Aviation Industry Claims A First Over Carbon Emissions

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has finally agreed to develop a global market-based measure to reduce harmful aviation emissions. Delegates representing 191 countries agreed the resolution on Friday (October 4), with the scheme set to take effect in 2020. Details of how it will actually work will be decided at the next ICAO assembly, scheduled for 2016.

As well as the uncertainty over how effective such a scheme will be in practice, the future of the European Union’s (EU) own emissions trading scheme was left hazy after last week’s meeting. ICAO did not approve a proposal from the EU to include airlines from outside the regional bloc which use European airspace in the scheme, potentially dealing it a hammer blow.

The EU is thus left to assess its next course of action – but it should be remembered that one of the main reasons the organisation developed its own solution in the first place was because of a lack of progress on a global scheme, so the outcome of the ICAO meeting is certainly not all bad news for the union.

An agreement on a global market-based scheme has been years in the making, so it is no surprise that many industry bodies have used terms such as “landmark” and “historic” to describe the resolution. “Today was a great day for aviation, for the effort against climate change and for global standards and international co-operation,” remarked Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association.

Meanwhile, Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, commented: “The aviation industry has been advocating for such a scheme since we developed the first global industry targets five years ago. We now have agreement on a global scheme and a timeline and the building blocks to deliver it.”

Details still to be decided include the actual design elements of a global market-based measure, including standards for the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions as well as the type of scheme to be implemented.

Although it is easy to be pessimistic about the challenges ahead, perhaps the most important aspect of the global scheme is that aviation becomes the first industry to agree to such an arrangement.

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