EBACE: Panel tackles thorny issue of ICAO emissions-trading road map

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Global agreement on market-based measures (MBMs) to deal with aviation emissions cannot be reached by September when ICAO meets for its triennial Assembly, according to a group of experts addressing an EBACE open session on the subject.

The panel was set the task of answering the question: "Are we heading towards global market-based measures?" They all agreed a global MBMs system was feasible, but were not confident it was reachable, even by the proposed date of 2020.

The most that could be expected at ICAO this year, says head of the European Commission's directorate general for climate action Elina Bardram, is that the Assembly will agree to a "road map" towards establishing some form of MBMs for regulating aviation emissions.

European business aviation operators hoping for an indication of what they need to plan for in the immediate and longer term left still harbouring doubts.

The European emissions trading system (ETS), supposed to have become active in April, has been derogated for a year because of intense opposition from the rest of the world. However, Bardram says it cannot be derogated again.

The European Union, she explains, is committed to the concept of globally approved MBMs. So, if the ICAO Assembly agrees on a road map towards market-based emissions trading, the EU will take it as an indication of intent, enabling it to apply its ETS, if only for intra-EU flights.

However, if the Assembly does not reach any form of agreement, the EU may effectively have to go back to the drawing board with its plans, Bardram says.

Paul Steele, of the Air Transport Action Group and director of IATA's aviation environment division, told the EBACE audience that any scheme not globally agreed would be administratively impossible.

An ETS is not the only option for MBMs, he explains, suggesting that purchasing carbon offsets is the simplest method, and contributing to a global fund is a third alternative, with the offset system the simplest of all. He says he believes an ETS is so complex it could not be set up by the 2020 deadline.