Delegates from 191 countries meet in Montreal next week for the 38th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly. Ahead of the meeting, representatives of the global air transport industry, covering airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, aerospace manufacturers and business aviation, issued a strong call for action by governments to support the industry's efforts in reducing the climate impact of the sector.
"The ICAO Assembly is a real opportunity to demonstrate progress in tackling aviation CO2 emissions," said Paul Steele, executive director of the industry-wide Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), speaking on behalf of the industry. "While the industry continues to make significant progress in reducing its emissions through technological, operational and infrastructure improvement, we can only do so much. Governments now need to play their part by agreeing a package of actions, including a global market-based measure, to help reduce emissions even further. We strongly urge governments meeting at ICAO to use the next two weeks to settle differences and show climate change leadership."
In 2008, the aviation industry, through the Airports Council International (ACI), Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the aircraft and engine manufacturers became the first in the world to agree a comprehensive approach for reducing its emissions. It is based on the ‘four-pillar strategy' of technology, operations, infrastructure and a global market-based measure. Aviation was also the first sector in the world to agree an aggressive set of global emissions-reduction targets, which include the stabilisation of net CO2 emissions from 2020 (known as ‘carbon-neutral growth') and the halving of CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.
"For the last five years, the industry has been actively pursuing this strategy. This is now accepted by many as the most appropriate solution for dealing with aviation's 2% contribution to the world's CO2 emissions. However, the response by governments around the world has been fragmented, with different approaches to applying taxes, emissions trading and other market-based measures, which are ineffective and have even lead to the brink of a trade war. In order that the target of carbon-neutral growth can be achieved, we need a global market-based measure, developed through ICAO in a multilateral process and agreed by the next Assembly in 2016. This will ensure that all parties can be treated equitably and that market distortion can be avoided."
The aviation industry, co-ordinated through ATAG, has submitted a working paper to the Assembly from the global associations ACI, CANSO, IATA, the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and the International Coordinating Council for Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA). At the beginning of September, the ICAO Council forwarded a draft resolution text for consideration by governments meeting at the ICAO Assembly.Steele commented: "We are encouraged that this draft resolution could provide a meaningful way forward for discussions and clearly supports the need for a global market-based measure. The governments meeting at ICAO need to remain focused on moving this global scheme forward. It will ensure environmental integrity because all emissions from the sector will be covered. To get further sidelined by national and regional approaches, which will result in a patchwork of measures around the world, would not be the smart solution. It would be bad for the industry, complicated for governments, and not deliver the environmental benefits required. A global industry needs a global approach.
"It should not be ignored how significant it is for a global industry to be asking to be regulated in this way. From the start, we have taken a pragmatic and responsible approach, understanding political realities. Now it is time for governments around the world to work with us and with civil society to achieve this goal."
In supporting the industry-wide position, IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler said: "We will be looking to states to make decisions that will enable the industry to meet its ambitious commitment to stabilise its emissions from 2020 via carbon-neutral growth. It is important that governments keep firmly focused on reaching agreement on a global solution. Environment is a global challenge. Aviation is a global industry. And we need a global way forward. National or regional schemes are politically charged distractions and we must not allow such discussions to get in the way of important progress that needs to be made."
ACI director general Angela Gittens said: "Airports understand their responsibility to protect and conserve the environment while ensuring they can meet future capacity demands of their regions. Airports are built and operated for the long term, so sustainability is at the core of our business. We know that our viability depends on achieving economic vitality, creating social value and attaining sound environmental stewardship. For the global air transport industry to achieve further reductions in CO2 emissions, we need governments around the world to play their part by reaching agreement on a global market-based measure at ICAO."
CANSO director general Jeff Poole said: "The air traffic management industry has already made significant progress in reducing aviation emissions through real operational performance measures. These include: shorter routes; techniques such as continuous climb and continuous descent operations; and more efficient routing through performance-based navigation and other measures. We strongly urge states to now play their role in reducing aviation emissions further by breaking down barriers to seamless and harmonised airspace globally and by adopting a global market-based measure."
Chair of ICCAIA Jan Pie, the secretary general of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, said: "Manufacturers are confident that, with the constant evolution of our high-technology products, in co-ordination with operational and infrastructure improvements, we can make significant steps towards achieving our emissions targets. An ICAO-sanctioned global mechanism in 2016 will cement such a plan and allow for the necessary growth of our dynamic, global industry."
IBAC director general Kurt Edwards said: "Business aviation committed to mitigating its climate change impact in 2009 through the four-pillar strategy. We urge all governments at the Assembly to advance comprehensive efforts on technological, operational and infrastructure improvements, and to take forward-leaning action towards a global market-based measure that is administratively simple, non-discriminatory and appropriate for all operators."
* The ICAO Assembly is the organisation's sovereign body. It meets at least once every three years and is convened by ICAO's governing body, the Council. ICAO's 191 member states and a large number of international organisations are invited to the Assembly, which establishes the worldwide policy of the organisation for the upcoming triennium.
* The topic of aviation and climate change is just one of the many policy areas that will be discussed by member states, including areas of safety, security, economics, passenger rights and global air navigation. It is likely that the issue of climate change will be the most closely-watched and controversial of this Assembly.
* The industry's working paper on climate change for the 38th ICAO Assembly, submitted by ACI, CANSO, IATA, IBAC and ICCAIA and co-ordinated through ATAG, is available (in English) at http://tinyurl.com/p4z3swa.
* The commitment to carbon-neutral growth, signed in 2008 by industry leaders, is available (in English) at http://tinyurl.com/nzhffxw.
* The 2012 declaration, Towards Sustainable Aviation, signed by industry leaders ahead of the Rio+20 Summit and reiterating the industry targets, can be found (in English) at http://tinyurl.com/ok6kxc6.
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