Aviation industry welcomes ICAO agreement on measures to reduce international aviation's climate change impact
(Photo: Aéroports de Montréal)
Tue 12 Oct 2010 – Organizations representing airlines, airports and air navigation services have described the agreement reached by ICAO states on measures to control and reduce international aviation emissions as a welcome first step. IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani called it “an historic decision” that prepared the way for future achievements. He said no other industry sector had a similar globally agreed framework for managing its response to climate change in a manner that took into account the needs of both developed and developing countries. Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI, said ICAO had opened its doors to industry and the exchange of information and proposals had contributed to a globally harmonized agreement. Although welcoming the agreement, CANSO’s Graham Lake warned industry’s efforts to cut emissions faster and further required government support. The Air Transport Association of America was also pleased with the outcome but expressed dismay over the EU’s refusal to accept a mutual agreement proposal on market-based measures such as emissions trading schemes.
Bisignani said the ICAO Assembly resolution passed on Friday by its 190 contracting states marked the first time that global aspirational goals to stabilize emissions had been agreed, and marked a significant step in support of the industry’s ambitions.
Last year, and later backed by the industry as a whole, IATA committed to a short-term 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020, capping net emissions with carbon-neutral growth (CNG) from 2020 and cutting net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005. The ICAO agreement calls for a 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement and an aspirational goal of CNG from 2020.
Addressing the gap in the industry short-term commitment with that of ICAO’s, Bisignani commented: “We are confident that achieving a 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency is possible with efforts of the industry. The 2% ICAO goal means that governments must come to the table with much needed infrastructure improvements such as the Single European Sky or NextGen in the US.”
He said the guiding principles on market-based measures contained in the ICAO agreement had implications for governments with, or seeking to implement, environmental schemes or taxes.
“In light of this agreement, all states should review any economic measures, planned or implemented, to conform to today’s agreed principles. The only effective long-term solution remains a global approach, which states agreed to work towards under ICAO’s leadership,” said Bisignani.
“We must recognize that a long journey still lies ahead. Industry’s ambitious targets are still ahead of governments. Our commitment to cut emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005 remains the global benchmark. The entire aviation industry is committed to working under the leadership of ICAO as we move forward to achieve both the aspirations outlined in today’s agreement and the industry’s targets. We will take this strong message to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun later this year.”
Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines (AEA), praised EU negotiators on the agreement. “Thanks to the leadership of Vice President Siim Kallas, political consensus was achieved with all 190 contracting UN governments,” he said. “Although this political agreement is a far cry from a global sectoral approach we advocate, it opens the door to further sorely needed constructive inter-governmental negotiations.”
Schulte-Strathaus added that the global aviation community had subscribed to a comprehensive emissions containment policy with measures to decouple growth of traffic from growth of emissions. “Contrary to the belief of some, there will not be a 300% growth of airline emissions by 2050. The airlines’ CO2 emissions will have been halved relative to their 2005 levels by 2050.
“We urge the European Commission to pursue the successful path of international negotiations on a workable regulatory scheme, and to avoid a single focus on punitive economic instruments and adopt a parallel approach to stimulate innovation. One cannot tax an industry to sustainability. Innovation is key.”
Representing the US airlines, Air Transport Association (ATA) President and CEO James May said ICAO had set aggressive, forward-looking goals for aviation CO2 emissions and with key principles in an international framework that affirmed ICAO’s leadership on international aviation environment issues.
“While meeting these goals will be challenging, we are especially pleased that the ICAO states recognized the importance of industry and government work on airframe and aircraft engine breakthroughs, the development and deployment of sustainable alternative aviation fuels, modernization of the air traffic control systems and other operational and infrastructure improvements as the core measures for continuing to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
May welcomed the adoption by ICAO of guiding principles on market-based measures (MBMs). “While many of the principles are a matter of common sense, for example stating that MBMs should not be duplicative and should be ‘cost-effective’ and ‘minimize market distortions’, it has become clear that ICAO must be overt about them.
“ATA and its member carriers have been greatly concerned about measures such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the proliferation of emissions levies in the United Kingdom, Germany and elsewhere that run afoul of these principles.”
The ATA expressed deep disappointment in what it described as the decision by the European states to ‘reserve’, or oppose, on the aspects of the ICAO Assembly resolution that countries may impose emissions trading or other MBMs on the airlines of other countries only through agreement and in accordance with treaty requirements and ICAO principles.
“Unfortunately, despite the tremendous step forward in cementing the international framework, the European states indicated their intent to continue to unilaterally impose their ETS and other measures on airlines from other countries, contrary to the will of all other states and contrary to international law,” said May. “We had hoped that an agreement at ICAO would obviate the need for our legal challenge to the application of the EU ETS to our airlines; the European’s resolve to ignore international law and key aspects of the new ICAO Assembly resolution only strengthens our resolve to fight in favour of them.”
On behalf of the world’s airports, Angela Gittens, Director General of the Airports Council International (ACI), said there were some remaining questions to be addressed in the future but commended states’ acceptance over the need for a shared global vision and common goals, as well as a willingness to move ahead on the agreed positions in the resolution.
“Airports, airlines, air navigation system providers and aviation manufacturers have been working together for five years now to establish a global sectoral approach and common targets,” she added. “We have invested in developing a stronger dialogue between ICAO and industry representatives. ICAO has opened its doors to these industry contributions, and it is gratifying to see that this exchange of information and proposals has enabled us to contribute meaningfully to a globally harmonized agreement for addressing CO2 emissions.”
Graham Lake, Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), called the agreement a welcome first step and an historic moment for global aviation. “However,” he warned, “the air traffic management sector in particular requires more government assistance if it is to achieve these ambitious targets. Greater political will is needed to help break down the institutional barriers to better civil-military cooperation, more flexible use of airspace, and better airspace design and management. In particular, transport and defence departments need to work together more closely to improve route efficiency. In other words, our message to world governments is: help us to help you deliver the emissions reductions we all want to see.”