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Nobody is aware of our efforts to cut carbon: IATA CEO

‘Arrogance or blindness’ led association to focus on explaining to industry insiders and not the general public

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IAIA has improved fuel efficiency by an average of 2.3% per year between 2009 and 2020 - but not many among the general public knows about it.

GENEVA - The head of the world's association for airlines says it needs to explain better the commitments it made years ago to reduce carbon emissions, and not make new pledges collectively - despite rising environmental concerns.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO Alexandre de Juniac said perhaps "arrogance or blindness" led his group to focus on explaining its efforts to industry insiders, not the general public.

"What we have seen is that nobody is aware of our program," he said in an interview with the Associated Press at IATA headquarters in Geneva. "It's our fault, probably."

IATA has made three big commitments on climate action since 2008. It pledged to improve fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per year between 2009 and 2020, and surpassed it with 2.3%, Mr de Juniac said.

The association is pledging carbon-neutral growth starting next year. And it's committed to cutting emissions to half of the 2005 level by 2050.

Addressing concerns about the global warming caused by excessive carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels, Mr de Juniac stopped short of recommending that IATA's 290 airline members make new efforts together. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says aviation is responsible for 2% of global man-made carbon emissions.

EasyJet, which is not an IATA member, has announced carbon offsets for all its domestic and international flights. IATA members British Airways and Qantas have made similar commitments, Mr de Juniac said.

He said airlines individually should decide whether to follow suit.

"What we don't want by any means is to make any commitments that we know in advance we are not able or that we are not comfortable (about), or not realistically ... able to stick to," he said. "We are not liars ... We are not illusionists."

IATA said it projected the global airline industry will reap net profit of US$29.3 billion in 2020. That is up from the US$25.9 billion that is expected this year, which has been marred by a US-China trade war and other international tensions that have dented economic growth.

IATA says the industry appears on track for an 11th straight year of profits by the end of next year.