Malaysia affirms commitment to sustainable aviation

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic source Wee Ka Siong’s Facebook

TRANSPORT Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (picture) assures Malaysia’s commitment to work with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to address climate change issues. 

Wee spoke at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with his counterparts from around the world.

He said the global aviation industry is faced with numerous issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic crisis and the need to cut carbon emissions.

“In line with ICAO’s recommendations through the Global Market-Based Measures, Malaysia is committed to addressing environmental challenges and sustainability.

“Recognising the pressing need to become more environmentally friendly, Malaysia has pledged its undivided support to participate in the voluntary pilot phase of the carbon offset and to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40%, following the launch of the Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA),” he added.

He also believed that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is vital to decreasing carbon emissions from operations and satisfying the aviation industry’s worldwide aspirations. 

However, the present market price of SAF is three times that of traditional fossil jet fuel, implying that it is not economically feasible for aircraft operators to utilise it.

“Malaysia would like to reiterate ICAO’s assembly resolution A40-18, which acknowledges the need for SAF to be developed and deployed in an economically feasible, socially and environmentally acceptable manner.

“In view of this, Malaysia is committed to empowering research on biojet fuel as a source of eligible fuels, to which RM40 million has been allocated for sustainable fuel research grants in the 2020 Budget. 

“Thus, Malaysia aspires to see crude palm oil included as an acceptable feedstock in CORSIA in the future,” Wee said. 

Wee emphasised that the country has taken several measures to facilitate border reopening as part of the pandemic recovery process, including eliminating quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers to the majority of nations.

“The absence of staff due to Covid-19 infections has hampered the operations of airlines and airports that are already struggling with recruitment after workers deserted the industry during the pandemic. 

“Apart from that, the International Air Transport Association reports that while the current traffic volumes have only hit 30% of pre-Covid-19 levels, passenger processing and waiting times have increased 100% due to various procedures imposed to check passengers’ health credentials.

“Covid testing is still a common requirement for travelling to Asia. Arrival tests are still conducted at airports in some countries, and the requirements for pre-departure tests differ from one country to another. This requirement can be confusing and has certainly added more cost and even stress for travelling passengers.

“As part of the move to transition into the endemic phase, Malaysia reopened its international borders, including the aviation sector, to all international travellers on April 1. This is not just a move to revive the economy but also to ease the country back to some form of normalcy after going through the stress of Covid-19 for over two years,” Wee added.

Prior to that, Malaysia resumed travel among Asean countries, specifically between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore; Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia; as well as between Penang and Singapore, through the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme in 2021. 

With the VTL project, Malaysia increased foreign traffic by 52% month on month in March 2022, with 420,000 passenger movements.

Wee proposed three critical elements to affect the recovery rate, including the elimination of quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers to the majority of countries, the elimination of testing requirements, including antigen testing for entry into some countries and the relaxation of visa and entry permit requirements for most countries.

The Future Aviation Forum with the theme “Aviation’s Role in the Post-Pandemic, Globalised World Economy” is Saudi Arabia’s first and is aimed to unite the global private and public sectors, international CEOs and regulators, to shape the evolution of international air travel and put forward new solutions.