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International aviation body fails to act on climate plans
Friday, 28 September 2007 22:41
(MONTREAL, CANADA) The 36th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization ends in disarray and conflicts over action to reduce aviation emissions.  The assembly passed a resolution that would only allow for new rules on greenhouse gas emissions controls by host countries if the non-domestic airlines agreed.

"After ten years of posturing, this assembly's clear failure sounds the death knell for any ICAO role in environmental protection," says Dr. Werner Reh, aviation expert for Friends of the Earth Germany.  "ICAO chooses to ignore the very significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions by airlines and the clear need for taxes, emission charges or emission trading schemes."

Aviation greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since 1990 and will further grow by 3.5% annually.  The UN's IPCC report assesses the climate impact of aviation from 2-8% of global warming.  Under the terms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, ICAO, a UN body, was tasked with responsibility for reducing emissions from international aviation. 

The 36th Assembly was faced with a dynamite agenda item presented by the European Union which proposed to integrate aviation into its existing emission trading system.  Friends of the Earth supported the EU plan.  The "Coalition of the Unwilling" was led by the United States, which has never agreed to Kyoto, joined by Canada which is not complying with its own domestic law for Kyoto.  China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil joined in blocking the EU efforts.

"ICAO's buckling to the US insistence on 'mutual agreement by third parties' before the EU emissions trading scheme can be applied is the latest in a decade of stalling and denial," says Dr. Reh.  "The EU has taken a leadership stance in pressing ahead to integrate aviation into its emission trading system.  Its decision to make a "reservation" against the ICAO resolution signals the end for ICAO role on the environment.  Effectively, the EU will ignore the resolution on 'market-based measures' on legal grounds that it undercuts the effectiveness of the EU battle against aviation effects on climate change."

"We can no longer tolerate ICAO's position that aviation is a sacred cow allowing it to ignore climate impacts," says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada.  "Canada's alignment with the US on voluntary measures for aviation is yet more evidence of Canada's 'made-in-the-USA' game plan for climate inaction.  Just like every other enterprise in the world, airlines must make significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.  If their own governance agency fails to lead in this respect, it's time to find other mandatory means."

Failure to act on climate is nothing new for ICAO.  Over the last ten years, ICAO has failed to deliver or support any mandatory policies regarding emissions stabilisation or reduction. Instead the organisation has attempted to close the doors, one by one, on almost every conceivable mandatory policy measure for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the air traffic sector:

ICAO resolution, reconfirmed in 2001, called on states to refuse application of fuel taxes as environmental measures.

ICAO reaffirmed opposition to fuel taxes, showing preference for the use of charges. (However, in 2004 ICAO asked member states not to apply charges until at least 2007.)

ICAO rejected GHG emission standards for aircraft.

ICAO opposed the application of closed emission trading schemes for aviation.

ICAO dismissed any possibility of establishing a global emission trading scheme for aviation, instead endorsing the inclusion of aviation in existing emission trading schemes (e.g. the EU ETS).

ICAO imposes a three-year moratorium on GHG emission charges.

ICAO Assembly passes a resolution that says members should sign separate agreements with all third countries operating in its airspace before applying emissions trading to their carriers.  The EU says it will press ahead with its plans to integrate aviation into its emissions trading system and made a "reservation" against the ICAO resolution signalling that they would ignore it on legal grounds.

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