we are to be allowed to provide local, national and global communities with the economic and social benefits they need”, Gittens said.
The ICAO Air Transport Symposium also provided a forum for interactive discussions and views from aviation stakeholders in preparation for the Sixth Worldwide Air Transport Conference that will be held in Montreal in March 2013.
Presentations and discussions centered mainly on the economic aspects of sustainability (including regulation). One of the clearest outcomes of the symposium was the overwhelming position of all stakeholders calling for an end of the antiquated and byzantine system of bilateral air service agreements (ASAs) and the relaxation of nationality ownership rules. It was agreed that both practices, in addition to the taxes imposed on air transport, are a significant barrier to the achievement of a prosperous and efficient, and hence sustainable, air transport industry.
ICAO’s Secretary General called for the “de-fragmentation” of the system. In specific reference to airports, there was agreement on the urgent need to provide infrastructure. However, it was recognized that planning and implementing airport infrastructure development has a long lead time and has become increasingly expensive given the additional environmental requirements.
Consequently, there was a call for ICAO guidance on airport financing, led by ACI, and for a cohesive and consistent approach in the international regulatory framework.