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  • Firm EU stance on aviation emissions confirms Icao promise for global proposal

    The head of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) says there will be a proposal for a global strategy to combat climate emissions from aircraft by the end of the year, with possible agreement in late 2013. His statement comes as non-EU airlines who are unhappy with emissions trading for aviation continue to threaten action against the EU but appear to lack unity.

    The EU’s decision to subject emissions from aircraft to its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has angered a number of nations, but it appears to have triggered more action within Icao than has happened since the Kyoto protocol gave the UN aviation body responsibility for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from planes in 1997.

    Icao’s secretary-general Raymond Benjamin indicated a month ago that Icao would have a proposal by the end of this year. He then seemed to go back on that promise, but made it again in an interview with the Reuters news agency earlier this month. He said Icao had considered six options for market-based measures, and had rejected two but was still working on four. He says he wants to hold a special global conference to debate the issue in March 2013, in time for the Icao general assembly in [month] 2013 to make a decision.

    Twenty-six of the countries unhappy with emissions trading for aviation (they refer to themselves as ‘the coalition of the unwilling’) met in Moscow last month to discuss what action they would take. They have made a formal objection to Icao, and discussed a number of other options, but failed to agree on a specific course of action. A Russian transport minister said each country would choose its own measures to oppose aviation in the ETS.

    The EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she was happy the 26 had complained to Icao. ‘Everybody knows Europe has been fighting for a multilateral system but that other parties blocked it,’ Hedegaard said, ‘so what can they agree on in Icao? It will be very interesting for us to see.’

    In a related development, 26 economists including nine Nobel prize winners have written an open letter to Barack Obama urging the US administration to “support…or, at the very least, stop actively opposing” the inclusion of aviation in the ETS. Days earlier Airbus and seven airlines wrote to heads of government and to the Commission calling for Europe to postpone the plan. The call was rebuffed by the Commission and the governments of Germany and Britain, according to the Financial Times.

    Meanwhile a British campaign group has calculated that what airlines will pay in the ETS is a fraction of what they would pay if they were not exempt from fuel tax for cross-border flights. Using figures for British-registered airlines, the group ‘Sandbag’ says the 20 biggest emitters, which account for 28% of all the aviation emissions in the ETS, will have to spend about €90 million on allowances, whereas if they had to pay €0.45 per litre in fuel tax (the amount paid in Great Britain by light recreational aircraft) their bill would be €10.5 billion.

    • China says it is looking to achieve a 30% share of biofuels to power its airlines. Fuel for Chinese aircraft is currently around 20 million tonnes a year, but expected to reach 40m by 2020. The Chinese government says it expects biofuels to make up more than half of the increase, and wants to increase imports of waste cooking oil and seaweed. It says its biofuel target is motivated by aviation being subject to emissions trading.