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UN approves landmark agreement on a carbon emissions cut in the aviation industry

Date
09 October 2013
UN approves landmark agreement on a carbon emissions cut in the aviation industry

LONDON: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations’ aviation agency, approved a landmark agreement on October 4, aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the airline industry from 2020. 

The agreement is a strategic framework which will be developed into a detailed action plan over the next three years for ratification at the next ICAO general assembly in 2016. At its heart is a new global market-based measure (i.e. a carbon trading or offsetting mechanism of some kind), which will come into force in 2020.

The precise details of this mechanism are yet to be agreed, but it will cover the emissions from all international airlines. ICAO will also continue its existing environmental-related work such helping to develop new aircraft technologies, adopting carbon-dioxide standards and promoting the use of sustainable jet fuels.

Commenting on this crucial step toward addressing aviation emissions the ICAO Council President, Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, said: “The agreement is a historic milestone for air transport and for the role of multilateralism in addressing global climate challenges”.

Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager at The Climate Group, noted: “In relation to the kind of emission reductions the IPCC’s new Assessment Report has just laid out, it is not clear yet whether the new ICAO agreement will deliver the kind of cuts that are required for avoiding dangerous warming. That said, we now have in place an agreement to develop the world’s first global market based measure. This is potentially a far-reaching and transformational development. If it is ambitious it will help build confidence and trust among governments and could add real momentum to the wider UN climate talks, that are meant to conclude with a new global treaty in 2015. Governments and the aviation industry need to work together to make sure this happens and that the new mechanism has real teeth and is not simply a fig leaf for action.”

The Vice-President of the European Commission, Siim Kallas, has also welcomed the agreement: "I am very pleased that after long and hard negotiations we finally have a global deal on aviation emissions. This is good news for the travelling public, good news for the aviation industry, but most importantly it is very good news for the planet".

However, one of the controversial points of the debate was the rejection of the European Union’s proposal to allow it to apply its own tax scheme to foreign airlines until the global scheme takes effect. The EU project was blocked by Russia, Argentina and others. "While we would have liked more countries to accept our regional scheme, progress was made overall," Connie Hedegaard, the EU's Climate Change Commissioner stated. "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 (Emission Trading Scheme)." she also added.

Emissions from aviation account for less than 2% of global carbon emissions. However, according to the ICAO, its impact on the world’s greenhouse gases must be controlled better as this amount is unprecedented for a single global industry and the sector continues to grow.

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