Pierre J. Jeanniot
Air Transport Urged to Compensate for Carbon Through Massive Reforestation Project
Cannes, October 17 2007 >>
The air transport industry was urged today to compensate for its carbon footprint by undertaking a massive reforestation project such as greening of the Sahel, the 5,000-kilometer-long African boundary zone of semi-arid grasslands and thorn savannah running south from the Sahara that includes some of the most disadvantaged countries in the world such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, the Chad and Sudan.
This “modest industry proposal” was made by Pierre J. Jeanniot, chairman of the 16th annual World Air Transport Forum, in his welcome address to air transport executives and experts meeting in Cannes to discuss how the industry could do “more than its fair share” in addressing the “foremost challenge of the 21st century – global warming.”
Mr. Jeanniot is a former director general of IATA and a past CEO of Air Canada, one of several airlines who have already announced programs allowing passengers to offset emissions by investing in reusable energy projects.
Individual company schemes are perceived as being much too small to make a difference, says Jeanniot. “Almost all climate experts believe that only large reforestation projects could offer an appreciable reduction in greenhouse gasses.”
The Sahel project would certainly fit the bill. Jeanniot envisages creating a forest some 10 kilometres wide the length of the Sahel, an area of 50,000 sq. kilometres or five million hectares.
A carbon sink of that magnitude would absorb two billion tons of CO2 per year, given that one hectare of mature forest removes approximately 400 tons of CO2 per year.
The project would be financed by relatively modest airline passenger contributions of say, two euros per domestic flight and eight per international flight. Annual traffic approaching 1.5 billion passengers would generate six billion euros.
A new NGO assisted by an existing UN agency or affiliate such as ICAO could run the project says Jeanniot. It would report annually to a representative industry group such as the World Air Transport Forum.
Reforesting the Sahel would be of specific benefit to some of the neediest people in the world – often the victims of large-scale famine – and one of universal benefit to all mankind.
“Until some new form of emission-free propulsion becomes available,” says Jeanniot, “the air transport industry must look for additional ways of stabilizing if not reducing its CO2 footprint despite having to meet continuing growth in travel demand.”
Better air traffic control, the latest fuel-efficient aircraft and engines, and biofuels will only produce incremental improvements.
Carbon trading is far from being universally accepted and is at best a short-term expediency, not a longer-term solution.
Jeanniot’s proposal for a huge aviation-financed forest is based on his belief that the best way to offset carbon emission is to use nature itself.
“Using nature as an ally to absorb CO2 in sufficient quantity to totally offset future emissions could capture the imagination of our industry and rally the enthusiasm of our flying public. It could become the industry’s main environmental contribution.”
For more information, please contact:
Pierre J. Jeanniot
World Air Transport Forum