ICAO Joins Airlines, Nations in Opposing Emissions Trading Scheme

 - November 7, 2011, 10:00 AM
Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, vows an ICAO declaration will not stop blanket enforcement of the EU's emissions trading scheme. (Photo: European Union)

The governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), meeting on November 2 in Montreal, adopted a declaration opposing the European Union’s “unilateral” action to include non-EU aircraft operators in its emissions trading scheme (ETS) as of January.

By endorsing the declaration, expressed in a “working paper” advanced by 26 countries, ICAO aligned with the international airline industry and a collection of countries including Brazil, China, the U.S., India, Japan and the Russian Federation, in fighting the EU requirement.

The ICAO declaration includes language from an earlier, joint declaration by 21 countries adopted September 30 in New Delhi. That document opposes imposition of the ETS on non-EU carriers as being “inconsistent with applicable international law,” pledges to continue opposing the European policy and invites other countries to associate with the declaration.

The ICAO Council is a permanent body, composed of 36 states elected every three years by the organization’s Assembly of 190 “contracting” states. According to the online publication GreenAir, eight EU member states belonging to the council opposed the declaration, while Australia and Canada abstained.

Echoing a 2009 legal challenge mounted by U.S. airlines and the Air Transport Association of America, the ICAO declaration holds that including international carriers in the EU scheme contravenes the Chicago Convention that created ICAO, an entity of the United Nations. “ICAO is recognized by all to play a leadership role in matters related to aviation and environment,” states the working paper. “The introduction of these regional schemes affecting international aviation without ICAO’s concurrence undermines ICAO’s leadership position and deviates from the established principles of ICAO.”

Despite mounting international pressure, the EU resolved to enforce the ETS as planned. “It is disappointing that ICAO discussions once again focus on what states should not do instead of what they should do to curb growing aviation emissions,” EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. “However, this decision will affect neither the EU’s commitment to working within ICAO to agree on a global solution nor our adopted legislation to include aviation in the EU ETS.

“Europe is delivering on its commitment to reduce emissions,” Hedegaard added. “Our legislation clearly says that if a country outside the EU takes ‘equivalent measures’ to reduce aviation emissions, all incoming flights from that country can be exempted from the EU system. We really look forward to plans from other states to reduce aviation emissions.”