Bisignani remains optimistic ICAO can deliver global GHG scheme for aviation

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IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani is continuing his campaign for ICAO to emerge from its 37th Assembly that began on 28 September with a global structure for the management of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from international aviation.

Underpinning Bisignani's optimism is the resolution that ICAO is the right venue for the development of a global management scheme for emissions after some developing nations during the 2007 36th Assembly declared the organisation was not the appropriate body to create the industry guidelines.

He's also encouraged that ICAO in its draft resolution on climate change will allow developing countries more time to comply with emissions guidelines, similar to how the organisation handled the development of noise standards ten years ago.

"With those two pillars cleared, industry can now find a common position," said Bisignani before the opening session of the Assembly.

Despite his optimism Bisignani does recognise some developing countries "may still have some concerns", and their positions will be known at the Assembly. During a recent interview with ATI Secretary General of ICAO Raymond Benjamin said a large number of ICAO's member states are developing countries, and some of those entities "can be very forceful".

Benjamin says ICAO's draft resolution will also include a di minimis clause that would exempt states with traffic below certain levels from complying with requirements of the emissions programme.

Bisignani stresses ICAO needs to deliver its emissions management programme before 2012 when aviation is scheduled for inclusion in the European Union's emissions trading scheme.

IATA's chief believes if ICAO fails to deliver a greenhouse gas management programme before that time that establishes global framework for emissions trading, "it will be devastating for the industry".

He predicts other regions will follow suit, creating a patchwork of uncoordinated emissions trading regulations hitting the aviation industry just as it returns to profitability. Although IATA has increased its 2010 industry profit forecast from $2.9 billion to $8.9 billion, Bisignani says the 1.6% margin is "peanuts", and explains 7%-8% margins are required just to cover the cost of capital.

ICAO's member states during a meeting dedicated to climate change in October 2009 agreed to a 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement to 2050, a goal of establishing a CO2 certification standard for aircraft engines, developing a framework for market based measures and committing to aid developing states access financial resources and benefit from technology transfer.

Since then ICAO has indicated a desire to raise fuel efficiency targets beyond the 2% goal set in October. Benjamin says that discussions to move beyond those goals have been challenging.

Despite those challenges, pressure continues to intensify on ICAO to deliver a comprehensive emissions management scheme.

Speaking during the opening session of the ICAO Assembly Canada's Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Chuck Strahl said he's aware more ambitious goals may not be feasible and accommodate aviation growth, particularly in the developing world.

Strahl also recognises that as ICAO's member states "make their own decisions with respect to market-based measures, such a piecemeal approach will be difficult for the industry".

But in order for the aviation industry forge ahead in managing its effects on climate change Stral stresses: "These concerns must be overcome in this Assembly."