U.S. Ambassador to ICAO Skeptical Council Can Reach ETS Consensus

 - April 23, 2012, 10:00 AM
Ambassador Duane Woerth, the U.S. representative to the ICAO Council, is skeptical the international organization will reach timely consensus on instituting market-based measures to control aircraft emissions. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The airline industry, major manufacturers and some two dozen nations have argued that aviation emissions should be addressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), not by the European Union and its emissions trading scheme (ETS). But the U.S. Ambassador to the ICAO Council, in an April 12 speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, expressed skepticism that ICAO’s assembly can agree on market-based measures to control emissions when it meets in September 2013.

Ambassador Duane Woerth said the ICAO Council’s current direction on developing market-based measures (MBMs), such as emissions trading or emissions-based charges, dates from the assembly’s last meeting in 2010. In turn, that resolution “is actually a derivative” of one adopted in 2007. The consensus on MBMs among the 191 member states of the Assembly has changed little since that time, he said.

The organization’s consensus time frame for MBMs to come into play for emissions reduction is 2020, Woerth said. “The ICAO Industry Emissions Reduction Roadmap from 2010 to 2050 has virtually all of the emission reductions coming from aviation from 2010 until 2020 attributed to technological and operational improvements,” he said. “Only beginning around 2020 does the ICAO industry roadmap plan for reductions from market-based measures...The roadmap realistically has alternative fuels coming on line slowly and not making really big, significant contributions until after 2030.”

Following the 2007 Assembly, ICAO established the senior-level Group on International Aviation and Climate Change, which created a special task force on MBMs. The task force reported its findings to the council in June 2009. At the time, the council “acknowledged that there remains disagreement on the application of market-based measures across national borders,” Woerth said.

The 2010 Assembly reached an agreement on aviation and climate change that ICAO described as “historic.” It formalized a number of goals, including the target of 2 percent annual fuel-efficiency improvements through 2050; the establishment of a global framework for deploying sustainable aviation fuels; and the development by 2013 of a new CO2 standard for aircraft engines. It resolved to develop a framework for MBMs and to “study the feasibility of creating a global MBM scheme and guiding principles for states to use when designing and implementing market-based measures for international aviation,” all of which it plans to review at the 2013 Assembly.

“In 2010, the all-important political consensus had not moved at all from 2007,” said Woerth, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. “What will the Assembly of 2013 produce? Will it produce a different consensus? Well, I guess we’re all just going to have to wait and see.”