Aviation greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since 1990 and are projected to further grow by 3.5 percent annually. The latest report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that aviation is responsible for from two to eight percent of global warming.
Calling for an 'aggressive' plan of action from the new group, ICAO said the options to be considered include voluntary measures, technological advances in both aircraft and ground-based equipment, more efficient operational measures, improvements in air traffic management, positive economic incentives, and market-based measures to achieve reductions in emission of greenhouse gases.Jeffrey Shane, under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation and president of the ICAO assembly, said, 'By agreeing to an aggressive Programme of Action, ICAO has begun a vital new chapter in its long and distinguished history. The level and importance of ICAO's achievement over the years in aviation safety will now be replicated with regard to aviation's impact on climate change.'
The Air Transport Association of America, representing U.S. airlines that transport 90 percent of U.S. passengers and cargo, applauded what they called ICAO's 'adoption of a comprehensive plan for further addressing greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation.'
'ICAO’s action further affirms its leadership on environmental issues involving international aviation,' said ATA chief executive James May. 'ICAO's comprehensive plan will facilitate critical advances in air traffic management, operations, alternative fuels, research and development and other measures designed to reduce fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby bringing further improvements on a global basis.'
But the 42 countries in the European group disagreed. 'In particular, the programme put forward for agreement at this Assembly is unambitious, piecemeal and lacking in credibility on market-based measures (both greenhouse gas emissions charges and emissions trading),' they said in a statement.
Environmentalists said the ICAO position is the opposite of aggressive - they called it a failure.'After 10 years of posturing, this assembly's clear failure sounds the death knell for any ICAO role in environmental protection,' said Dr. Werner Reh, aviation expert for Friends of the Earth Germany. 'ICAO chooses to ignore the very significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions by airlines and the clear need for taxes, emission charges or emission trading schemes.'
At the 2004 assembly, ICAO dismissed the idea of establishing a global emission trading scheme for aviation, but endorsed the inclusion of aviation in existing emission trading schemes. Now, the assembly has rejected that approach.
ICAO Secretary-General Dr. Taieb Charif told a conference in mid-September, 'The question of emissions-related levies probably the most contentious subject to be discussed at an assembly in many years.'
At last week's assembly, the ICAO delegates were faced with a proposal by the European Union to integrate aviation into its existing greenhouse gas emissions trading system.
In the end, the delegates could not agree to require greenhouse gas emissions trading.
he assembly passed a resolution that says the 190 ICAO member governments should sign separate agreements with all other countries operating in their airspace before applying emissions trading to their carriers.
The EU says it will press ahead with its plans to integrate aviation into its emissions trading system and made a 'reservation' against the ICAO resolution, signaling that they would ignore it on legal grounds.Friends of the Earth supported the European Union plan and was disappointed in the outcome. 'The 'Coalition of the Unwilling' was led by the United States, which has never agreed to [the] Kyoto [Protocol], joined by Canada which is not complying with its own domestic law for Kyoto. China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil joined in blocking the EU efforts,' the environmental group said.
'ICAO's buckling to the U.S. insistence on 'mutual agreement by third parties' before the EU emissions trading scheme can be applied is the latest in a decade of stalling and denial,' said Dr. Reh.
'The EU has taken a leadership stance in pressing ahead to integrate aviation into its emission trading system. Its decision to make a 'reservation' against the ICAO resolution signals the end for ICAO role on the environment,' Reh said..
'Effectively, the EU will ignore the resolution on 'market-based measures' on legal grounds that it undercuts the effectiveness of the EU battle against aviation effects on climate change,' he said.
'We can no longer tolerate ICAO's position that aviation is a sacred cow allowing it to ignore climate impacts,' says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada.
'Canada's alignment with the U.S. on voluntary measures for aviation is yet more evidence of Canada's made-in-the-USA game plan for climate inaction,' Olivastri said, needling fellow Canadians on the sensitive issue of following the United States instead of creating its own made-in-Canada agenda.'Just like every other enterprise in the world, airlines must make significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions,' Olivastri said. 'If their own governance agency fails to lead in this respect, it's time to find other mandatory means.'
Under the terms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, ICAO was tasked with responsibility for reducing emissions from international aviation by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.
In a written statement of reservation, the member states of the European Community and the other states members of the European Civil Aviation Conference, ECAC, said, 'Regrettably, it has become clear to us at this 36th Assembly that, ten years after having been requested by the UNFCCC to take action to limit or reduce emissions, it has not been possible for ICAO to agree on essential elements of this comprehensive approach.
'Europe believes that the carbon market is the most promising avenue for mobilizing resources on the scale necessary to take effective action on climate change. Thus the forty-two States of the European Community and ECAC consider that market-based measures are an essential tool for addressing the climate impact of aviation.'
The European statement expressed resolve to go forward with a comprehensive approach to reducing aviation emissions and contribute effectively to the international response to addressing climate change.
Europe said it remains convinced that the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme would be 'fully consistent with its international obligations, in particular the key principles of sovereignty and non-discrimination. Europe intends to pursue these policies and adhere to these principles.'
'Whilst Europe is committed to multilateral action to address the effects of aviation emissions, mutual agreement is not a pre-condition for the implementation of market-based measures,' said the European group.
The U.S. group disagreed. May said, 'The European States have indicated their intent to unilaterally impose such measures on the airlines from other countries, contrary to the will of every other country in the world and contrary to international law. If they persist, there will no doubt be a legal battle.'