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  • Airlines add pressure on governments to reach global aviation deal

    The world’s leading airlines have indicated the need to accept a global market-based measure to reduce aviation’s contribution to climate change. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) agreed at its annual meeting earlier this month that a global carbon-offsetting measure after 2020 would be acceptable to its airline members. T&E has recognised the shift in air industry thinking compared with earlier statements, but says the IATA position is ‘not convincing’.

    T&E’s aviation manager Bill Hemmings said: ‘This resolution is still very far from what the world needs, but if we compare it with previous statements from the aviation industry, there is some progress. The industry finally recognises that it has an emissions gap to address and that better air traffic control, better planes and biofuels together will not be enough. But it defers any action for another seven years and sets out a string of unworkable conditions. The proposal also relies solely on out-of-sector carbon offsets without saying anything about their quality.’

    The timing of the IATA statement is important, as ICAO has been struggling to find consensus around the question of market-based measures. With the clock ticking on the EU’s one-year freeze on enforcing emissions trading for flights to and from the EU, pressure is mounting on negotiators working on a global market-based measure. The industry move may now galvanise ICAO members.

    This perhaps explains the mixed reaction across the environmental community. The EU’s climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the IATA agreement sent ‘a very strong message that the airline industry seems ready to support a global market-based measure’. The Aviation Environment Federation said: ‘ICAO members should see this as an encouragement to come up with an effective scheme, not as a blueprint for such a scheme.’ But Carbon Market Watch rejected the IATA agreement, saying: ‘Only a cap-and-trade scheme with a stringent cap and a limit on the use of carbon offsets will create sufficient incentives for essential emissions reductions.’

    A coalition of 11 environmental, development and science groups wrote to the head of IATA just before the Cape Town meeting calling for a global aviation deal that would cover the environmental cost of airlines’ emissions.

    Hemmings added: ‘Airlines don’t like the EU’s Emissions Trading System, and clearly they hope this move will help roll it back. But the EU ETS will return in a revised form and airlines need to understand this. The EU now needs to stand firm, and IATA should get wavering governments – starting with the USA – to support an agreement on a meaningful global market-based measure at this year’s ICAO Assembly.’