Bisignani calls for government investment to meet ICAO climate change goals

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The airline industry's ability to meet ICAO's fuel efficiency targets will be contingent upon governments modernizing air traffic management systems and supporting the burgeoning aviation biofuels sector, IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says.

Participants in ICAO's high level climate change meeting on 9 October affirmed that ICAO is the appropriate forum to address aviation's contribution to climate change and declared that states should work together to achieve a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2% through 2020. This would be followed by an aspirational goal of a further average annual 2% improvement between 2021 and 2050.

The target is higher than the goal IATA submitted to ICAO-fuel efficiency improvement of roughly 1.5% annually to 2020, and then stabilise emissions from that point on through carbon-neutral growth.

The industry's climate change goals are challenging and technically feasible but government action is needed to close the .5% gap with ICAO's declaration, Bisignani said to reporters on 10 October, noting that pioneers in the emerging aviation biofuel industry will need government incentives to commercial production.

Overall, Bisignani says he is pleased with ICAO's declaration even though it does not include carbon neutral growth or emissions reduction goals while IATA also proposed airlines halve their emissions by 2050.

The ICAO Assembly made "solid progress" given the division in the assembly early in the high level meeting, he says.

"We were in a difficult moment Thursday. [There was a] risk of no agreement," Bisignani adds.

One area of disagreement wasthe responsibility of developing nations versus developed countries in a global approach to climate change, Bisignani says.

Ultimately, ICAO concluded that it will account for the needs of developing nations and the industry's collective commitments when it considers the possibility of more ambitious goals, including carbon neutral growth and emissions reductions, by its next assembly in fall 2010.

In addition, ICAO will establish a process to develop a framework for economic measures and will promote the development and use of sustainable biofuels.

On top of the declaration, the high level meeting concluded with several recommendations for the ICAO council including that it seek to develop a global carbon dioxide (CO2) standard for new aircraft types.

The ICAO declaration will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will set general greenhouse gas emissions targets in Copenhagen this December that will take effect after 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.

In the meantime, Bisignani will present the aviation industry's climate change strategy to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today.