Progress at ICAO Reveals Hope for a New Worldwide Carbon Dioxide Standard

In a major move forward in the effort to establish a worldwide carbon dioxide standard for aircraft, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (“ICAO”) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection unanimously approved a metric to characterize CO2 emissions, taking into consideration such influences as fuselage geometry, maximum take-off weight, and fuel-burn performance.  With this step behind the Committee, work will begin on creating a new CO2 aircraft standard, including defining the certification procedures and determining the standard’s scope of applicability.  ICAO’s press release can be found here.

Industry leaders call this a major milestone, but agree that this is merely one step towards establishing an international standard by the end of 2013.  This announcement, however, has done little to temper the European Union’s plan to implement the Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”).  It has though given support to those countries that oppose inclusion in the EU-ETS.  The United States Departments of State and Transportation hosted 16 countries from July 31 to August 1, 2012 to discuss alternatives to the controversial scheme. Countries participating were Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

All attending countries favor national and regional measures to reduce aviation emissions; however, each has stated their opposition to the EU plan, and would rather see a global, sector-led standard created through ICAO. Representatives from the European Commission were not invited according to a spokeswoman for the Commission, but were briefed on the meeting’s results. This meeting follows a February gathering in Moscow of 20 countries which agreed on retaliatory measures if the EU-ETS’s inclusion of non-EU aircraft continues moving ahead.

At the same time of this meeting, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill to bar the EU from extending its carbon caps to the U.S. airline industry. This approval moves the bill closer to a Senate floor vote after the August recess. A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2011 and is described in more detail here. The passage of this bill follows the sub-committee hearing described earlier in this blog. EU officials immediately criticized the bill.

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