Image: Heathrow protestors
Peter Macdiarmid  /  Getty Images file
Climate change protestors march under the flight path at London's Heathrow airport on Aug. 15, 2007. A study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says that CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer have decreased, but have been more than offset by a continued rise in overall traffic.
updated 10/19/2007 4:24:42 PM ET 2007-10-19T20:24:42

The airline industry should improve its reputation on carbon dioxide emissions by publicly highlighting the steps it is taking to limit pollution, a leading strategist said Friday.

"The aviation industry is just not representing itself properly or effectively to put the lobbying efforts of the eco-warriors into some kind of perspective," said Steve Dunne, director of The Brighter Group in Britain, which advises the aviation industry on communications strategy.

The industry risks sinking to pariah status akin to cigarette manufacturers in the U.S., Dunne told The Associated Press at a European airlines conference in Athens.

Tom Ambrose, director general of the European Regional Airlines Association, said airlines produce 2 percent of the world's carbon dioxide output. Yet most people think the figure is up to three times that percentage, he said.

"If you were to shut down Europe's entire air transport system tomorrow, the world would not notice the change in CO2 levels," said Ambrose, who also addressed the conference in Athens.

A study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says that CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer have decreased, but have been more than offset by a continued rise in overall traffic. It says aviation takes about 2 percent to 3 percent of total fossil fuel used worldwide, compared with 20 percent to 25 percent for the transport sector as a whole.

Image: airplane
Paul Ellis  /  AFP - Getty Images file
The World Wide Fund for nature says that, if current growth patterns continue, airlines could account for up to 15 percent of all global carbon emissions by 2041.
The World Wide Fund for nature says that, if current growth patterns continue, airlines could account for up to 15 percent of all global carbon emissions by 2041.

Richard Dyer, of Friends of the Earth UK, has called aviation the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions in Britain.

However, the International Air Transport Association says the industry saved 6 million tons of CO2 by shortening 350 routes worldwide.

Dunne said environmental groups were getting attention for their views through what he called "PR stunt-like strategies." He gave the example of the Camp for Climate Action — activists who drew attention to aviation pollution by camping out at London's Heathrow Airport over the summer.

Dunne said the aviation industry should admit it pollutes while insisting it does its share to confront a shared problem — and arguing that it helps move goods and people around, creates jobs and shrinks the world.

"The next generation will be unbelievably green ... (and will) end up hating us if we don't do something about it," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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