IATA and UNEP Tackle Aviation's Environmental Issues
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have recently formalised their partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The primary objective of this collaboration is to tackle sustainability challenges within the aviation industry.
With a specific focus on the reduction of single-use plastics (SUPP) and the promotion of circularity in plastic use, the partnership aims to contribute to UNEP's global efforts in developing an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution by the end of 2024, including addressing marine pollution.
The sustainability of aircraft cabins is of paramount importance to both airlines and passengers. However, the complex and varied regulatory landscape often hinders the implementation of circular economy practices.
Inconsistent regulations across different regions severely limit the actions that airlines can take. To overcome this obstacle, IATA advocates for a simplified and harmonised regulatory environment that facilitates reduced plastic usage, increased reuse, and enhanced recycling of cabin waste.
As part of their collaboration, IATA and UNEP are currently working on joint guidance titled "Re-thinking Plastics in Aviation." This comprehensive resource will provide an overview of regulations, offer guidance on replacing SUPPs, and propose best practices for industry players and regulators.
Marie Owens Thomsen, IATA's SVP Sustainability and Chief Economist, emphasised the importance of achieving a harmonised global regulatory framework to enable comprehensive circular economic solutions in all markets. The outdated focus on incineration instead of reuse and recycling needs to be modernised to drive sustainability efforts forward.
Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of UNEP's Industry and Economy Division, expressed UNEP's commitment to supporting the aviation industry in transitioning to net-zero emissions, reducing food waste, and moving away from single-use and short-lived plastic products. Encouraging the aviation industry to create demand for alternative materials with a lower environmental impact is a crucial aspect of their collaborative efforts.
Given the pressing global plastic pollution crisis, where over 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually with a meagre nine per cent recycling rate, urgent global action is imperative.
In addition to addressing single-use plastics, the partnership between IATA and UNEP will extend its collaboration to other sustainability challenges. This includes working together on knowledge sharing, providing guidance, and establishing networks in areas such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), sustainable finance, climate adaptation, biodiversity conservation (including wildlife trafficking prevention), and sustainable tourism.
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