“Committing Air France”. No the French airliner is not being sent to the hôpital psychiatrique. Quite the opposite, in fact. In a very sane move, Air France is making a big commitment to saving environment. They recently held a half-day “Committing Air France” conference at their Head Office at Charles de Gaulle. I was there along with 200 other jetlagged journalists flown in from Africa, Asia, the Americas and of course Europe, complete with complimentary carbon credits offset of course.
Air France Chairman and CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta kicked off proceedings with an overview of the environmental challenges facing the aviation industry. Challenge number one? Oil. The price of which has risen from $50 per barrel a three years ago to $140 today. Air France were eager to point out that the aviation industry’s contribution to worldwide CO2 emissions was relatively low: 2.65% compared with 15 – 16% for road transport. However this figure could grow for two reasons: the increase in economic prosperity means more social mobility; and the fact there’s no energy substitute for fuel in the medium term. So it’s important that airlines act responsibly and sustainably. Air France says its willing set the example and it endeavors to be the leader in the field.
In the ongoing battle to balance environmental concerns with economic necessity, responsibility with realism, Air France is considering five main issues. First, investing in modern, fuel-efficient fleets to reduce CO2 emissions. Having already lowered CO2 by 12% in the period 2000 – 2006, their target for 2012 is 3.7 liters per passenger per 100km, to be achieved by switching higher efficiency planes like the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A318. Second, organizing networks around hubs. Converging passengers pools resources and enables airlines to achieve maximum capacity. Good for the environment and the airline’s bottom line. Third, avoiding unnecessary fuel consumption by: minimizing taxiing and wait times on the ground; reducing aircraft weight; carrying the optimum amount of fuel; and most importantly reducing inefficiency of air traffic management which according to IATA, “increases flight distances by 12%”. This will also be achieved through reorganization of European airspace into functional airspace blocks (FAB) and with improved communications via the SESAR (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research) Project. Fourth, supporting the European ETS (Emission Trading Scheme) in a fair manner, i.e. a scheme that doesn’t discriminate between European and non-European airliners. The fifth and final measure Air France will employ to meet its targets is to work with partners to combat climate change. But more on this last point later.
Back to the conference title, one wonders whether there’s a better translation for “Air France s’engage”? I reckon “Air France’s Commitment” might have worked better, but with two years of high school French I’m certainly not expert. In any case, Air France’s commitment to the environment through its carbon offset schemes and open dialogue with international press are to be commended.