UN committee presents draft guidance to aviation industry on how to combat projected increase in emissions

The influential United Nations agency committee charged with advising the world's airlines on greenhouse gas emissions has now drafted its carbon trading roadmap - albeit one essentially with two final destinations.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) completed its two-week round of meetings in Montreal on 16 February, presenting guidance on the best way to implement emissions trading (see box), but stopped short of advising on the geographic scope of any future regime, in the face of fierce USA-led opposition to unilateral moves by Europe.

CAEP, which reports to ICAO - the organisation responsible for setting global aviation standards - has been under increased pressure to provide leadership on market-based measures to tackle projected increases in CO2 after the European Commission last year published its own proposal for aviation's inclusion in the European Union's existing emissions trading scheme.

The two-stage European scheme would initially only apply to intra-EU flights from 2011, before extending the following year to cover all flights departing or arriving in the EU. It still awaits European Parliament and ministerial approval. One environmental NGO official who attended the CAEP meetings says: "The task group agreed on every chapter except geographic scope. The USA and other members of the task group - basically everyone apart from European members - thought the only way to include one should be on a mutual agreement basis.

"CAEP ended up recommending to the ICAO Council that it takes forward its guidance - essentially, a set of instructions with two versions of geographic scope. We were unable to go beyond the current impasse and we issued no comment on how the issue of geographic scope is to be progressed." He says the committee, which comprises 21 ICAO states, remained "divided on obvious lines".

The EC has defended its move to develop its own solution, saying it is in line with ICAO's 2004 general endorsement of emissions trading and that the alternative bilateral agreement proposal by the USA would be far too bureaucratic.

"Interestingly, one avenue considered in 2004 was that a global emission scheme could be overseen by ICAO, although the UN agency eventually ruled this out, judging that it did not have the legal jurisdiction. One chief concern for the environmental lobby is that we may lose sight of the goal by limiting it simply to a regional scheme," he says.

News of the ICAO consensus has been welcomed by the International Air Transport Association, which has argued that states - and the EC in particular - should wait until the ICAO recommendations are finalised this September before embarking on emissions-trading legislation.

"The only way forward is with a harmonised approach," says IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani. "Kyoto specifically tasked ICAO to lead the aviation industry's efforts in this crucial area. Today's outcome provides an excellent technical reference for governments. Unilateral action by states is not the answer. We need a global approach that provides a level playing field for airlines and avoids competitive distortions."

The UK is pushing for all flights to be included from day one of aviation's inclusion in the proposed EU emissions trading scheme. In an EU environment ministers' debate last week on aviation, the UK said it felt there was no need for a two-stage approach.

Most of the 22 EU countries expressed general support, with several saying more attention was required on its impact on developing countries and peripheral regions in Europe.

In our forecast for 2007, Flight International predicted Europe would face a battle in persuading airlines to pay for carbon dioxide emissions

Source: Flight International