ICAO endorses anti-ETS declaration, Europe holds firm

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A declaration opposing the inclusion of aviation in the European Union's emissions trading system (ETS) and signed by a group of non-European countries has been endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The paper, signed by 26 members of ICAO, may not be legally-binding but has drawn a fierce response from EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

"It is disappointing that ICAO discussions once again focus on what states should not do instead of what they should do to curb growing aviation emissions," said Hedegaard.

"Unfortunately, ICAO has missed again the opportunity to tell the world when it will table a viable global solution."

Hedegaard added that ICAO's endorsement of the declaration does not affect Europe's desire to work with the United Nations body on finding a global solution, nor will it have any impact on the EU's plan to include aviation in its ETS from 1 January 2012.

"Our legislation clearly says that if a country outside the EU takes 'equivalent measures' to reduce aviation emissions, all incoming flights from that country can be exempted from the EU system," said Hedegaard.

"We really look forward to plans from other states to reduce aviation emissions." However, concerns have been expressed over what exactly is meant by "equivalent measures".

ICAO's endorsement of the declaration is the latest in a series of international moves condemning the ETS. The US House of Representatives last month passed a bill that would prohibit US carriers from taking part in the scheme. Political opposition has also been expressed in Russia, China and Latin America.

Association of European Airlines secretary general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus today called for politics to be removed from the equation.

"Over recent weeks, we have seen legal cases against ETS, bills to prohibit airlines from complying, vocal foreign indignation, retaliation and now a challenge through ICAO. Political conflict does not cut emissions," he said.

"AEA urges political leaders to seize the negative energy around ETS and turn it into urgent, positive action towards a global solution."