ICAO confident that deal on climate change will be reached

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The ICAO council is confident that an agreement on a global solution to address carbon emissions growth in the aviation industry will be reached at its general assembly these two weeks, hitting back at widespread cynicism that a deal would be forged.

The council, made up of 36 states elected by the assembly, must have its decisions approved by a majority of the assembly's members. It will put forth a draft resolution to be voted on at the 38th ICAO general assembly, which opened today in Montreal, outlining steps that member states should take towards the goal of carbon neutral growth in the aviation industry by 2020.

"I am confident that the states will reach an agreement," says ICAO council president Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez in a press briefing after the assembly opened. If the resolution is approved, the ICAO council will work on the details of a final agreement that can be formally adopted at the next assembly in 2016 before implementation from 2020.

"The council, I can assure you, will work very hard in order to present to the assembly all the elements they need to make a decision," Kobeh adds.

IATA, along with other aviation industry groups such as Airports Council International, is in favour of a global market-based measure involving mandatory carbon-offsetting. In such a measure, airlines would buy credits on the open market to make up for growth in their emissions.

Kobeh hits back at suggestions that it would be difficult for ICAO's 191 member states to agree to a roadmap to address climate change at the assembly, which closes 4 October. Observers say they do not expect a deal to be finalised until the later days of the assembly.

"I don't want to give the impression we haven't been doing anything on climate change," says Kobeh. "We've been working on this for a long, long time."

The urgency for ICAO member states to agree on a resolution to address carbon emissions growth is expected to dominate talks at the assembly, as the European Commission has warned it would revive plans to include aviation in its controversial emissions trading system (ETS) if the assembly fails to reach a consensus these two weeks.

In November 2012, the European Commission "stopped the clock" on implementing the ETS among airlines, after the ICAO council agreed to set up a high-level policy group to look at a global market-based measure to reduce carbon emissions. The European Commission said then it would hold off for a year "as a gesture of good faith". Before it stopped the clock, the first payments from airlines which exceed their carbon emission allowances under the EU ETS would have been due in April 2013.

Kobeh stresses today that there is a "basket of measures" that can be used to address growing carbon emissions in the aviation industry. "I don't want to give the impression that it's [a market-based measure} is the only area we have to work with," he says, pointing out that new technology and alternative fuels also contribute in reducing carbon emissions. However, he acknowledges that getting member states to agree to a market-based measure would be more difficult.

Aviation accounts for about 2% of man-made carbon emissions worldwide.