UN body to develop global aviation emissions plan

29 October 2013

Members of the UN's civil aviation body agreed last week to develop a global plan for reducing airline carbon emissions, in a move that was touted by members as a "landmark" decision. The result, however, has also cast into doubt the next steps for the aviation component of the EU's own Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Under the agreement, which was clinched last Friday following a two-week meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, the 191 members of the UN group have pledged to develop a proposal for the first-ever global market-based mechanism (MBM) on aviation emissions by 2016.

Aimed at lowering pollution from a sector responsible for three percent of the world's emissions, the final mechanism would then enter into force by 2020, according to the ICAO roadmap.

"This MBM agreement is an historic milestone for air transport and for the role of multilateralism in addressing global climate challenges," ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González said following the Montreal meetings.

Airline industry groups, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), have similarly welcomed the ICAO result.

"Airlines need and want a global MBM," said Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO. "Without losing any of the momentum built up over these last two weeks, we are eager to get on with the detailed work needed to design the global scheme in time for finalisation at the 2016 Assembly."

The news followed days of intense negotiations, and years of preceding discussions that appeared, until just months ago, to have little end in sight. However, what form such a global mechanism might take remains to be seen, and some critics have said that last week's ICAO decision is not as strong as environmental advocates had hoped.

Even if a plan is developed by 2016, they note, this does not guarantee that it will be formally adopted, or how stringent it will be, given that some of the most difficult negotiations still lie ahead.

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