ICAO council makes progress on global emissions

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A resolution being prepared by the 36-member council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation makes progress on controversial efforts to curb the aviation industry's carbon dioxide emissions, says the US ambassador to the organisation.

"Despite what you may hear or read from various pundits from time to time, I can assure you that the ICAO council is still very confident it will produce a progressive resolution for the coming [assembly's] consideration, covering the complete basket of measures to mitigate international aviation emissions," Duane Woerth, US representative to ICAO, said on 16 May at a luncheon hosted by the International Aviation Club of Washington, DC.

Woerth declined to provide details about the resolution, but says "it will recognise progress on all issues."

But the topic of emissions will account for just a few paragraphs in a roughly 15-page resolution, which will discuss other environmental protection and sustainable development issues, he says.

The council, of which the USA is a member, will present the resolution at ICAO's triennial assembly, which begins 24 September.

Resolutions guide ICAO's development of global aviation standards. The standards are not binding; they must be turned into laws by individual states' legislatures.

Woerth's optimism is based on recent work by ICAO committees, including the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, and outcomes from industry meetings like last years' Air Navigation Conference.

That conference resulted in an "agreement in principle" to support a global air navigation plan and the "block upgrade concept," which calls for periodic improvements to the aviation system, says Woerth.

The conferences are a "critical path that is vital to get necessary global buy-in that will enable ICAO to develop global standards and recommendation practices that states need before they can fully-implement next generation-type systems", says Woerth.

At the last assembly, ICAO tasked the council to research so-called "market-based" emission reduction plans, like carbon dioxide credit trading schemes.

Then last November, the council agreed to form a high-level group to investigate related policy issues, a move that led the European Commission to exclude intercontinental flights from the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), a move that averted a trade war with nations opposed to ETS.

Countries including the USA, India and Russia, and airlines from those countries, have said ETS violates sovereignty of non-EU member states.

Airlines argue that ICAO is the appropriate body to govern global emissions standards.