BEIJING – The European Union’s (EU's) extraterritorial Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) could be a polarising obstacle to efforts to cut global civil aviation emissions to 320-million tons by 2050 – about half the 2005 levels.
“To meet our ambitious targets, we will, at least initially . . . need globally coordinated, positive market-based measures,” said International Air Transport Association (Iata) director-general Tony Tyler in Beijing on Monday. He was speaking on the sidelines of the organisation’s 2012 annual general meeting (AGM).
“The ETS is not a stepping stone on the way; it is a polarising obstacle that is preventing real progress,” he added, noting that China was at the forefront of the opposition to the European ETS. The Asian giant had barred its airlines from participating in the scheme.
“Sustainability should unite the world with a common purpose (and) not divide it with affronts to sovereignty that risk a trade war that nobody wants and from which no winner can emerge,” said the British-born Tyler, who has been at the helm of Iata for just under a year.
He said while nobody would deny the EU the credit for moving sustainability up the global agenda, the bloc should take “credible action to defuse the situation and get on with finding the global solution that everybody was hoping for”.
However, Tyler noted that all stakeholders, including Europe, agreed that the only solution was a global agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) at its 2013 assembly. But such an agreement was impossible, given that Europe was apparently intent on implementing its ETS unilaterally, rather than sincerely negotiating a multilateral agreement.
Meanwhile, ICAO president Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez said the organisation was working on the development of a global carbon dioxide certification standard for aircraft, with a target of having it ready during 2013. The organisation was also working on the global implementation of greener operations and relevant tools to quantify the environmental benefits.
Gonzalez said much progress had been made regarding the development of alternative aviation fuel, with 300 such initiatives under way worldwide. He added there had been a substantial increase in the number of international consortia working in this area globally.
While the technological aspects of biofuels for aviation had proved to be viable, ensuring the availability of such fuels remained a challenge, Gonzalez concluded.
* Martin Zhuwakinyu is attending the Iata AGM courtesy of South African Airways and Iata.