While the opening World Route Development Strategy Summit panel debate on Sunday, 30 September 2012, was billed as focusing on policy constraints to aviation growth, it was little surprise to see controversy around the EU's emissions trading system dominate most of the air time.
Opposition from non-European countries is mounting as the EU presses ahead with the inclusion of aviation in its emissions trading system, which took effect this year. Non-European states have threatened to launch retaliatory measures, leaving airlines feeling caught in the middle.
"We have to take the conflict out," says Jeff Poole, IATA's director of government and industry affairs, adding that the argument has evolved into one about sovereignty. "One of the big problems we have in Europe is [that] it has put Europe in conflict with everyone else. We have to step back from this and the answer lies in a global approach through ICAO."
While an ICAO solution is supported by everyone, it is complicated by the timings involved as ICAO is not mandated to report on the issue until November 2013. "ICAO is not going fast or late," says the director of its air transport bureau, Boubacar Djibo. "We are implementing the work programme given to us by the states, which says [we will] report [on the issue] next year."
This turns attention back on the EU to take some of the heat out of the dispute by putting its regional scheme on hold in pursuit of a global solution through ICAO. "If a global measure can be achieved, that is absolutely the best," acknowledges Damien Meadows, adviser to the European Commission's director general for climate action. A forthcoming ICAO meeting in November could be crucial. "We will be looking at what happens in November," he says.