IATA pushes for emissions deal

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IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani is urging industry and governments to "sell our position" ahead of December's key Copenhagen climate conference after ICAO agreed its position to tackle aviation emissions.

He believes the "door is open to the global sectoral approach" to tackling aviation's emissions following ICAO's declaration. It comes as industrybodies have pushed for a global approach to avert unilateral action, most evident in Europe's move to bring aviation into its emissions trading scheme from 2012.

IATA teamed with other aviation industry bodies to press for ICAO to lead a common position on the issue at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. This meeting will set greenhouse gas emissions targets to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The industry proposed a commitment to improve CO2 efficiency by an average of 1.5% annually to 2020; carbon neutral growth thereafter and for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

While ICAO's declaration affirmed its commitment to address the issue and targeted a more aggressive 2% cut in average fuel efficiency until 2020, this is followed by an "aspirational" annual fuel efficiency improvement of 2% thereafter to 2050.

IATA says meeting the deeper shorter-term targets will be contingent on governments modernising ATC systems and supporting the aviation biofuels sector. "We can get to 2% but need help to do it," says IATA assistant director, aviation environment, Quentin Browell, noting it is on track for a 1.8% cut this year.

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Overall, Bisignani says he is pleased with ICAO's declaration even though it does not include carbon neutral growth or emissions reduction goals, leaving the industry in the unusual position of having set tougher long-term targets than its regulator.

He says ICAO made "solid progress" given the division in the assembly early in the high level meeting which prompted fears agreement might not be reached. Particularly key is balancing the climate change responsibilities of developing nations versus developed countries. IATA though points to the precedent of the way ICAO implemented global aircraft noise targets.

"We cannot be naive. The politics of climate change are enormously complicated. We saw this at ICAO," says Bisignani, citing the differences that almost derailed the meeting. "The stakes at Copenhagen are even higher."

Europe meanwhile has moved closer to finalising its position for Copenhagen. EU ministers will finalise their stance at the end of October but for 2020 propose global reductions for aviation at -10% compared to 2005.

Browell says a lot in the EC position is in line with what IATA is arguing for, including recognition of the ICAO leadership role. But while full details of the EU position remain limited, the 10%figureis at odds with ICAO's position. "We have worked out how we will get to our figure," he says. "[But] 10% seems to be plucked out of the air and does not look realistic."Ulrich Schulte -Strathaus, head of the Association of European Airlines, notes the EU proposal goes further than ICAO in the short-term, but falls short of airlines' long-term goals. "So the pre-Copenhagen positioning of the various parties leaves aviation somewhat adrift in the middle," he says.

Click here for more on IATA and its aim to take a lead on aviation emissions