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Thu, Apr 24, 2008

Airlines Take Further Steps Towards Going 'Green'

Environmentalists Say More Needs To Be Done

With Earth Day 2008 now in the history books, the global airline industry continues to take steps to mitigate its impact on the environment. But while nearly everyone agrees progress must be made, things get cloudier when talking about what, exactly, needs to be done.

As ANN reported this week, Boeing and Airbus were among the signers of an industry-wide agreement to develop new technologies to make airline travel more efficient, and "carbon-neutral." Other signatories to the deal included enginemakers General Electric and Rolls-Royce, and the industry trade group International Air Transport Association, reports The Associated Press.

While applauding the fact that some action is being taken, environmentalists repeated their oft-told statements the global air transport industry continues to fall short.

"What we urgently need is a commitment to real, aggressive targets to increase efficiency and ultimately to stabilize and reduce emissions," said James Leape, director-general of the World Wildlife Fund. "I don't yet see the urgency among industry leaders that we're going to need."

In addition to the obvious PR-benefits to having such terms as "airliner" and "environment" making headlines in a positive light, US companies also have an economic impetus to work together to reduce their carbon footprint -- so they may avoid have the kind of emissions trading schemes seen in Europe, from crossing the pond.

"Europe's unilateral approach will only lead to legal battles and trade wars," noted IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani, adding other countries like China are also opposed to the emissions caps the European Union wants to begin imposing on all carriers flying within the EU by 2011. US carriers would be hit with those fees a year later.

Most scientists believe airlines are responsible for about two percent of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, but differ on their opinions about the impact of other gases like water vapor, and nitrogen oxide.

"It's like comparing apples and oranges," said Cambridge University senior researcher Helen Rogers, about the difficulty of placing a target limit on those emissions for the purposes of assigning taxable limits.

Former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey -- now head of the Aerospace Industries Association -- notes airlines have already made significant accomplishments towards reducing their impact on the global environment. "There is no other industry that in only a couple of decades dropped its fuel usage by 70 percent," she told the AP.

FMI: www.iata.org, www.aea.org, www.worldwildlife.org

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