IATA Director-General Willie Walsh is optimistic that the ICAO Assembly in Montreal will agree on a long-term aspirational goal on how to decarbonize aviation. But he admits that talking about an aspirational goal sounds inconclusive and not very strong, Walsh said during an online media briefing which mostly covered the ICAO Assembly. IATA hopes ICAO net zero agreement will be an important first step.

The Assembly has started today with numerous briefings and meetings that will continue into next week when the gathering in Canada should vote on resolutions by October 7. As we explained yesterday in our preview story, the 193 member states of ICAO will have to align on the roadmap to get commercial aviation to net zero in 2050. Crucial tools to get there are the CORSIA offsetting scheme and a significant ramp-up of the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

“We (IATA) have now aligned with the science and ambition of the 2015 Paris Agreement (with our commitment to net zero in 2050). We will be looking at ICAO to get the global governments and regulators equally aligned to agree on their long-term aspirational goal. Anything shy of that, and this Assembly will be viewed as a failure”, said Willie Walsh.

“It will not stop us continuing on our road to net zero in 2050, but it would be a very important signal to governments and ensure we would get the right policy framework in place to assist the industry in its ambition.”

Asked how optimistic he is that an agreement is reached on a scale of 1 to 5, Walsh said “I would probably say 4 in terms of optimism, but if the questioner asked how important an agreement is, I would say a 5. (An agreement) will provide the right signal that we need a good framework and policy decisions that would support that goal. I am optimistic, but I recognize there are challenges to reach a global agreement.”

But is an “aspirational goal” strong enough at a time when the airline and aviation industry through IATA and the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) are aligned on what is needed, AirInsight asked. “I think that is a very good observation. It disappointed me when I saw “aspirational” rather than “long-term goal.” It reflects the difference between the focus that the commercial business would have and what a government attitude would have. But it is a very positive first step.”

Walsh compared the aspirational goal with ICAO’s decision to launch CORSIA in 2016. “That was an excellent first step. I didn’t think CORSIA was going to be the big all, but it was a great first step to get a global agreement on a single policy to address offsetting. If we get an agreement on the long-term aspirational goal, that would be an excellent first step. Once this hurdle is cleared, I have no doubt it will become a much-hardened target by governments right across the world.”

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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