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'We all need to take action on climate change'

12 November 2021

Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes talked with Tian Wei, China Global Television Network host, about his views on sustainability, and said airline companies are not the only organisations that need to take action on climate change.

“We all have to play a part; private industry, government and the public,” he said on the second day of the APEC CEO Summit 2021.

He said the airline industry gets enormous amounts of press and negativity. “But actually our emissions are far, far less than say the car industry or the power industry.”

Mr Fernandes said that Air Asia has brought in a carbon offset charge so passengers can do their bit, and that education of customers is very important. “The public needs to be educated much more about carbon emissions, about plastic, lots of things. But I think private industry can’t do it by itself. And government can’t do it by itself either.

“I think governments have to play a part, as a lot of fuel is wasted in air traffic control and airport planning. So it needs to be the whole aviation ecosystem which takes part in trying to reduce emissions, it isn’t just the airline.”

He said the aviation industry was stuck with the same design and combustible fuel they’ve had for about 80 years, and though improvements had been made reducing fuel use and noise emissions, “I’m not sure that I’ll be CEO when we have an electric plane.”

On the subject of wider sustainability, Mr Fernandes argued that sustainability should not just be about the environment and climate change.

Mr Fernandes was critical of governments in their response to COVID-19, commenting that “if governments don’t get their act together, tourism is finished. Who’s going to fly when you have to do six PCR tests?” 

He said because it was a global issue, governments should have a worldwide standard for dealing with COVID-19, and that the response has favoured protecting public health rather than balancing the needs of the economy. “So I hope governments will be more coordinated within themselves.”

Mr Fernandes also touched on diversity and mental health as being important aspects that APEC should pay attention to.


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