Global aviation under pressure to deliver climate deal

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A group of four airlines worried that high-level climate change talks will end without any credible global deal have formed a new pressure group to speed progress by the world's airlines.

The new industry coalition, the Aviation Global Deal Group, brings together Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic and UK airport operator BAA under the umbrella of environmental lobby group The Climate Group.

At its first meeting in Hong Kong, the group called for a "pragmatic, fair and effective global policy solution for the sector", in what it says is a contribution to top-level year-end climate change negotiations.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation, which represents 190 signatory states around the world, has been criticised for not acting swiftly or decisively as aviation comes under severe environmental scrutiny.

Emissions from international aviation were not included in the original Kyoto Protocol commitments and are not managed under any international climate change treaty.

ICAO's specially formed 15-member Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) was tasked with making recommendations by the middle of this year on an agreed strategy to reduce aviation emissions that ICAO can propose at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in December.

But its activities have been marked by Europe's insistence that if it does not move to introduce globally accepted measures, international aviation risks the serious consequence of being effectively overridden by international moves to hammer out a strengthened deal on climate change.

The Aviation Global Deal Group is calling for carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation to be included in a new global climate deal and that it must:

- Offer genuine environmental benefits.

- Be operationally and economically sound.

- Maintain competitiveness between airlines and avoid market distortions.

- Reflect the UN climate change principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" between countries with different levels of development.

- Balance the social and economic benefits of flying with the industry's responsibility to cut global emissions and play its part in meeting tough climate change targets.

- Reflect the work of GIACC and the International Air Transport Association's strategy for reducing emissions.

Tony Tyler, chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways, says: "Aviation has a key part to play in reducing global emissions and for too long has been seen as part of the climate problem rather than part of the solution. We hope the work of our group will offer a practical industry-led solution that creates a level playing field and appeal to policy-makers, environmental groups and businesses alike."

However, Nancy LoBue, the US Federal Aviation Administration's deputy assistant administrator for the environment as well as the USA's formal representative to GIACC, says: "A lot of progress has been made on moving forward. We are still hopeful this process will play out."

LoBue says she is concerned by efforts to fold aviation into the UNFCCC and out of ICAO control: "The ICAO process predates the issue of climate change and there is a lot of goodwill at ICAO to resolve the issue. I would hate to see it undermined," she says, adding that the US position is that the UNFCCC and ICAO are two different legal frameworks.