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Aviation industry calls for renewed efforts by ICAO to find a global solution on emissions by Copenhagen

Aviation industry calls for renewed efforts by ICAO to find a global solution on emissions by Copenhagen | IATA, GIACC, British Airways, Willie Walsh, ICAO, UNFCCC, John Begin, Giovanni Bisignani

(centre) Willie Walsh, CEO, British Airways, on panel at Aviation & Environment Summit
Fri 3 Apr 2009 – Aviation industry leaders have called on ICAO to “redouble its efforts” to provide a sectoral framework for a global solution on reducing aviation emissions that can be taken to the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December. Mounting concerns over the lack of progress of ICAO’s GIACC process were expressed during the two-day Aviation & Environment Summit in Geneva organized by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). British Airways CEO Willie Walsh said there was a genuine threat to the industry if an agreement was not reached.
 
“If we don’t see progress there is a real risk to our future,” Walsh told delegates. “We will suffer at the hands of politicians who will see us as fair game for opportunistic taxation that will not benefit the environment. We must all work together to get a deal at Copenhagen.”
 
He went on to say the industry was making great advances in technology and “had a great story to tell” on its environmental efforts.
 
“We shouldn’t be ashamed to tell it. But I don’t buy into the industry claim that aviation is ‘just’ two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. To try to trivialize it in this way is the biggest mistake this industry has made. We should acknowledge that two percent is a big figure and we need to be doing everything we can to address it.”
 
British Airways is a partner in the Aviation Global Deal Group, along with Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, Air France – KLM and airport operator BAA, which was launched in February with the aim of finding a practical way that CO2 emissions from international aviation can be tackled in the next global deal on climate change (see story). 
 
IATA, which represents some 230 airlines worldwide, said the aviation industry and governments must bring an aligned global approach on aviation carbon emissions to the Copenhagen conference.
 
“Environmental responsibility is a core promise of aviation, alongside safety and security,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO, in an address to the Aviation & Environment Summit. “But we can only deliver on that promise if governments are aligned with all four pillars of our strategy. Copenhagen will test that alignment, especially on positive economic measures.
 
“I am convinced that we are on the right track with respect to technology, operations and infrastructure [three of the four pillars]. The fourth pillar – positive economic measures – needs our urgent attention. Governments must move beyond punitive economic measures, such as excessive so-called environment taxes, to focus on measures that reduce emissions in a globally coordinated effort. That was the vision of the wise drafters of the Kyoto Protocol. But governments are a long way from achieving it.
 
“As ICAO’s Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) prepares for Copenhagen, three challenges must be met. The first is to marry the unified approach of the Chicago Convention that guides ICAO with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) that is a cornerstone of the UNFCCC process. The second challenge is to preserve the sectoral approach for international aviation that was established by Kyoto. The third is to develop economic measures that are effective in reducing aviation’s emissions. That means replacing the growing patchwork of green taxes, charges and emissions trading proposals with a global system; allocating the funds from that system to environmental projects and treating aviation fairly and in proportion to its two percent contribution to global man-made carbon emissions.”
 
Bisignani said IATA expected a 7.8% drop in global carbon emissions from aviation this year, 6.0% coming from an expected drop in capacity and 1.8% due to technology, operations and infrastructure improvements.
 
John Begin, ICAO’s Chief of the Coordination, Revenue and Communication Office and also serving as GIACC Secretary, briefed delegates on GIACC developments and said it was “a good litmus paper” of what he expected to see at the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen.
 
“We are seeing very firm positions from States that are not yet moving in the direction of consensus,” he said. “I think we are making progress but we have more work to do.”
 
He said the Group was looking at four fundamental ‘products’ as a result of this work:
·         A basket of measures available to States, which has been largely completed and accepted.
·         Global aspirational goals in terms of fuel efficiency of the in-service international fleet, which are non-enforceable and not attributable to individual airlines or States. These goals are in terms of short (to 2012), medium (2020-25) and long (2050) term. There has been a consensus on a short-term 2% improvement per year from now until 2012 but not on the medium or long term goals.
·         A means to measure progress, which Begin says has made a “lot of progress”. He said there were “interesting discussions” as to whether the fuel burn measurement should be based on litres or on mass (kg).
·         Reporting on the progress achieved, in which States report regularly to ICAO as required by Article 67 of the Chicago Convention.
 
On the latter, Begin said some developing countries would find this very difficult as they do not have advanced internal reporting mechanisms. This, he said, showed the conflict between the UNFCCC CBDR principle, under which they would not be required to report, whereas under ICAO principles this would normally be addressed by giving assistance to those states.
 
“Many of you will have read,” he told the delegates, “that if ICAO does not come to Copenhagen with a meaningful programme, UNFCCC will take over this responsibility. I think it is important to note that UNFCCC and ICAO are both agencies of the United Nations with independent mandates on different conventions. We are comprised of States and work by the mandates imposed upon us by those States. Interestingly, we are each comprised of those very same States. So when you talk about UNFCCC versus ICAO, what you are really dealing with are those same 190 States sitting in two different forums dealing with common issues, hopefully coming to a consistent position.”
 
He said there was continuing dialogue and cooperation between the two agencies with attendance by each at the other’s deliberations. “I would characterize it as productive and also focused on a common position in addressing the issue of climate change.”
 
However, he conceded, that unfortunately for ICAO, Article 2.2 complicated its mission in that it was fundamentally different to UNFCCC in its structure. In the case of UNFCCC, there were responsibilities on some States but not necessarily on all, whereas ICAO imposes standards on a universal basis, equally applicable to all 190 States. “So we are in an interesting discussion around the conflict between the principle of CBDR with the principle of equal and fair opportunity as enshrined in ICAO.
 
“The good news is that as we apply that to the concept of aspirational goals, we are finding ways to be able to accommodate both principles. On that basis, I am optimistic that we are going to be able to find a way through the issue and I am confident we will have some significant developments to report at the High Level Meeting in October.”
 
Begin confirmed the fourth and next meeting of GIAAC would be the final one, with the ICAO timetable currently scheduled as follows:
GIACC/4: May 25-27
Drafting of GIACC report: June 1-5
GIACC report distribution (in the six ICAO languages): June 22-26
GIACC report presented to 187th ICAO Council Session: June 29 - July 3
Deadline for working papers to High Level Meeting: August 28
High Level Meeting: October 7-9
 
 
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