Plans to tackle aviation impact on climate change still on table

The EUs plans to introduce economic instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector are still on the table after talks ended at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly in Montreal.

Member States reached agreement on policies and practices to tackle the impact, including:

  • Continued endorsement of emissions trading for the sector;
  • Further work on the suitability of charges;
  • Encouraging voluntary agreements between States and industry to reduce aircraft emissions.

The package also explicitly recognises, for the first time, that the ICAO policy on the exemption of aviation fuel from taxation has been called into question in many States.

The fiscal measures will, in one form or another, add a climate change levy to airline ticket prices, either through aviation fuel tax, en-route emissions charges, an emissions trading scheme, or a combination of these measures.

UK Secretary of State for Transport, Alastair Darling said: “This was a very successful result in the face of a very difficult situation. The whole world has accepted that it is essential to address climate change impacts. Our core principles have been confirmed. Attempts to restrict freedom of action on emissions trading have been averted. The incorporation of aviation into the EU ETS remains our priority which we will pursue urgently during our Presidency next year.”

However, this position was met with some hostility by a number of countries, led by the US, who oppose measures to control the climate change impacts of aviation.

“The hostile position of many countries to the European position on aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions is puzzling,” said Mr Darling. “We must recognise the problem we face and take urgent action to tackle these emissions. We shall continue to make our case at every opportunity.”

Jeff Gazzard, a co-ordinator of the Green Skies Alliance, said: “We’d like to say a big thank you to all the European Government delegations who have seen off this US-inspired challenge to the right of individual countries to set their own environmental protection and taxation policies. The US move was a shameful anti-climate change action, an essentially anti-Kyoto Treaty piece of shadowy backroom shenanigans that we are delighted has failed.”

However, Mr Gazzard did point out the contradiction between Mr Darling’s position and his own plans for expansion of UK airports.

The next regular ICAO Assembly is in October 2007. No climate change related charges can come into force before this next meeting.

By David Hopkins

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