To be sustainable, cities should be more connected, inclusive and dynamic – ICAO chief

24 October 2016 – A Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation between urban development and aviation was signed in Quito, Ecuador, during the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT III).

The agreement was signed by Dr. Fang Liu, the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Dr. Joan Clos, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

According to a statement from ICAO, the agreement is significant because “sustainable civil aviation is in a position to make critical contributions to States’ achievement of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.”

It provides for UN-Habitat and ICAO to strengthen their cooperation with a view to advising States on technical and policy matters relating to aviation issues raised within the context of the sustainable integration of airports in urban areas and within national development programmes. The agreement also directly supports SDGs 9, 11, and 13, which respectively pertain to economic development, urban well-being, and climate change.

The relationship is reciprocal, “as urban conditions impact on aviation safety, navigation, efficiency, and security, and consequently the economic development of air connectivity and its environmental consequences,” said the statement from ICAO.

During the Conference, which ended on 20 October 2016, ICAO’s Dr. Fang Liu spoke to the UN News Centre about the role the aviation sector can play in sustainable urban development.

Fang Liu: Indeed, aviation plays a very unique role. It connects the world with people; bringing families, friends and businesses together, as well as opportunities. Nowadays, aviation carries about 100 thousand daily flights. By these one hundred thousand daily flights, it transports 10 million passengers every day. In addition to that, you also probably know, tourism is a mainstay of finance and income for cities.  Half of one point four billion tourists are carried by air transport.  So you can see the role of aviation in that part. With these numbers, aviation actually contributed 2.7 trillion US dollar – roughly 3.5% of global GDP – and supported around 63.5 million jobs globally, as well as contributed 35% of trade volume globally. In addition to this number, I can also share with you the importance of aviation for urbanization. 

Our organization also took mass basket measures to mitigate the impact on the environment due to aviation - Liu Fang

As I have just mentioned, tourism is one of the mainstay for city development. With air transport – which is the road in the air – you can see that it connects cities with the rest of the world. So this provides great opportunity for global access, as the global market opens to local producers. In addition to this fundamental role, aviation also has an irreplaceable role in providing humanitarian aid; in particular, the post-disaster and emergency medical aid to the people in need. This explains the important role that aviation plays, in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also explains five strategy objectives which contribute to 13 of the 17Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

UN News Centre:  Talking about sustainable development, how relevant are the 3 pillars of sustainable development to ICAO’s programs and objectives, especially Sustainable Development Goal 6: “To secure the well-being of present and future generation by striving for a balance in social, economic and environmental objectives?

Fang Liu: I mentioned the important role aviation can play in terms of social and economic development. Now I am going to talk about the environment pillar. As you probably know, at our last assembly – the 39th assembly which was just held a couple of weeks ago at our headquarters in Montreal – our member states adopted the first ever global market-based measures aimed at mitigating the emission caused by international flights.  That is the first ever major industrial sector to take these measures to tackle environmental issues. In addition to that, our organization also took mass basket measures to mitigate the impact on the environment due to aviation. These measures include innovative measures – innovative technology – including new standards we’ve just adopted for measuring CO2 emission for our new aircraft.  As a matter of fact, our aircraft is 80% more efficient than the first commercial flight introduced in the early 19th century.

Security Council Considers Terrorist Threat to Civil Aviation

The Security Council held a meeting, at the level of ministers for foreign affairs, on the terrorist threat to civil aviation. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And other measures include efficient procedures and management of air navigation, which can greatly reduce the emission caused by our international flights. And of course another important measure is alternative fuels, which already has lots of experimental flights, and some airports already provide alternative fuels for commercial flights. We need to make more effort in commercial deployment of alternative fuels. Our airports also make great efforts to adopt new technology and new energy modes, in order to reduce energy consumption, and to have better services and efficient operation to reduce the impact due to our aviation activities. All these efforts aim to reduce our CO2 emission, which represents only 1.3% of the overall emissions around the world. But you can see that our sector truly makes firm determination to ensure our future, and that of our planet, is sustainable.

UN News Centre:  Again, with reference to Sustainable Development Goals, as you know, “leaving no one behind” is at the core. Right now we have more than 1 billion people in this world experiencing some form of disability, and many face difficulties and barriers when travelling. What would you recommend in order to make urban development inclusive, and accessible to persons with disabilities?

... Our CO2 emission represents only 1.3% of the overall emissions around the world - Fang Liu

Fang Liu: That is a very important question. Aviation, like all other transportation modes, should recognize and accommodate this passenger segment.  And as you know, aviation has its standards and recommended practices in the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which deals with facilitation for disabled travelers. And we also developed guidelines for the states to introduce in their policies, in order to ensure that all the stages and segments of air travel accommodate passengers with disabilities. This would eventually allow them to be fully integrated into our air transport system.

What we would like to see is for the inclusivity for disability to become institutionalized and regulatory. Like I have just mentioned, in order to meet the needs of disabled persons, ICAO standards and practices should be constantly updated and our guidelines should also follow those lines. And this is to also ensure that the provisions included in our standards will make it clear and encourage our member states to comply with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Today's aircraft have become 80% more energy-efficient than they were at the inception of air travel, UN civil aviation chief, Fang Liu told UN News Centre.

UN News Centre:  And from our social media fans: what three words come to mind when you think about sustainable cities?

Fang Liu: Connected, inclusive, dynamic. If cities are connected locally and globally, by all means of transportation, it will create a positive impression to the rest of the world. It also makes people feel connected, understand each other better, and increase and enhance friendships. Inclusive means providing facilities to accommodate all the needs and expectations of all the people in the cities. In order for cities to be more attractive, with much more potential to develop, they should be dynamic. It is important to welcome all the new ideas and innovations which will enhance a city’s competitiveness and further ensure the comfort of people living in that city.

UN News Centre:  Another question: “What is the most important thing we can do, to make cities more loveable and sustainable?”
Fang Liu: All the UN organizations are striving to work very closely to implement the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. What I would like to see is for all the states to work with all the UN organizations, with their own responsibilities in their respective areas. When the world works together, urban development and cities will have better planning and synergy, more coordination, and harmony, leading to better living standards and development for our world.

Image: Fang Liu, Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), @ UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Source: UN News Centre

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.