8 December 2014

Secretary-General remarks to the Extraordinary 70th Anniversary Session of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council

What a historic event. Thank you very much for the honour of participating in the extraordinary anniversary session of ICAO [the International Civil Aviation Organization].

Today we look back on 70 years of success – and we look ahead to new global challenges.

In 1944, this hotel was still elegant as it is today – but a night in the best room cost only nine dollars. Today, I don't know how much it costs, the most expensive suite, you will have to check. There must be a huge difference!

Seven decades ago, in this Hall, there were representatives of 52 countries drafting the Convention.

Today, ICAO has 191 Member States.

The Convention was born before the United Nations – but as Dr. Aliu pointed out in his remarks – it anticipated the creation of a global organization for peace.

And now, ICAO helps the United Nations address some of the most pressing issues on our global agenda.

Today I will speak about three areas where our cooperation is strong: health, security and the environment.

First: health.

When Ebola broke out, ICAO answered fear with facts.

As part of the global Travel and Transport Force, ICAO is coordinating the international response to Ebola’s impact on travel, trade and tourism.

ICAO stood firmly with the World Health Organization against general bans on travel and trade that block efforts to rush in medical responders and supplies. And ICAO advocated measures to make sure that suspected cases are managed safely in ways that stop Ebola from spreading.

Second: security.

In July, when the Boeing 777 carrying 298 people went down in eastern Ukraine, the UN Security Council called for a full, thorough and independent investigation.

Experts from ICAO helped to produce the preliminary findings – and they are continuing to support investigation for the final report.

Meanwhile, ICAO mobilized partners to set up a task force to reduce the risks of civilian planes flying over conflict areas. I commend this important initiative – and I am encouraged that the Task Force’s results will be assessed at a high-level ICAO safety conference next February.

ICAO supports broader United Nations security objectives in other ways. It has worked with the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee on a Traveller Identification Programme. At the UN’s request, ICAO adopted a Convention on marking plastic explosives so they can be detected easily.

Third: climate change.

We meet on the eve of a critical year for the global effort to combat climate change.

In September, I hosted a major summit to galvanize bold commitments and action on the ground.

It was a great success – thanks in part to ICAO.

Through ICAO, governments and the aviation industry committed to a two percent annual fuel efficiency improvement and carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

They have concrete plans to reach this ambitious target by supporting the development of sustainable alternative fuels, deploying new technologies for aircraft, and improving efficiency.

They are also helping to develop a global carbon dioxide standard for new aircraft.

I applaud this large-scale effort that builds on ICAO’s other climate initiatives – from creating smartphone apps to calculate the carbon footprint of flights to providing reports on emissions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I hope to see even more action. The aviation industry should innovate new forms of clean energy. Airlines should take steps to offset emissions. I urge ICAO to stand at the forefront of pushing for dynamic progress.

After I leave Chicago today, I will travel to Lima, Peru for the 20th Conference of the Parties to that Convention. There, we hope to lay the groundwork for a new universal climate agreement to be adopted in Paris next year.

In 1944, the world was bloodied and battered from the Second World War.

In 2014, we are facing new threats that never could have been imagined when ICAO was founded.

Then, as now, we know that we can only overcome these threats through a collective, international response.

I count on you to continue carrying on the work of our predecessors who 70 years ago in this Hall launched a global flight path for peaceful aviation.

And I call on you to expand their vision as we navigate a new journey to a safe and sustainable future.

Let us work together to make this world better for all, and I thank you for your leadership and commitment.

Thank you.