EU slams ICAO inaction on aviation emissions


Air transport officials from around the world rejected ambitious EU proposals on cutting greenhouse gases from international aviation at an annual meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. But the EU stressed it would not back down on its plan to include foreign airlines in its carbon cap-and-trade system.

EU officials expressed disappointment after a majority of delegates refused to sign up to meaningful targets to reduce aviation emissions during the 36th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal on 28 September. 

The Assembly instead supported a US-led approach, only agreeing to look at “possible aspiration goals”. 

“We are disappointed by the outcome and believe ICAO has abdicated the leadership role given to it in the Kyoto Protocol. That is a very great failing that should concern us all,” said Luis Fonseca de Almeida, director-general of civil aviation for current EU Presidency-holders Portugal. 

Moreover, the Assembly passed a resolution on the use of “market-based measures”, such as emissions trading, which says that ICAO members should sign individual agreements with third parties operating in its airspace before applying such schemes to them. 

However, the EU said it would ignore this resolution: “By registering a formal reservation on this particular point, Europe made its view clear that it will not feel bound by this part of the conclusions,” stated the Commission. 

Indeed, such a clause would prevent the EU from going ahead with plans to force foreign airlines using European airspace to comply with its emissions trading system as of 2012, thus limiting the impact of the scheme by as much as 75%, according to some studies. 

The EU says that its plans are perfectly legal but the US is threatening to challenge any such move in court. “We do not think that Europe has the authority to do it… I think it is going to end up in the courts…I do not see how it is going to get resolved politically,” the US Ambassador to the EU C. Boyden Gray said earlier in the week. 

Green NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) however welcomed the EU move and called for the ICAO to be “stripped of its environmental responsibilities” after what it termed “a shameful decade of obstruction and inaction.” 

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