"Environmental Issues and Partnership"
Marion C. Blakey, Quebec, Canada
May 15, 2007

Emissions Colloquium


Good evening, bon soir, and let me say what a pleasure it is indeed to be here. An aviation crowd is my kind of crowd, and an aviation crowd that wants to take steps to save the planet, well, I don’t think it gets much better than that.

I want to thank PARTNER for sponsoring this reception and for the chance to offer some remarks. It is nice to see so many people here. I hope you will take this opportunity to learn more about the research efforts featured in the posters.

Let me start with a story from a few thousand miles away, at an outdoor swimming pool in Florida. It seems that the people who were supposed to keep the pool clean stopped showing up. As with most pools, it wasn’t long before the water went from clear to cloudy to flat out dirty — the kind where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, or what’s on the bottom

Well, this was the summer, and the local youth swim team still needed to practice, so they kept right on swimming, dirty water or no. Practice started at six in the morning and went until eight. That’s dozens of laps and goodness knows how many dives. Even though the water was brackish, they still had to train. And train they did.

At the end of practice one morning, the team was sitting on the deck at the deep end of the pool, probably just talking as teenagers do. One of the kids let out a scream. As they watched, an alligator about three-feet long climbed out of the shallow end of the pool, up the steps, and ambled away. True story.

Let me tell you my friends — aviation is in that same pool right now. We have some murky spots. And I just told you what’s below. The meeting here is vital in trying to bring clarity on the issues surrounding aviation emissions — both for the ICAO Assembly this fall as well as the public.

Frankly there are some strange portraits of aviation today. Some see it as a rogue industry on the order of tobacco, as a greenhouse dragon that needs to be slain. Some companies are deciding they won’t import goods from the developing world because of their carbon footprint. Even people who made their fortune in the travel industry now want to place surcharges of hundreds of dollars on all flights on the theory that people just fly to fly.

There’s a perception that somehow aviation doesn’t care about the environment; that it’s responsible for a great deal of the greenhouse gases up there. We know that’s not the truth.

Cars and trucks represent 21 percent of greenhouse gases. Power plants, 33 percent. Aviation comes in at less than three. That said, the issue remains that aviation still needs to do all that it can to get our house in order. In fact, given the continued expansion of air travel and commerce expected over the next two decades, aircraft greenhouse gas emissions might become a serious barrier to aviation growth long-term.

The good news as evidenced by this colloquium and the ongoing work at ICAO is the international community is taking this issue seriously. You have my full support. Working to save the planet needs to be on everyone’s list. On our part, the largest aviation market in the world, the USA, consumed five percent less fuel in 2006 than it did in 2000. And this while moving 12 percent more passengers.

We’re committed in the U.S. to developing effective solutions. That’s at the heart of PARTNER’S Center of Excellence. We got things rolling in 2003 and brought together the best and the brightest minds across academia, industry, communities and government. Together with my colleagues at Transport Canada and NASA, we’ve tasked that group with helping us identify the issues and find the solutions we need that allows aviation to grow while reducing its environmental impacts.

Let me say that PARTNER is working. In less than two years, we started implementing a procedure developed by PARTNER research — Continuous Descent Arrival. CDA reduces noise, threats to local air quality and greenhouse gases. That’s a hat trick.

PARTNER researchers have also helped us step to a critical operational issue. We found ourselves having to determine compliance with local air quality standards for particulates. Except we had no data or models to turn to. Earlier this year, we released a new version of our air quality model that incorporates particulate emissions. PARTNER is at the forefront of developing a new analytical capability that has the potential for revolutionizing how we develop environmental regulations. Their work will allow us to focus on impacts and optimize benefits.

Aviation must effectively manage its environmental impacts. There’s nothing murky about that. And frankly, I’m not interested in hiding behind the argument that says, “We’re less than two percent of the greenhouse gases.” This issue is much bigger. How do we ensure in this second century that aviation is able to play the same role it did in the first? Of providing new definitions neighbor and opportunity and offering a better future whether someone lives in Des Moines, Nairobi, Santiago, New Delhi, Rome, or Beijing.

We believe the way forward is to build upon aviation’s proven record of innovation in technology and operations. We believe ICAO must play an essential role. Success in reducing aviation’s environmental footprint will only come through collaboration, creativity, and consent. Failure is not an option and partnership is the only solution.

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