ICAO under pressure to forge deal on aviation emissions

17 Jul 2014 (EurActiv.com)
The failure to clinch a global deal within two years on reducing aviation greenhouse gas emissions could pave the way to a patchwork of regulations that would harm airlines and the environment, analysts say.

Aviation industry representatives and environmentalist tell EurActiv that there is no time to waste in reaching a global deal to create a market-based scheme to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and a CO2 standard for aircraft. Years of fumbling by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mean that a global framework will not be agreed before 2016, leaving a small window for full implementation before the target deadline four years later.

The absence of an agreement at the ICAO’s next assembly in Montreal in 2016 could trigger the European Union to reimpose its now-frozen emissions scheme on foreign carriers operating at EU airports. Also by that time, the US environmental agency will have decided whether aviation emissions pose a threat to public health and should be regulated.

In limbo

Environmental groups have long complained that the ICAO, the de-facto global aviation regulator, has failed to follow through with recommendations outlined under thee 1997 Kyoto protocol to develop measures to control greenhouse gas emissions produced by aircraft. Transport and Environment, an environmental pressure group, called the years after Kyoto “the lost decade” because of ICAO’s hedging on setting global emissions standards.

European industry officials have also privately expressed concern that the absence of an ICAO framework hurts airlines, especially those based in the EU, which currently has the only binding policy to control aviation carbon output, the emissions trading system, or ETS.

“We’ve been in limbo for a long time,” one airline executive familiar with the ongoing ICAO talks told EurActiv at the Farnborough International Airshow in England, adding that the international delay in setting standards contributed to the EU’s move to develop its own measures.

“Aviation is a global business and emissions are a global issue. We can’t operate with a patchwork of regional laws and regulations,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing his industry’s observer status in the ICAO negotiations. “To be competitive, there cannot be one standard for Europe and a lower standard for someone else. We either operate under a common rule book, or we’re going to see a level of confusion that hurts us financially and certainly does no good for the environment.”

Another industry official also pressed for a global agreement sooner than later, saying “regional measures detract from the market”. The EU’s initial inclusion of foreign airlines operating in European airspace under the ETS triggered an international furore, with threats of retaliation from key business partners, including China and the United States. “It was tantamount to a trade war,” said Kevin Morris, aviation and environment manager at ADS, which represents Britain’s aerospace industry.

Officials at the ICAO’s Montréal headquarters did not respond to questions on the status of the talks. The ICAO’s 191-member decision-making assembly only meets every three years. Recommendations from its working groups are due next year.

………. and it continues ……..