Government partnership needed for green growth in air travel
The air transport industry currently supports 58.1 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in global gross domestic product, according to a new study released today by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) at its Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. The report, Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders looks at the economic and social benefits of the commercial aviation industry around the world and examines the sector’s environmental progress.
Launching the report, ATAG executive director Michael Gill said, “This year marks the hundredth year of regular scheduled airline operations. In the last century, we have served over 65 billion passengers and opened up new forms of family connections, friendship and business. One aspect of the aviation sector often overlooked is the benefits that rapid, safe and good value air travel brings to the wider economy and society. Our report, Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders, puts that in context.”
Of the 58.1 million jobs, 8.7 million are within the sector itself, working for airlines, at airports, in air traffic management organisations and for the makers of aircraft and engines. Suppliers to those core aviation companies support nearly 10 million further positions in sectors such as food supply for catering, fuel, components for aircraft and finance. And the salaries of both these direct and indirect jobs generate an estimated 4.6 million jobs in the wider economy. One of the biggest beneficiaries of air transport is the tourism industry. With 52% of international tourists travelling by air, over 35 million tourism jobs rely on air transport.
“It is clear that aviation is a vital component of modern life. Aside from the employment supported by the sector, aviation helps generate 3.4% of global GDP. We transport $6.4 trillion worth of cargo – over a third of the value of world trade. But perhaps the most important benefits of air transport are those that happen outside the industry itself, in the businesses and communities that rely on the services we provide.”
ATAG has established a web resource to outline some of these benefits: www.aviationbenefits.org.
The report’s authors say that, based on current rates of aviation growth, the industry is set to support 103 million jobs and $5.8 trillion in GDP in 20 years. Gill explained that this will depend on growth in the sector being fostered. “Air transport is growing rapidly, particularly in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East as these economies expand and emerging middle classes are able to take advantage of the benefits of air travel. However, at a global level, the analysis tells us that even a one percent lower aviation growth rate could reduce the 2032 job count by 12.4 million jobs,” Gill said.
“It is vital that governments around the world look to travel and tourism as a way of boosting their tertiary economies and developing what can be a very sustainable industry. However, they must make sure that growth in aviation – like all sectors – is done with environmental considerations from the earliest planning stages. The aviation industry is being very proactive in this area, as evidenced at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit, and we are willing partners of governments to ensure that the positive aspects of growth are not overshadowed by avoidable negative issues.”
In the past six years, the aviation industry, coordinated by ATAG, has developed a set of targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the sector. First, by capping the growth in CO2 from 2020 through a global market-based measure for aviation; and secondly with a goal to reduce aviation CO2 to half of what it was in 2005, by 2050. These were the first such global targets for any industrial sector and lead to an agreement by governments in October last year to develop the global market-based measure for aviation.
Gill commented, “We now have the agreement of governments to act on our climate impacts at a global level. This is the only way we can truly tackle emissions from a global industry like ours and fully support the work taking place at the International Civil Aviation Organization. We encourage all governments to play a positive role as those negotiations continue. But growth must be seen in a more holistic way, bringing together the various economic, social and environmental considerations. For example, good planning when building new infrastructure can make all the difference 20 years down the line. And we have a very important task to work on with governments, delivering more efficient air traffic management that can reduce fuel burn and noise for local communities.
“Partnership is key if the economies of the 2030s are going to be able to take full advantage of the benefits that aviation has delivered to the world over the last 100 years.”