Walking the talk - how can HIFA members reduce global aviation emissions? (4)

30 December, 2019

Dear colleagues,

Wish you a happy new year!

The discussion we are having is truly global and we can do something about it. We have precedence.

In 1987, the global community banned the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and protected the stratospheric ozone layer. This was known as the Montréal Protocol. At the conclusion of the meeting it was assumed that when fully implemented, millions of skin cancer cases, millions of deaths from skin cancer and millions of cases of cataracts would be avoided.

Before 1900, there were no cars. Until 1975, those old cars used to pollute. The introduction of catalytic converters to all cars reduced toxic gases produced by fuel combustion from newer models and now we all have better cars.

Now, we need cleaner jet fuel. We have the technology but we need political will to expedite and complete the process. We the people individually and collectively could take steps to cheer our legislatures globally to allow the production and use of clean jet fuel.

Did you know every 747 flight burns 10.5 tons of jet fuel, Kerosene, every hour? One ton equals approximately 30,000 gallons and a gallon for kerosene costs more than USD 5.00. A 747 will take 5 hours and 40 minutes to fly from New York to Los Angeles, 6 hours and 30 minutes to London and 19 hours to Sydney, Australia. According to FAA, globally there are more than 44,000 flights daily. KLM recently advised its clients to fly less. This may be against its shareholders’ interests but it was to highlight the urgency and to find ways to mitigate the overuse of fossil fuel.

By the way, there were 29 major meetings and several side meeting to conclude the Montreal Protocol. Therefore, it is never good to shame flying because we have to get around but, in addition to advocating for cleaner kerosene, it is always good to ask ourselves: what can we do to offset our carbon footprint? Could we get the information without using so much fossil fuel? The Lancet article published few days ago on 19 December 2019, noted that:

'Between 1990 and 2014 the global burn of jet kerosene from civil aviation increased by 86%.... Without effective action, over the coming decades anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality including from illnesses related to heat, poor air quality, reduced food security and quality, and increases in some vector borne diseases - Human health and wellbeing are indivisible from planetarry health.'

But we are all consumers and we can also agree that excessive Green House Gasses impact our health and HIFA members could individually and/or collectively advocate to:

Increase car mileages to at least 55 mpg.

Convert all new municipal buses to electricity.

Promote cleaner fuel for aircrafts.

Recapture precious metals from discarded electronic waste products, which are now sent to landfills.

Reduce the use of fossil fuel and their byproducts such as plastics and synthetic fabrics.

Reduce the number of face-to-face meetings without compromising outcomes using virtual technology. If medical treatment can be done with the help of telemedicine, a lot could also be done virtually.

Would it help if we start a thematic in-depth discussion on this subject? I will be happy to join. [*see note below]

Best wishes,


HIFA profile: Enku Kebede-Francis (PHD, MS, MEd) is an advisor in global health governance. She has worked for the United Nations (UNESCO, UNDP, UNFPA and UNDPI); was an Assistant Professor at Tufts University Medical School/Department of Public Health; and, a Visiting Scientist at the USDA’s Center for Human Nutrition Research Center for Aging and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University Medical School. She also designed and implemented preventive health programs promoting women’s health and tobacco cessation programs in Croatia and worked on addiction prevention programs in Florida and Massachusetts, USA. Her professional interests include preventing scurvy and childhood blindness in developing countries using micronutrients. An advocate for primary healthcare for all as a right, she published a textbook in 2010, Global health Disparities: closing the gap through good governance.

[*Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): Thank you Enku. Can anyone recommend a community of practice that discusses issues of how to reduce carbon emissions and the links between climate change and health? We can then collaborate with such communities for increased impact.]