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High-ranking airport officials from across the region, who are attending a workshop in Kingston, are being urged by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, to come up with recommendations to reduce emissions from airport operations that contribute to global warming.

He made the call on Sunday May 20, while addressing the launch of the Airport Council International (ACI) Fund and CIFAL Atlanta training seminar at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.

According to the Minister, the two main international airports are among the country’s most significant economic assets, playing a vital role in continued economic development and are critical to the growth in tourism and trade. He said that along with the ports, the airports are primary gateways through which more than five million passengers will travel to and from Jamaica this year and some 2,000 tonnes of goods exported.

He noted that while there is no denying the economic and social impact of the industry “we have to be extremely cognisant of the development of our airports and the aviation industry and their impact on climate change”.

“We have to contemplate our natural resources and environmentally sensitive areas, including the impact on our mangroves and encroachment into nearby wildlife habitats; the impact of noise and emissions caused by aircraft; and the provision of air conditioning for large areas in order to make passengers comfortable,” he stated. 

“We must also consider the long-term sustainability of the airline industry given the overwhelming facts pertaining to its contribution to global warming,” he added, noting that estimates are that global travel accounts for four per cent of global carbon emissions.

Minister Pickersgill said that while the contribution of small island developing states like Jamaica to climate change is negligible, they are most vulnerable to its impact, and must therefore play a key role in reducing its effects.

He said that among the areas that could be looked at to offset emissions are: carbon credits, emissions trading, and imposing a passenger tax, which could go towards a carbon fund aimed at planting trees and increasing forest cover.

He cited a major study conducted in 2009 by Dr. Peter Edwards of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington D.C., which revealed that passengers were willing to pay up to US$10 as an environmental tax.

The Minister said that while “we would not want to add to the distress of the air transport sector by imposing more taxation for emissions, “these measures are necessary and should complement our other offsetting measures”.

These include: reducing emissions from dumps and in the reaping of sugarcane; adhering to the law by not burning garbage in our communities; widening the impact of, and increasing public awareness about the need to protect the environment.

"We must start somewhere, and I do know it is possible. “With climate change, we must change.  Our survival depends on it,” he stated.  

The four-day seminar hosted by the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) under the theme: ‘Airports and Environmental Sustainability’ seeks to engage a select group of high-ranking government officials, airport executives, and industry leaders from the Caribbean to exchange best practices on how airports can reduce their environmental footprint, while continuing to promote economic growth.

Airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers have committed to: improving aircraft fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually by the year 2020; capping net CO2 emissions as of 2020, with carbon-neutral growth; and cutting net carbon emissions from air transport in half by 2050.

 

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter