An interview with Guillaume Faury, the head of Airbus, published on February 3 in « 20 minutes », calls for a few remarks.
The latest IPCC report makes it clear that, contrary to Faury’s assertion, the worst is yet to come and we are far from realizing the efforts and sacrifices we will have to make to avoid global warming of more than 1.5 degrees.
The survival of Airbus is to the credit, on the one hand, of the state, which financed the partial unemployment of employees, and, on the other hand, of the subcontractors who have been dismissed. While many people’s salaries were frozen, bonuses were cut and temporary workers were fired, Mr. Faury is pleased with the management of the pandemic. If the industry « gained a few years », this was done at the expense of the employees; the opposite of what we defend: a fair and responsible transition. Employees are not fooled by corporate strategies, even if they are left out of the decision-making process. These men and women understand that the choices are not good and that they are still and always the adjustment variable. We propose to prepare with them the future of their jobs and of aeronautics, which will be sustainable or not.
Over the past 50 years, the aviation sector has been aware of the work of the IPCC and knew that the exponential development of air traffic was playing a significant role in global warming. During this period, global aviation emissions have only increased at the same rate as traffic.
Following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the need to divide by 2 the world’s greenhouse gas emissions had already become apparent. In order not to penalize poor countries, it was planned to divide them by 4 in rich countries. The aviation sector, like all other industrial and agricultural sectors, must finally do its part in this quest to reduce global emissions.
Cultural changes ?
Civil society is already adapting to this requirement, even in the capital of aeronautics. In the heart of Toulouse, many students called on aeronautical companies to do their fair share in the fight against global warming. Despite meetings with Elisabeth Borne, then Minister of Transport and Ecological Transition, the students were not heard and the promises were thrown away like almost all the proposals of the Citizen’s Climate Convention. What can we say about the « great resignation » ? And what about the recruitment difficulties currently encountered by aviation companies?
Business travel will not resume as it did before, when it represented nearly a quarter of all travel: this is already a gain for the climate! This market segment, which Mr. Faury no longer considers to be in the air, despite the efforts of certain airlines to attract business customers again, has therefore entered into a decline. A decrease dictated by economic considerations but also by an awareness of the role of the plane in global warming. How can we justify almost daily round trips between Toulouse and Paris when video meetings have proven their efficiency?
Let’s remember that the NGO Oxfam has just revealed that in France, 63 billionaires pollute more than half the population. These 63 billionaires are responsible for the emission of at least 152 million tons of CO₂ equivalent in one year, which is as much as Denmark, Finland and Sweden combined
For its part Greenpeace has very recently confirmed the motivations of young people who overwhelmingly indicate that flying is not necessary for a good vacation and that they are ready to give it up for environmental reasons.
Students are joined by scientists, some of whom have given up frequent travel for environmental reasons as well. The perception of air travel has indeed changed.
As for the impact of aviation on the climate, G. Faury is careful to forget to mention the non-CO2 effects; let’s remember that aviation is responsible for 5% of the warming induced by man over the last decade. Although fuel consumption per passenger/km has decreased, the increase in traffic has largely offset the technological gains. This has resulted in an increase in the sector’s overall emissions, which is nonsense in light of scientific warnings.
The far future of Hydrogen
G. Faury, who now recognizes, in this interview with 20 minutes, that: « Hydrogen is the solution for the XXII or XXIII century, it is the solution for the long term », agrees that we should not wait until 2035 to reduce the impact of aviation on the climate; we therefore suggest that it is necessary to limit the production of aircraft in order to limit traffic and, thus, limit global emissions. Without this, GHG emissions will continue to grow because future solutions, such as so-called alternative fuels (SAF – Sustainable Aviation Fuel), trajectory optimization and fleet renewal, will not be effective by 2035. We propose to move forward with a defined carbon budget aligned with the IPCC 1.5°C scenarios. Within this framework and within the limits of acceptable nuisances for the populations overflown, aviation can continue its activities. This requires major challenges: reducing global pollution emissions from aviation, sharing fair access to the sky and reducing aircraft noise levels during take-off and landing. This will necessarily require strong international cooperation. Let’s give ourselves the means!
Translated with the support of DeepL