Incoming IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac says he will continue to ensure the airline industry takes the lead on framing climate change commitments, but concerns raised by Chinese carriers during the association's AGM underline the challenge still faced in securing a global agreement at ICAO.

IATA members passed a key resolution during on 2 June urging governments to adopt a global carbon offset scheme at the crunch ICAO general assembly later this year.

Speaking at a press conference closing the AGM today, de Juniac - who will take up his new role in September - said he will continue Tony Tyler's efforts to ensure IATA stays in control of its own destiny on climate change.

"What IATA has done… is convince the EU to wait for ICAO to adopt a world system. It is exactly what we were aiming at in taking the resolution to IATA," de Juniac says.

However, the political challenges ahead were highlighted during formal session at the AGM to approve the resolution, when a spokesman from China Eastern spoke on behalf of all Chinese IATA member airlines to register their view that the resolution did not reflect the realities faced by developing countries.

“Chinese airlines should follow and abide by all relevant policy and requirements from the government on any climate issue,” the spokesman said. “On that account, we oppose the AGM resolution.

“If such a resolution is adopted by the meeting, all Chinese members will reserve our position and will request a clear indication of this in the resolution and AGM report.”

The resolution was later adopted by the AGM – with the Chinese comments noted – in support of ICAO’s efforts to introduce a carbon offset scheme from 2020. The Chinese government had been one of the most vocal critics of the European Commission's previous attempt to unilaterally bring international carriers into its emissions trading scheme.

The European Commission ultimately suspended the move as the industry and governments pushed to tackle the issue through the auspices of ICAO. After agreeing to develop a global market-based approach at its last general assembly three years ago, now work is focused on securing agreement on the market-based measure at the meeting in September.

Outgoing IATA director general Tony Tyler says IATA's efforts to bring a single airline position on the issue helped guide the previous ICAO resolution and he is hoping for a similar outcome from the resolution IATA passed at this year's AGM.

"I think by passing the resolution we passed yesterday we will give governments when they come together at ICAO further direction," he says. "The decision will be made by governments. [But] by giving governments a clear vision of what the industry wants and what will work for the industry, we’ve been very helpful indeed."

“Balancing the interests of all those involved is a Herculean task,” Tyler says. “I am confident of success. But we must stay united as an industry.”

IATA's efforts were backed by its incoming chairman of the board of governors, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. "This is an issue that is debated around the board of governors meeting,” he says.

"The debate has been very constructive, and even where you have had certain airlines express reservations about the resolutions that we passed, they weren’t expressing reservations about the industry’s ability or need to address climate change. They were just expressing reservations about some specific aspects of the potential solution.

"So this has been a very, very healthy discussion and I think IATA deserves great credit for the leadership to keep the industry working together, and I think that has had a big impact in bringing that into ICAO," he says. "I have a firm belief that ICAO will actually address this in the upcoming assembly."

Additional reporting Graham Dunn

Source: Cirium Dashboard