Airlines bullish on ICAO framework following Copenhagen

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ICAO plans to move forward with its own global framework to manage aviation emissions after the Copenhagen climate change summit concluded with a non-binding accord that does not address aviation.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Copenhagen earlier this month to deliberate on plans for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto Protocol, and are not currently managed under any international climate change treaty.

"The fact that the accord doesn't speak to aviation is probably a good thing. ICAO can continue work without some conflicting or vague instructions from a political document like this," Air Transport Association of America (ATA) VP of environmental affairs Nancy Young says.

She adds if there had been a strong sense at Copenhagen that ICAO was not doing its job, the UNFCCC would have addressed that concern.

ICAO presented the UNFCCC with the goals established during its high level meeting in October. The organisation's member states should work together to achieve a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2% through 2020, followed by an aspirational goal of a further yearly 2% average improvement between 2021 and 2050.

The ICAO Assembly will consider these goals in fall 2010 as it reviews environmental policies and programmes in advance of the next UNFCC summit scheduled for December 2010 in Mexico.

Ideally, next year the UNFCCC will acknowledge and recognize what the ICAO fleshes out during its next assembly, Young says.

ICAO in a statement says it fully recognises the complexity of the climate change challenge. "We are convinced that the current ICAO process is best suited to achieving the goals we have set for ourselves," says ICAO Council president Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez.

While ICAO and the UNFCCC prepare for their next climate change deliberations, the US continues to mull a domestic emissions policy.

The Senate has yet to agree on cap and trade legislation while the House passed a cap and trade bill this summer.

"I think you're seeing the different folks on the Hill read the outcome of Copenhagen according to what they'd like to see in the US," Young says.

Some in Congress suggest Copenhagen concluded with principles instead of targets because US climate change policy is unsettled, therefore the US needs to pass a domestic strategy before the next UNFCCC meeting, she explains. Others suggest the US should not rush into domestic legislation because international targets were not achieved in Copenhagen, Young adds.

Young anticipates climate change legislation will remain on the Senate's radar next year despite the 2010 election season.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he will push for climate change discussions in May or June given the current focus on healthcare and financial reform, says Young. However, she warns if the Senate does not pass climate change legislation by early summer, it may be difficult to achieve later in 2010 due to the election season.