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5.3.2012 (Reuters)

The head of the United Nations body that oversees civil aviation said on Friday that his agency still plans to have a proposal on measures to address emissions from aviation by the end of 2012, even as critics push for faster change.

“I read the press like anyone. I listen to all of the criticisms which have been stated by some about the pace,” Secretary General Raymond Benjamin told Reuters in an interview marking his reappointment for a new three-year term at the helm of the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO.L.

“You have to understand that ICAO is an international organization with a membership of 191 countries, and you have to find a consensus.”

ICAO, created in 1944, sets what it describes as strategic objectives for the airline sector, focusing on safety, security and environmental issues.

It was thrust into the global spotlight after the European Union proposed controversial new rules for airline carbon emissions, forcing ICAO to accelerate its hunt for “market-based measures” that could be an alternative to the EU proposals.

The EU rules mean that all airlines that use the bloc’s airports must pay into a carbon offset program, stirring threats of an international trade war with the potential to disrupt global air traffic.

More than two dozen countries, including the United States and China, are opposed, and have suggested retaliatory measures that could include barring national airlines from participating in the EU’s scheme, cutting off talks with European airlines on new routes and imposing levies on EU airlines.

Benjamin said ICAO’s governing council is considering four unspecified market based measures, and two others have been eliminated. The council will be asked this month to endorse those four options and identify next steps, with a final proposal due by year end.

If all goes according to plan, the ICAO’s next general assembly would approve the new guidelines when it meets in the fall of 2013.

An ICAO spokesman said in December that the basic options under consideration are some form of emissions trading, fuel-based carbon levies, levies on departing passengers and cargo, and carbon offsetting.


Benjamin said ICAO is working towards a more liberal environment for air transport, and is planning a global conference that will address the issue in March 2013.

“We are totally in favour of liberalization. We are in favour of market access,” he said.

“All of these issues about competition will be on the table. It will not be only governments meeting here to discuss them, but all of the industry and regional organizations.”

Pressure is growing in the United States and elsewhere to relax restrictions on who can own airlines, a change that would push the sector toward global airlines rather than to carriers tied to particular countries.

(Reporting By Allison Martell in New York and Susan Taylor in Toronto; Editing by Janet Guttsman)