ICAO Tackles Aviation Emissions

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has agreed by consensus to address the contribution aviation makes to climate change by 2016. However, the somewhat nebulous resolution, adopted in the closing hours of the ICAO's once-every-three-years general assembly in Montreal last week, apparently doesn't guarantee that any concrete measures will result, nor does it satisfy the concerns of environmental groups who largely viewed the measure as a delaying tactic. Nevertheless, aviation groups are ladling cautious praise on the resolution, which sets the next Triennial Assembly as the decision point for how the environment will be theoretically compensated for the conversion of jet fuel (avgas really isn't part of this picture) into the daily movement of millions of people and millions of pounds of freight around the world. Decisions made in Montreal three years from now won't take effect until 2020, assuming there is consensus at the next assembly. Although environmental groups found little to cheer about the resolution, aviation groups claimed a victory of sorts in that ICAO didn't adopt something like the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS).

EU-ETS is supposed to reward carbon-emitting entities for adopting practices and technology that reduce their carbon footprint. Those that don't address their emissions are penalized by having to buy credits from their more climate-savvy competitors. The so-called "cap and trade" system has been controversial and was rejected by the U.S. by way of a law that prevents U.S. airlines from taking part. National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen said the ICAO measure, while imperfect, at least shifts direction from the cap and trade method of encouraging emissions control. “The approach to international emissions-policy development approved this week breaks decidedly from the EU-ETS,” Bolen said in a news release. “Although far from perfect and certainly not everything we have worked for, it promotes an international dialogue that is focused on simple, more workable measures for addressing aircraft emissions – measures that can be built around various types and sizes of operators.” Bolen said business aircraft operators were unfairly treated under EU-ETS and the direction of ICAO's resolution may be more equitable.