EU to press ahead with ETS despite ICAO global emissions framework

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This story is sourced from Flight International
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The International Civil Aviation Organisation's success at securing a global framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation has done little to thaw European Union-US relations over the EU's plan to include the sector in its emissions trading scheme from 2012.

Under the framework, reached during ICAO's 37th Assembly in Montreal, its 190 member states signed up to a global goal of improving fuel efficiency by 2% a year until 2050. Member states also agreed to collectively strive to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020, and to put together a global carbon dioxide certification standard for aircraft engines by 2013.

The resolution also calls for the development of a global framework to manage market-based measures, such as emissions trading schemes. A feasibility study will be carried out to determine how to create this framework, which will include 15 agreed principles for member states to use when designing and implementing market-based measures. The resulting framework will be reviewed at ICAO's 38th assembly in 2013.

But the possibility of creating a global ETS has not led the European Commission to back down on its plan to include international aviation in its own ETS from 2012, much to the dismay of the Air Transport Association of America. Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action, says the ICAO resolution "is a good basis for proceeding swiftly" with the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS.

The EU's transport division says its ETS is consistent with the 15 principles agreed in the ICAO resolution, adding: "Crucially, ICAO has refrained from language which would make the application of the EU's ETS to their airlines dependent on the mutual agreement of other states." ATA chief executive James May takes a different view, saying that the EU's plan to "unilaterally impose" its ETS on airlines from other countries is "contrary to the will of all other states and contrary to international law".

While the ATA had hoped that an ICAO agreement would "obviate the need for our legal challenge to the application of the EU ETS to our airlines, the EU's resolve to ignore international law and key aspects of the new ICAO assembly resolution only strengthens our resolve to fight in favour of them", says May.

The ICAO agreement also includes mechanisms for transferring technology to developing states and for assisting states to meet their targets. Exemptions from the market-based measures framework will be offered to states with "very low emissions due to their small traffic base".

There had been concerns that developing countries, which represent a large portion of ICAO's member states, would be reluctant to sign up to a global emissions reduction plan. ICAO admits that the "historic" agreement was adopted "with some states expressing reservations". States are required by the agreement to submit to ICAO their action plans for achieving the agreed targets.

The resolution will be presented at the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Mexico in December.

IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani, who had been leading the charge in pressuring ICAO to deliver a comprehensive set of regulations governing aviation emissions, describes the resolution "a good first step that prepares the way for future achievements".

He adds: "No other industry sector has a similar, globally agreed framework for managing its response to climate change in a manner that takes into consideration the needs of both developed and developing states."