Airline industry comes together to urge governments to adopt global carbon offset mechanism
Thu 2 June 2016 – The biggest item on our agenda this year is the environment, announced Director General Tony Tyler to journalists at the start of IATA’s Annual General Meeting of the world’s airlines in Dublin today. One of the earliest resolutions to be passed – overwhelmingly, according to IATA – was a resolution urging governments to adopt a single global carbon offset mechanism to address carbon emissions from international aviation at the ICAO Assembly this autumn. To achieve the industry’s goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, we need a mandatory global carbon offset scheme in addition to other measures, said Tyler. In a keynote address, however, Ireland’s Transport Minister, Shane Ross, warned even with rapid developments in technology, aviation would struggle along with other industries to reconcile its rapid growth with its environmental footprint.
The IATA resolution “endorses current industry measures to manage its carbon footprint as part of global efforts to address climate change and safeguard sustainable development” and calls on governments to:
Consider 11 recommended design elements for the mechanism that would ensure environmental integrity and simplify implementation while avoiding market distortions; and
Ensure that existing economic measures (including taxes) on a national and regional basis to manage the industry’s climate change impact become redundant and that no new measures are introduced.
The theme of this year’s conference, said Tyler, the last under his leadership, was that aviation was a force for good. “But our message to governments is that we could do even more good if the tax burden and constraints were removed,” he added.
The IATA resolution also urges “a strong commitment from all stakeholders, including governments and non-governmental organisations, working together on all elements of the global aviation community’s four pillar strategy to address CO2 emissions from international aviation, through technology improvements, including sustainable alternative fuels, operational improvements, infrastructure measures and a global market-based measure (GMBM) to fill any remaining emissions gap.”
The details of the carbon offset scheme are still being worked out, he explained to airline delegates, but the industry had a clear focus on what was needed.
“We want a cost-effective measure that leads to real and permanent carbon reductions,” he stated. “That mechanism should be simple, mandatory and applied on a global basis, avoiding the cost and complexity that a patchwork of uncoordinated measures would create. It must not lead to competitive or market distortions. And we can accept some flexibility in implementation, including the phasing-in of countries over time, if that is needed by governments to recognise the different levels of maturity of aviation markets.”
In an opening address, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu praised the contribution of IATA and its prominent role in the carbon offset scheme discussions, and said he was of the firm belief that the political will existed to realise a solution. He reported consultations with states would continue over the summer in order to seek greater consensus and ensure the adoption of the GMBM resolution by the Assembly.
“In addition to agreeing to the proposed Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), the Assembly is also expected to agree on the work to be done by ICAO, states and industry following the Assembly in order for the scheme to be fully operational by 2020. This includes the establishment of registries, the determination of the monitoring review and verification (MRV) requirements, and emissions unit criteria (EUC).
“As always, our sector has relied on its historic strengths – cooperation and consensus – to reach this point. And we will need to preserve our highest respect for those values in the months ahead if we are to avoid an acrimonious and inefficient patchwork of emissions regimes.
“IATA has been a great ally in ICAO’s efforts to ensure that the decisions of our member states are forward-looking, and in line with the current and future needs of the industry.”
Ireland’s Transport Minister responded that it was vitally important the proposed new offset scheme observed the principles of transparency and non-discrimination. “So too is simplicity of operation,” he added. “We must not end up with a system that it is so complex that it becomes impossible to implement effectively and efficiently.”
He cautioned: “While aviation brings about significant economic and social benefits, it is also contributing negatively to climate change, noise and local air quality, with consequential impacts on the health and quality of life of citizens globally, particularly those in close proximity to airports. The significant upward shift in demand for air travel has of course led to increased overall pressures on the environment and this trend will continue.
“The aviation sector also needs to prepare for and develop resilience to potential future environmental impacts. Actions have been initiated at European, national and organisational levels to help to counteract these effects.”