Management at Continental Airlines is hopeful governments will take action against the European Union's emissions trading scheme, but in the mean time the carrier and its counterparts are preparing to handle the requirements of the new regulation.
The European Union's plan to expand ETS to include aviation from 2012 has ignited controversy since it will cover all carriers operating flights to the EU.
During a recent analysts call Continental president Jeff Smisek explained the hope is one or more governments will sue to prevent the enactment of the ETS, "because clearly it is illegal from an extraterritorial perspective". But as the EU progresses to include aviation in ETS, Smisek explains carriers are preparing to handle the new regulations.
VP of environmental affairs for the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) Nancy Young has recently said she expects the US will wait to move on any possible legal action on ETS until after the UN's much-anticipated climate change conference next month Copenhagen. The meeting's purpose is to establish greenhouse gas emissions targets to take effect once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Smisek stresses that aviation is both a global and mobile industry, and having regional regulations related to carbon emissions doesn't work well. "Since our assets flow across the globe, we need to be regulated in a consistent fashion across the globe for carbon emissions, and ICAO is the right place to go".
During ICAO's high level climate change meeting on 9 October it was affirmed that the organization is the appropriate forum to address aviation's contribution to climate change. ICAO is encouraging member states to work towards a 2% improvement in fuel efficiency through 2020. IATA submitted a goal to ICAO of a 1.5% annual improvement to 2020.
Continental CEO Larry Kellner says the industry plans to work hard to encourage crafters of emission trading schemes to understand "it is not a case of airlines not wanting to do their part, it is a case of we need a global answer". Kellner points to noise standards governed by ICAO that work well on a global basis. "I think that's a great example of the fact that we can make progress, but we need to do it with a consistent global framework."