Global aviation could be "drinking at the last chance saloon" should it fail to resolve the vexed issue of an internationally accepted basis for emissions trading with which to harness the industry's impact on climate change.

Speaking at the recent Transatlantic Aviation Issues conference Raymond Cron, director general of the Swiss civil aviation authority, told delegates that aviation chiefs were preparing to discuss the issue for the second time next week at the Montreal headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Cron, vice-president of the 42-member European Civil Aviation Conference, says that while an initial meeting in February of ICAO's specially formed Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) was positive, ICAO's 190 signatory states had to act now or risk the serious consequence of being effectively overridden by international moves to hammer out a strengthened international deal on climate change.


"GIACC has to deliver a good result and it has to do this by the summer of 2009 if ICAO and thus the aviation sector is to maintain its responsibility for addressing the issue of global emissions," he says.

"If ICAO does not go forward with a positive message to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in December 2009, then there is the risk that the responsibility for aviation emissions will pass to others and out of the control of the aviation community," says Cron. "If I may borrow from the language of the Western movies, the GIACC is probably the 'Last Chance Saloon' for ICAO on this particular subject."

Last September, ECAC accused ICAO at the conclusion of its triennial general assembly of failing to live up to its leadership role when it limited climate change action to developing "aspirational" goals for some future industry-led initiative.

ICAO's European delegates, who face acute public pressure on aviation's environmental affects, consequently reserved the right to "act in the wider global interest" by extending the EU emissions trading scheme to all flights arriving and departing from its airports.

Cron says ICAO now had to make progress in establishing an action plan that could include a framework for market-based measures such as emissions trading: "That means we must agree a programme of action for the period up to the third meeting, otherwise precious time - and indeed credibility - could be lost."

Europe's proposal remains controversial, however. The ambassadors of Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and the USA raised concerns in a letter to the German European Union presidency saying Europe risked contravening the Chicago Convention and numerous bilateral agreements.

Source: Flight International