Reaching Assembly agreement on a global framework for reducing aviation emissions will be difficult, says ICAO President
Wed 29 Sept 2010 – On the opening day of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 37th Assembly in Montreal, Council President Roberto Kobeh González described progress in environmental protection since the last Assembly three years ago as “impressive”. However, he conceded the issue of finding a consensus between contracting states during the Assembly on tackling international aviation emissions would prove difficult. He told a press briefing that an agreement on developing a global framework that included market-based measures was important in the context of the European Union’s Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme starting in 2012. Meanwhile, IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani told delegates that reaching an agreement on a global solution to managing aviation emissions would be the Assembly’s biggest challenge but believed it would prove successful.
In his address to the opening session of the Assembly, ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González said ICAO’s forecast to 2030 showed a passenger traffic growth rate of 4.6% per year. “From these figures, we can assume that the number of passengers could more than double to five billion passengers by then, compared to 2.3 billion today, and certainly increase even more by the middle of this century,” he said.
Kobeh said ICAO had made “impressive progress” on environmental protection, citing what he described as the first and to date only globally-harmonized agreement from a sector for addressing its CO2 emissions as a result of the Programme of Action on International Aviation and Climate Change adopted last October.
Describing achievements, he highlighted the global goal of 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement up to 2050; an objective to develop a CO2 certification standard for aircraft engines by 2013; the development of a framework for market-based measures (MBMs) in international aviation; and further elaboration on measures to assist developing states and to facilitate access to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building.
He added: “We look to this Assembly to offer guidance to the Organization as it pursues its efforts on three main areas: more ambitious environmental goals; the development and application of a framework of market-based measures; and measures to assist states. Moreover, policies and recommendations from this Assembly will form the basis for aviation’s input to UNFCCC’s COP-16 in December in Mexico.”
Speaking at a press briefing after the session, ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin conceded that it would require the Assembly “to work very hard” to reach an agreement on climate change issues ahead of COP-16.
“We have unanimity on safety and security but environment is a difficult issue,” he said. “ICAO has a record of dealing with environmental matters, such as noise, for 40 years. But here [tackling climate change] there are divergences between developing and developed countries.”
President Kobeh told journalists that the draft resolution (see previously) requests ICAO and the states to work together to develop MBMs for international aviation to be considered at the next Assembly in three years time. When it was pointed out that the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme starts in 2012, Kobeh responded: “The EU directive makes it clear that it favours a global framework and would review the scheme. That’s why it is so important to find an agreement at this Assembly.”
But, he continued, the decision was in the hands of the states. “ICAO cannot say to them how fast or slow they must go and it is up to them to instruct us at this Assembly. Also, MBMs are a very complex issue that does not only cover emissions trading, and there are other possibilities.
“Some states may say they want a decision before the next Assembly, others will decide differently but I cannot anticipate what will happen as it is one of the more difficult issues we have to deal with. So far, we do not have any instructions to develop something in this regard.”
Kobeh said he was unsure how Europe would react if there was no substantial progress on MBMs before the next Assembly in 2013, “but we are moving as fast and as far as possible although the decision will come from the states.”
Speaking to delegates at the Assembly, IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said the planned inclusion of aviation into the EU ETS was helping governments to focus on the urgency of a global solution. “If this Assembly ends without an agreement, the next opportunity is 2013. Against global opposition, Europe will attempt to move forward with its unilateral emissions trading scheme,” he said.
“No government or industry player will want to face the consequences of such a development. It would lead to a breakdown of the global standards on which global aviation was built, a patchwork of uncoordinated taxes and schemes, strained bilateral relations and serious challenges on sovereignty issues.”
Bisignani said the biggest challenge facing the Assembly was to reach an agreement on managing international aviation emissions and called on states to endorse the industry’s commitments in a globally agreed framework.
He highlighted elements that could help facilitate a consensus, including recognition by the new head of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, that an agreement at ICAO would not impact the position of any state on non-aviation issues discussed in the UNFCCC process (see story). He said ICAO had a track record of accommodating the needs of developing states and believed a global solution would facilitate growth in the industry whilst still reducing emissions.
“The livelihoods of 32 million people and $3.5 trillion in economic activity depend on the success of global aviation. As leaders, everyone attending this Assembly has a great responsibility to continue building a safe, secure, efficient and sustainable future for this wonderful industry. The industry is committed to supporting governments in reaching agreement on a responsible solution for aviation and the environment. I am optimistic that we will be successful,” he concluded.
The ICAO Executive Committee is due to start discussions tomorrow (Thursday 30 Sept) on environmental issues and consideration of the many working papers submitted, with the sensitive draft resolution (WP/262) likely to be delegated to a closed working group. Deliberations are not expected to reach the Assembly floor much before the end of the Assembly on October 8.