Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Changi Aviation Summit Fireside Chat
Reimagining Aviation Through Safety, Service and Sustainability
Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib Yusof, Minister of Transport and Infocommunications, Brunei Darussalam
Mr Budi Karya Sumadi, Minister of Transportation, Indonesia
Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Minister for Transport, Malaysia
Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations
Mr Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the Council of ICAO
Mr Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA
Mr Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of ACI World
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The aviation sector has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the pandemic has also reminded us of the critical role that aviation plays in our globalised world. Air connectivity kept global supply chains open at a critical time, and facilitated the transport of essential goods, medical supplies and vaccines. It also continued to support needed travel, albeit in a smaller way, facilitating trade and investment around the world. And despite the wonders of Zoom and virtual meetings, we came to appreciate in-person connections even more.
I am therefore happy to join all of you today at this physical event in person, a platform to strengthen our networks in aviation. Here we gather again from all corners of the world, made possible by none other than air travel.
We are now seeing the green shoots of aviation recovery. Aviation will play an important role in our global economic recovery, and our collective economic future.
As we look forward to the post-COVID revival, the aviation sector is also grappling with another major and urgent global challenge, and that is climate change. Prior to the pandemic, the aviation sector contributed 2% of total global emissions. If unaddressed, this could increase significantly to some 22% by 2050, as other sectors decarbonise. As we rebuild air travel, the aviation sector must also do its part to reduce global emissions. I am heartened by the substantive discussions on making aviation more sustainable at the “Clearer and greener skies ahead” panel earlier today.
This evening, I will suggest three areas that aviation needs to focus on to emerge stronger, namely Safety, Service and Sustainability.
First and foremost, aviation safety must continue to take top priority. Two years of pandemic-induced disruption have introduced safety risks, notably in the upkeep of aircraft, especially those kept in storage, and maintaining the competencies of air traffic controllers and pilots. Additionally, changes to the operating environment and the introduction of new technologies can introduce new risks. We must take steps to address the safety risks to aviation, both old ones and new ones, as air travel recovers.
As an air hub with a substantial aerospace sector, Singapore is committed to upholding aviation safety. This is why we recently released our National Aviation Safety Plan to ensure that flying remains safe as aviation recovers from the pandemic. The Plan sets out 50 action items that Singapore’s aviation sector will take over the next three years, focusing on five key areas: operational safety; policies and rules; safety management; data and digitalisation; and regional and global aviation safety.
Second, the aviation sector should take the opportunity to improve its service levels and transform customer experience. Technology and digitalisation are key levers to take service to the next level. In sales and marketing – airlines can enhance their relationship with customers and increase their sales. In planning and decision-making – analytics can improve upfront planning, as well as dynamically tune service operations to better utilise capacity and for smoother passenger flows. In customer experience, airports and airlines can create a more seamless customer experience. We are working on an initiative where departing passengers at Changi need only present their biometrics for verification at the various departure touchpoints, without having to present any physical identity or travel documents. This will not only enhance the user experience, but also contribute towards the new precautions needed for safe and healthy flying post-pandemic. At the same time, as we increase the use of IT systems, we must strengthen cybersecurity to ensure operational and service resilience, as well as to protect customer data. Any system is only as secure as the weakest link. In the context of aviation, the systems of different stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, are often inter-linked. Therefore, cybersecurity in passenger reservation systems, air traffic control, and health and security assurance, must be a collective responsibility. We need to make sure that the systems each of them operates and relies on complies with high standards overall.
Safety and Service are not new to the aviation industry and have always been important features of the aviation sector. A third “S” – Sustainability – has come to the forefront. In some sense, it is not something new to the aviation sector, because cost efficiency and fuel burn have always been considerations for the aviation industry, but sustainability takes this one step further.
The data we have, reinforced by the images we see, and the actual experiences we encounter as we fly around the world, tell us that we need to deal with this issue of climate change urgently and decisively. The aviation sector has an important role to play in reducing emissions to combat climate change.
I am heartened that the global aviation community and its leaders are coming together to advance the decarbonisation of the aviation sector. It is not going to be easy, with many challenges ahead. Under ICAO’s leadership, good progress has been made to mitigate international aviation emissions. The ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is an important step. Many stakeholders in the aviation industry – airlines, airports, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and others – are aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and are developing solutions. We should be looking for ambitious long-term aspirational goals.
We need to look at the aviation chain holistically – from more efficient aircraft, flight and ground operations, to green fuels and green financing.
The development and deployment of newer and more efficient aircraft and engines significantly reduces fuel burn and emissions. Every new generation of aircraft is about 15-25%1 more efficient than the previous generation. And this is one reason why the Singapore Airlines Group has one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient aircraft fleets in the world, with an average age of about six years. We should encourage airlines to prioritise the acquisition of the most fuel-efficient fleets.
Optimising flight routes and enhancing air traffic management (ATM) can significantly reduce aircraft fuel burn and emissions, as well as costs. This can be done by leveraging technology. Actually, this is a “freebie” because if you improve air traffic management, improve air traffic rules, reduce flight times and reduce waiting times, everybody benefits apart from sustainability and climate change issues. Singapore has started developing the next generation Air Navigation Services (ANS) systems, to be operational around the end of this decade. The systems will incorporate satellite-based navigation and communication technologies to increase the precision of flight paths and allow more optimal route placements and flight levels. They will enable the implementation of new and cutting-edge concepts, such as Trajectory-Based Operations, and advanced Air Traffic Flow Management techniques to improve flight predictability and efficiency whilst reducing congestion. To complement these efforts, we need to improve co-ordination between ATM providers. Singapore and our regional partners are working towards the vision of a seamless sky – with harmonised and interoperable procedures and operations, thus reducing flight times, delays and emissions.
On green fuels, the aviation sector will need to work very closely with the energy sector to develop and scale the most viable technologies as both make a major transition towards a low-carbon future. Singapore will soon host the largest production plant for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the world, when Neste’s one million tonne per year facility is completed here next year. All the major players in our petrochemical hub have already committed to reinvigorating their product slates to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
On green financing, we are witnessing a shift globally towards sustainability and low-carbon projects. For example, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a coalition of 450 financial firms representing 40% of global banking assets, has pledged to make over US$120 trillion of private capital available for investment to reach global net-zero by 2050. Now, sustainable private financing and corporate net-zero targets have a powerful mutually reinforcing effect. There is financing on one side, and the aspiration of companies to reach net-zero on the other. They draw capital preferentially towards sustainable projects and new opportunities in the global green economy, and at the same time, make it more difficult and expensive for companies to obtain financing if their projects are not green. The aviation sector should tap on these to pursue the various decarbonisation pathways.
Aviation has always been an industry which aims for the sky and pushes the boundaries. The two major challenges facing us today, COVID-19 and climate change, have brought about some pause and disruption, but they also present new opportunities for us to reimagine aviation – with new technologies, new fuels, new paradigms for managing air traffic, new business and financing models. Through investing in these, we can transform the industry for a more resilient and sustainable future. Our customers, our shareholders and financial institutions will demand this, whether we like it or not.
Let us continue to connect countries, people and businesses with the highest standards of safety, service and sustainability, for the benefit of the world and generations to come. Thank you very much.