Europe is to go it alone on its plan to include aviation within the world's largest carbon market - the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - accusing international aviation body the International Civil Aviation Organisation of failing to live up to its leadership role in addressing aviation's impact on climate change.
ICAO's general assembly last week examined proposals for the rule-making body to develop "aspirational" goals for a future industry-led initiative or to set up an emissions control working group that would report back in 2009. European delegates rejected the options as too weak.
President of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and Portugal's director general of civil aviation, Luis Fonseca de Almeida, told the assembly that "we strongly believe that the best solution would be for the international community to reach an agreement on an effective mechanism to limit or reduce greenhouse gases from aviation. And we have looked to ICAO to provide the leadership. Sadly, and despite intense activity, we do not believe that this assembly has been able to show that leadership."
He warned the proposed resolutions would prevent immediate action on climate change, binding countries to only acting once a common position was agreed. "This is unprecedented, and we cannot accept this position. Yes, we would like to reach agreement by consensus. But the environment cannot wait for ever. If this organisation is not yet ready to take the necessary steps to deal with aviation emissions, then we in Europe will continue with our efforts to tackle this problem seriously."
ECAC represents 42 European states - nearly a quarter of the ICAO membership.
UK transport minister Ruth Kelly told the assembly that "we are reserving the right - if an international solution is not found - to act in the wider global interest by extending the EU emissions trading scheme to all flights arriving and departing from the European Union.
She told the assembly that "ICAO has not lived up to the leadership role given to it by the Kyoto Protocol. That is a very great failing that should concern us all and we may pursue these issues in other international fora."