With just over a year to go until the deadline is reached for developing a global market-based measure (MBM) to address airline industry emissions growth, the pressure is on to convince states to put aside their differences and agree a common roadmap.

Feeling that pressure acutely is Michael Gill, IATA’s environment chief and executive director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). While he admits there is still “a lot of work ahead of us”, Gill describes the negotiations that have taken place so far as “very encouraging”.

At the last triennial ICAO Assembly in September 2013, member states agreed to report back at the next Assembly, in September 2016, with a proposal for a global MBM scheme for international aviation that could be implemented by 2020. Since then, tense negotiations have been taking place as countries in differing stages of development attempt to find a method of curbing emissions that is deemed fair by all. But there are signs that progress has been achieved.

“What has been striking is that many states who were previously reluctant to move those talks forward have now truly entered the discussions, participating actively in the exchange and putting forward new ideas and approaches. I think that demonstrates a high level of political will to achieve consensus at the 2016 Assembly,” says Gill.

“The perennial issues of how to determine the obligations that would fall on individual operators in any future MBM scheme and how to reconcile the differing views of developed and developing states, including low-emissions states and emerging markets, remain on the table, however.”

IATA would prefer the MBM to take the form of a mandatory carbon-offsetting scheme to be applied to emissions growth post-2020, using as a baseline the industry’s average annual emissions between 2018 and 2020. Its resolution includes provisions to recognise early movers, accommodate new market entrants while they get their operations off the ground, and take account of fast-growing carriers.

Other options on the table include a revenue-generating carbon-offsetting scheme where funds raised would be used to help developing countries tackle climate change-related issues, and an emissions trading system along the lines of the EU’s controversial ETS.

While no formal panel discussions on this issue are scheduled to take place during this year’s IATA annual general meeting which begins on 7 June, Gill says the global MBM negotiations “remain a hot topic on everyone’s minds” and “it will be interesting to share informal views with industry partners on progress in that area”.

On a separate note, but still within Gill’s environmental remit, the AGM will include a presentation on illegal wildlife trafficking and what the airline industry can do to tackle it. John Scanlon, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), will discuss “the importance of collaboration between the airline industry and governments to halt the growing spread of illegal wildlife trafficking”, says Gill. “That is an area of growing concern and airlines have a key role to play.”

Airspace reform and boosting production of alternative aviation fuels will continue to be key issues for IATA in the coming year. “Better use of airspace is particularly important. Millions of tonnes of CO2 [are emitted] every year because of inefficient air traffic management systems, so we need to keep the pressure on for reform, especially in Europe,” says Gill. “We’re also working hard to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels. Airlines have made tremendous commitments to alternative fuels and we want to see governments recognise that and help bring production levels up so that prices can fall.

“An MBM is vital to help us achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020, but to reach our 2050 target of cutting CO2 emissions by 50% we are going to need sustainable fuels to play a big role.”

Source: Airline Business