Aviation industry agrees global mechanism to reduce emissions

A global mechanism that could cut airlines' carbon emissions from 2020 has been supported by the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) 191 member countries.

The deal was reached at the ICAO’s annual assembly in Montreal on Friday, where countries agreed on a comprehensive strategy to progress technology, operations and alternative fuels to reduce emissions.

The assembly also agreed to set a work programme for capacity building and to provide assistance to States in the development and implementation of their action plans to reduce emissions.

With this deal, the aviation industry becomes the first international transport sector to apply a global market-based mechanism to reduce emissions.

EU Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, said: “The EU’s hard work has paid off. After so many years of talks, ICAO has finally agreed to the first-ever global deal to curb aviation emissions”.

However, the European Commission’s proposal to have foreign airlines included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was opposed by China, India, Russia and the US, who argue that the scheme impacts flights far outside the EU.

Hedegaard added: “If it hadn’t been for the EU’s hard work and determination, we wouldn’t have got this decision to create a global market-based measure. What matters to us is that the aviation sector also contributes to our efforts to reduce emissions.

“While we would have liked more countries to accept our regional scheme, progress was made overall and we will now factor this in when, together with the member states and the European Parliament, we decide on the way forward with the EU ETS,” she added.

Environmental groups also welcomed the agreement but said the assembly missed an opportunity to start reducing emissions immediately and contribute to closing the ambition gap before 2020.

WWF leader of the Global Climate and Energy Initiative Samantha Smith said: “The science is clearer than ever – 2020 is too late.

“Right after the recent IPCC release, this was the first chance for governments in ICAO to take decisive action, and they failed,” added Smith.

WWF-UK transport policy officer Jean Leston said: “The world has waited 16 years for ICAO to demonstrate its serious commitment to reducing aviation emissions”.

“What we got today seems a very small return for that effort. We expect a lot more ambition and commitment from ICAO over the next three years if a global, market-based mechanism is ever going to materialise,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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