On Friday 4th of October, dozens of countries agreed to set up an international system for curbing airline emissions. It seems that they have given in to an ultimatum by the European Union but do not grant all the support the bloc had hoped for. After 10 days of negotiations held in Montreal, the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) decided that almost 200 member states on the system by 2016, the first of its kind.
This aviation support system will then be launched in 2020, requiring airlines to account for their emissions of carbon dioxide. This will serve as an incentive for limiting gases that could be environmentally harmful. General Raymond Benjamin, the Secretary General of ICAO, has termed the move as a major step forward in civil aviation.
However, the decision by ICAO does not include initial support from regional systems for curbing emissions, like the controversial carbon tax that was instituted last year by the EU. Transport Environment, an environmental campaign group based in Brussels, has predicted that this omission is likely to make regional emissions somewhat difficult. The group has slammed the resolution by ICAO for being full of holes.
Sources from EU said that in spite of the ICAO resolution, their scheme is here to stay. Their argument is that the decision by ICAO leaves enough grey areas for them to continue with operations. It is also expected that the carbon tax will be somewhat softened to reflect the breakthrough made at the ICAO. Connie Hedegaard, EU's Climate Action Commissioner, said that as much as they would have wished more countries to accept their regional scheme, they have made progress overall. He went on to say that if it had not been for the hard work and determination shown by EU, they would not have come to the decision.
Siim Kallas, the EU transport commissioner added that the deal is good news for the aviation industry, the travelling public and the planet in general. They have also managed to avoid a damaging conflict between trading partners. The carbon tax by EU has received ferocious opposition from nations such as China, the United States, India and Russia, leading worries that a trade war may be imminent in aviation.
The EU has justification for the move to unilaterally force airlines taking off and landing to make payments for the right to pollute. This is in the form of the fact that even after 15 years of lobbying, a global approach has not been produced. All in all, the union has agreed to suspend the scheme partially in April as an incentive for achieving a breakthrough at the ICAO talks. At the moment, only flights within the union are liable for their emission.
Peter Liese, a conservative EU lawmaker has warned that he does not think the European Parliament, which is his institution, will agree to maintain such a status quo until 2020. He has called for all airlines landing and taking off in the EU to be accountable for at least the emissions generated over its territory.