Coalition of US aviation industry groups lays out principles for framing debate on aviation and climate change
Wed 25 Feb 2009 – Twenty-one US and international aviation industry groups, representing airlines, airports, general aviation, aerospace manufacturers, pilots and air traffic controllers, have joined together to issue a paper outlining a set of guiding principles to address aviation and climate change. The principles include creating a cost-benefit analysis, a central framework, an international dimension, a comprehensive energy policy and a science-based debate. The paper also calls for a US national energy policy.
Signatories include the Air Transport Association (ATA), Airports Council International – North America (ACI), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The predominantly US coalition group also advocates six additional principles on which any climate change measures should be based, including the acceleration of air traffic control modernization and operational improvements, technology and research, alternative fuels, ground infrastructure investment and economic measures.
The document published by the group, entitled ‘Aviation and Climate Change: The Views of Aviation Stakeholders’, also recognizes the pre-eminent role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the need for a comprehensive energy policy. It states that any economic measures put in place must not create disincentives for the industry or transfer resources from aviation necessary for environmental improvements.
The paper was published on the eve of an important, wide-ranging speech yesterday to the US Congress by President Obama in which he called on Congress to send him legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. He also pledged to invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop clean technologies such as advanced biofuels.
Ed Smith of GAMA, who helped draft the paper, told GreenAir Online that the timing of its publication had no bearing on current pronouncements by the new administration on the urgency of tackling climate change although the industry wished to participate in and influence the debate.
He said that there had been thinking in the US aviation industry for some time that it should act together on the environment issue and the idea of the paper had come about last year. “Although there is plenty that divides us, there is very little difference between us on the core issues concerning the environment. We wanted to join forces and put something together so that the new Administration and Congress knew where we stood and to demonstrate we are constructive partners.”
Smith, a former US State Department official with international experience, noted that the European aviation industry had been a “little behind the curve” on the introduction of environmental legislation such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and it was a “cautionary tale” for the US.
On cap-and-trade, he said that the paper did not take a specific position but he believed it was unnecessary given all the measures the US industry he said was already taking and can still do to mitigate emissions.
The coalition group says aviation had been working on limiting emissions associated with climate change for decades. “Because of our aggressive pursuit of greater fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation constitute only a very small part of total US GHGs, less than 3%,” says the paper. It points to a 70% improvement in fuel efficiency over the past four decades, while passenger and cargo traffic increased over six-fold.
“This improvement has been driven by our industry’s market demand for efficiency. Given the significance of fuel costs to the economic viability of our industry, our economic and environmental goals converge. Nonetheless, we also recognize that we have an obligation to further limit aviation’s greenhouse gas footprint even as aviation grows to meet rising demand for transportation around the world.”
The paper says the coalition does not advocate for or against particular legislative, regulatory or other solutions. “Rather it offers a constructive set of principles to frame the discussion of policy tools to address aviation and climate change.”
The coalition warns that proposed measures to address aviation’s impact on the environment may have an adverse effect on the economy, industry, jobs and communities, and said that such measures should address possible trade-offs between environmental effects, such as between emissions and noise.
It says it is critical that an international approach and, in the US, federal pre-emption be maintained in aviation regulatory matters so that different environmental rules and regulations are not applied to different jurisdictions, and any process should be informed by US participation in international aviation standards and recommended practices set by ICAO.
“Aviation is a global industry and requires global solutions,” says the paper. “This is especially true with climate change, since GHG emissions are long lasting and ubiquitous. Any environmental measures affecting aviation should be in conformity with the policies being developed cooperatively by the 190 contracting states of the Chicago Convention through ICAO, including the prohibition against taxing fuel used in international operations.
“The integrity of the international aviation system is based on the establishment of limits on the ability of any one country to impact the flying rights of another country. The European Union’s unilateral decision to subject non-EU aviation to its Emissions Trading Scheme puts this principle at risk and pre-empts the international treaty rights of other countries.”
It says that economic measures in the form of “positive incentives” can enhance industry efforts and augment the gains achieved through regulations and market forces, but warns against the imposition of fees, charges or taxes. “Should any climate measures raise revenues, however, those revenues should be reinvested into aviation to support initiatives that directly reduce aviation’s greenhouse gas footprint and for research into technologies that are directly applicable to improving aviation’s GHG emissions.” GAMA’s Ed Smith said this was something the US had learned from the European experience.
Pete Bunce, President and CEO of GAMA, commented: “As this document demonstrates, we are convinced we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without constraining industry growth, but doing so will require a genuine partnership with government. The establishment of common principles is the industry’s effort to demonstrate its commitment to work with the Obama Administration and Congress as we move forward to tackle the issue of climate change in the United States. We are proud to join virtually every other association in the aviation industry in this endeavour.”
Capt. John Prater, President of ALPA, said: “ALPA will continue to work on a bipartisan basis with the US Congress and the Administration to craft a national energy and transportation policy to put our industry – and our country – on the path to sustainability.”
President of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Chip Barclay, said: “The principles in this policy document dovetail with energy policy recommendations made last year by AAAE’s Energy/Air Service Task Force and are a logical extension of these efforts. AAAE looks forward to contributing to a unified industry effort to develop reasonable, effective and sustainable green business practices.”