IATA says it is encouraged by the first high-level meeting being held in Montreal this week as part of the ICAO process aimed at developing a global solution to tackle aviation emissions.
The ICAO council in November agreed to form the high-level group to discuss policy issues while investigating market-based mechanisms to tackle aviation emissions - a move which helped pave the way for the European Commission to suspend its inclusion of intercontinental flights in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). That lifted the immediate threat of a trade war, which had been brewing over global opposition to the implementation of the unilateral scheme.
"This is something that we as an industry, and a number of states around the world, were putting on pressure on the EU to step back from," says IATA's director of aviation, Paul Steele. He says this was needed to provide the necessary breathing space to allow for a global solution to be reached through ICAO.
Steele was speaking during IATA'a annual media day via video link from Montreal, where ICAO is holding the first meeting of the high-level group. It is looking into the policy issues arising from ICAO's research into possible market-based mechanisms, with a view to establishing a common framework for such schemes.
"There is a group of countries that are taking a look at the fundamental policy questions that arise," says Steele. "There are some very high-level people here in Montreal who are actively exploring this."
ICAO has now narrowed to three the number of market-based measures it is considering as part of its research. This includes a basic offset scheme; an offset scheme that would include an additional revenue element; and global emissions trading schemes.
ICAO is mandated to deliver its research for its next assembly in September, and Steele says he is under no illusions about the size of the task. "It's extremely difficult. It's a real political challenge. We have a microcosm of the broader climate change issues," he says, but adds: "I think there is a real will to move this forwards."
Steele continues: "I am optimistic, but realistic, that ICAO will make progress, but it will be slow, it will be painful. ICAO has made an enormous amount of progress over the last few months. The fact we have three proposals, that we have identified the political issues, it's enormous progress."
The IATA director insists there is no complacency in efforts to reach an ICAO solution now that pressure from Europe - in the form of the ETS - has been lifted. "It is very easy to be against something, but much more difficult to be clear about what they are for. But these discussions aren't happening just because of ETS," he says. "I don't sense people are saying we don't have to do anything. There is a strong desire to move this forward."