The landmark pledge by aviation chiefs to mount a concerted effort to address industry's impact on climate change could signal a move to secure massive governmental technology investment in the future should there be eventual global acceptance of a worldwide emission trading scheme.

At the third Aviation & Environment Summit in Geneva on 23-24 April organised by the Air Transport Action Group, a highly placed source indicated the motivation behind the declaration to develop new technologies aimed at achieving carbon-free travel, and signed by aviation trade bodies, airframers and engine makers.

The source said: "What they are looking for is a recognition that if there is ever a possibility of a globally effective emissions trading scheme, governments need to start thinking about a hypothecated [a dedicated tax system] regime where, for instance, airlines would actually be incentivised centrally to retire aircraft early. To promote that the industry needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet."

The signatories, while shying away from concrete targets to reduce carbon emissions, included Airbus and Boeing, engine makers GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce, and industry groups such as the International Air Transport Association.

Signatories declared they would work toward providing "meaningful benefits on tackling climate change and other environmental challenges" by helping establish a global emissions trading programme under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

British Airways' chief executive Willie Walsh told the summit that in the UK air passenger duty currently generates over $500 million a year from its flights. "Not one single cent of that money goes toward improving the environment," he said, adding that the funds could be used to offset the carbon emissions from BA flights by a factor of two.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said: "Where Boeing and Airbus share a common position on the environment and safety, it is in all our interests that we co-operate to achieve our common goals."

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson said the agreement signed in Geneva between Airbus and Boeing to work more closely on environmental matters, with an initial focus on global interoperability of air traffic management and input to the Single European Sky Research programme, would not undermine competition between the airframers. Said Carson: "We will continue to compete on the battlefield and we will continue to compete with Airbus to fulfil airlines's needs."

Source: Flight International