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FIL PHOTO - AASA CEO Aaron Munetsi [Photo by AASA]
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) supported positive actions to address climate change, AASA CEO Aaron Munetsi assured in his keynote address to the association’s virtual annual general meeting on Thursday. “Our industry does not exist in a vacuum,” he pointed out.
“[W]e should be applying our minds to addressing the very real threat posed by global warming,” he affirmed. “As a services industry which proclaims to put customers first, we need to also be alive to the harmful commercial implications that any perceived foot-dragging on our part might have in the form of consumer boycotts or by customers voting with their feet.”
However, there were several major issues which the aviation industry in general, and the African and Southern African aviation sectors in particular, needed to have addressed, but which were partially or totally outside their control. Most obviously: how was the shift to sustainable aviation to be funded? And, what would be done to ensure that the financial burden was spread equitably?
Then there were issues regarding technology and infrastructure. “The shift from fossil fuels to sustainable energy forms is inevitable, but there are unresolved issues,” he cautioned. “For instance, should aviation standardise on lithium battery technology or hydrogen fuel cells? Either will have massive economic ramifications for countries in our region, where we have some of the largest deposits and reserves of lithium and cobalt which are needed for batteries as well as abundant platinum, sunshine and wind, which are needed to produce and catalyse hydrogen.”
Both options would require the construction of dedicated support infrastructures. What, he pondered, would these infrastructures require and who would finance them and how? And at what point should the countries of Southern Africa stop investing in fossil fuels for aviation and the associated infrastructure? He noted that currently the Airports Company South Africa was in discussion with the aviation sector about new jet fuel storage and distribution infrastructure at its airports.
Another issue was carbon taxes. The airlines had already committed themselves to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO’s) Carbon Offsetting and Reductions Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), rendering carbon taxes unnecessary as a means to push the decarbonisation of the industry. ICAO was a specialised agency of the United Nations, and all its member countries had formally adopted CORSIA.
“[W]e will continue to press governments that have introduced so-called carbon taxes on aviation to drop them,” stated Munetsi. “All they are doing is adding another cost to aviation. Because they are taxes, they cannot be ring-fenced for use to mitigate the impact of global warming, instead they go into central coffers.”