Tuesday, 13 November 2012

EU Stops the Clock on Aviation Policy

Yesterday the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard announced her intention to ‘stop the clock’ with regard to enforcement of emissions trading for flights into and out of Europe:

"This has been a very long story of the world not being able to get a deal to limit CO2-emissions from aviation. Now there is some positive movement; it is very positive.”

 “Our regulatory scheme was adopted after having waited many years for ICAO to progress. Now it seems that because of some countries' dislike of our scheme many countries are prepared to move in ICAO...”

When the EU decided to include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from the beginning of 2012, it was a very small step towards acknowledging the need to take action. The US and China were incensed that their airlines would have to join with European airlines to pay the charges. This was odd when the price added to each ticket was just a few euros, hardly enough for passengers or airlines to notice, so why did it meet with a storm of protest?

 Some countries and some airlines are concerned that EU action might be the thin end of the wedge as the world gets a grip of emissions from aviation. So it should; bold action is both necessary and sensible, and will lead to a transformation of the industry launching it into a new golden age of low-carbon flight. There should be no reason to oppose the changes when everyone understands what is at stake and that aviation will be hugely better after the transformation. Of course it is something we should do without delay. However it may bankrupt those parts of the industry which have bet heavily on defending the status quo. This has seemed a safe bet; so far, with the US acting as deadweight on the industry holding it to the outdated policy framework agreed in Chicago in 1944.

The EU is backing down apparently to allow the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the space to reach a global agreement over the next year leading up the next ICAO Assembly in autumn 2013. This is a triumph of hope over reality.

‘The ICAO is resolutely defending the Chicago Convention and continued growth of air transport. It is inherently incompatible to seek to grow aviation, reduce carbon emissions and maintain tax-free fuel. This odd stance limits the scope for effective and ambitious action. It is the Chicago Convention that is now the policy block that has to be overcome. Instead of negotiating around the convention, world leaders need to find the courage to confront its provisions. The Chicago Convention was conceived in time of crisis; it should be renegotiated as a response to the climate crisis.’

It is time for real action, not political posturing. Replacing the Chicago Convention is the only realistic way forward.


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