IATA chief executive Tony Tyler believes the European Union will need to rethink its position in the face of increasing opposition to its controversial inclusion of aviation in its emissions trading system (ETS) if the current deadlock is to be broken.
Speaking during a media briefing in Geneva, Tyler reiterated IATA's support for a global solution through ICAO to address aviation's environmental impact, pointing to the opportunity to deliver a global framework at ICAO's Assembly in 2013.
"But these efforts are being distracted by Europe's intention to include international aviation in is misguided, unilateral and extra-territorial emissions trading scheme from 2012," said Tyler.
The scheme is already subject of a legal challenge led by US airline body ATA - an initial court opinion found the scheme compatible with international law but a final ruling on which is expected later this month. But international opposition has hardened over recent months. A declaration signed by 26 states, including China, the USA, India and Japan, outlined their opposition to the scheme, the USA has introduced legislation to prohibit US carriers from participating in the scheme, and states have turned up the rhetoric on potential retaliatory action.
"Europe can take credit for forcing the issue up the political agenda. It has got everyone's attention now," said Tyler. "[But] progress will be much faster if we were all working towards one solution rather then arguing about the European one. I think the European Community will have to rethink their position. It's not practical for them to go it alone in the face of such opposition."
IATA's director aviation environment Paul Steele added: "The problem is the EC is in a difficult position right now, because you have a directive written into law that is incredibly difficult to change."
While the EU ETS enters force from January, airlines do not stay making payments for another year. "There is an opportunity to move the agenda forward in that timeframe," said Steele. "What we are very interested in is to get everyone back into ICAO. The last ICAO assembly was a step forward. That put a number of steps in place. [Now] the key milestone date is October 2013 when ICAO has its next assembly."