“After all is said and done, more is said than done” will likely reflect the outcome of the 38th assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). For the past 15 years, ICAO has kicked the can of reducing aviation emissions down the road and they are poised to punt again in Montreal September 24-October 4.
ICAO is a United Nations body comprised of 191 countries and is charged with setting global aviation standards – including the regulation of airline emissions. In fact, the body has been discussing the need for a global market based mechanism since 1996. Since that time, cassette tapes were replaced by CD’s and CD’s were replaced by digital music. We have seen wars begin and end and we have elected three different presidents. ICAO should take a cue from Elvis Presley and push for “a little less conversation, a little more action.”
Airlines such as United have spent millions of dollars lobbying against efforts to reduce aviation emissions, even against the will of their most important customers. The industry’s money and influence appear to have taken hold given that ICAO is set to defer the decision as to whether to adopt a global market based measure to reduce airline emissions until 2016, with an implementation date of 2020. ICAO’s failure to adopt a global solution means the airline industry has bought seven more years to pump extremely toxic and heat-trapping pollution into our atmosphere.
As if seven more years of unabated aviation emissions weren’t enough, ICAO is angling to neuter the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS) by limiting the scope of the law to cover only European airspace. This will result in pumping an estimated one billion tons of carbon back into the atmosphere through 2020 as compared to the original coverage.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “never put off till tomorrow what can be done today.” ICAO should heed that advice, get off the sideline and adopt a global market-based measure that begins reducing aviation emissions immediately.
Click here to download a copy of the current resolution being considered in ICAO [PDF]. The highlighted portions identify ICAO's own references to unkept promises from years ago and text from previous resolutions that committed ICAO to acting by this year or years past that are struck through and replaced with a year in the future.
For more information, see Transport & Environment's one-page timeline documenting ICAO's procrastination on climate action over the years.