A Brussels air transport chief has rounded on critics who accuse global rule-setting body the International Civil Aviation Organisation of failing to deliver a sufficiently ambitious blueprint to curb aviation's impact on the environment.
Daniel Calleja Crespo, director of air transport at the European Commission, said at the recent ACI-Europe annual assembly in Manchester that ICAO's Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) had come up with a workable framework that could offer the way forward to developing a global agreement with more ambitious aims.
GIACC recommended a technology-led aspirational goal of 2% annual improvement in fuel efficiency of the in-service fleet, but stopped short of recommending a way forward on market-based measures such as emissions trading across national borders, saying that further work was needed to develop a framework for action.
Environmentalists were unimpressed. Tim Johnson from the Aviation and Environment Federation admitted to huge disappointment that GIACC could not find any consensus on what should have been the cornerstone of any climate strategy: "a base year for measurement, a target for reduction in absolute terms and the identification of global mitigation measures".
Even so, Calleja hinted that Europe's controversial go-it-alone stance on market-based measures - forcing international aviation to start carbon trading from 2012 - could possibly be adapted to fit within a future international multilateral agreement with start dates and hypothecation issues up for discussion.
"Europe is also ready to recognise equivalent systems from third countries to avoid any overlapping," he said, pointing out that talks on this have already begun between Brussels and Australia and New Zealand.
"We have also been very interested in recent moves on establishing cap and trade systems in the USA," he said, referring to the proposed Waxman-Markey legislation that would cover aviation.
"Some people think GIACC has been highly unambitious and has failed, but actually the Commission disagrees. There is now a framework with which we can work on global aspirational goals and the possibility of more ambitious goals that would allow carbon neutral growth by 2020 and a basket of measures to assist states, which could include a process for developing a global framework for market-based measures," he said.
"The major challenge will be how to resolve UNFCCC principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and ICAO's non-discrimination rules," he said, adding that he thought a legal challenge to the inclusion of foreign carriers into the European Union Emission Trading Scheme doubtful, although likely to arise in the latest round of open skies talks with the USA.