GreenSkies Press Release - Europe wins battle of the skies at UN ICAO

[Back to News Index]



"This was a very serious issue of both sovereignty and the application of the "polluter pays" principle and has important ramifications for the Kyoto Treaty and all future attempts to reduce and control air transport's greenhouse gas emissions."

Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation

Press Release - for immediate use 1Oth October 2004

Europe wins battle of the skies at UN ICAO


US anti-climate change action campaign halted by strong UK, Dutch and collective EU/Europe-wide pressure

The 35th triennial UN ICAO Assembly in Montreal ended Friday 8th October 2004 by agreeing a complex resolution that allows Europe a mandate to impose a tough, comprehensive environmental protection regime for air transport that could include taxing aviation fuel, en-route emissions charges and a mandatory emissions trading scheme throughout its member states. These fiscal measures would be aimed at controlling and reducing the growing climate change impacts of aircraft exhaust emissions by internalising the external costs of climate change, effectively adding a climate change levy in one form or another to airline ticket prices.

The at times tense and heated negotiations continued throughout the week's work programme, often in closed sessions of the UN body's Executive Committee.

Finally the ICAO President Dr Assad Kotaite instituted an infrequently-used mechanism, a special "Friends of the President" meeting Thursday October 7th at which the essentials of a deal were hammered out. There was then apparently much to-ing and fro-ing on the text to reflect this package which included a late addition from the US and its supporters to conduct "further studies".

The agreed Resolution says, as is often the case in the bewilderingly arcane language used by these bodies, that there will be more studies on greenhouse gas charges, that the existing 1996 Resolution on what are termed market-based options continues meantime and any action should be consistent with it and that there should be no unilateral implementation '....prior to the next Assembly at which this will again be considered and discussed'.

European Government sources have confirmed that this resolution does not constrain or commit the 25 EU members states to do nothing and that they will start to implement a policy development programme from a menu of taxes, charges and emissions trading schemes to be applied to all intra-EU flights probably starting 2008. Such a programme may also extend to the 41 ECAC* member states across the wider European continent.

Brussels-based sources have also confirmed that any EU emissions trading scheme for air transport would include the 2.7 multiplier for C02 tonnage which reflects the other major atmospheric climate change impacts of air transport, namely NO2 exhaust pollution and condensation trail-induced cirrus cloud formations.

Jeff Gazzard, GreenSkiesAlliance co-ordinator said:

"We'd like to say a big thank you to all the European Government delegations who have seen off this US-inspired challenge to the right of individual countries to set their own environmental protection and taxation policies. The US move was a shameful anti-climate change action, an essentially anti-Kyoto Treaty piece of shadowy backroom shenanigans that we are delighted has failed."

Tim Johnson, Director of the London-based Aviation Environment Federation, who represented environmental NGO's at the ICAO Assembly last week, leading the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, said:

"This was a very serious issue of both sovereignty and the application of the "polluter pays" principle and has important ramifications for the Kyoto Treaty and all future attempts to reduce and control air transport's greenhouse gas emissions."

In the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair pointed out in a highly important speech recently, devoted solely to the threat of climate change, that air transport emissions will reach 25% of the UK total by 2030. They will rise to 33% of the total by 2050. These same emissions are around 11% right now, the raw numbers showing an increase from 22 million tonnes of carbon to 43.5 emitted by UK domestic and international air transport activity during the first half of this century, based on UK air passengers rising from 180 million passengers today to 476 million by 2030.

Climate change emissions from aircraft are out of control and urgent action that makes economic and environmental sense is needed right now to limit and reduce this threat ."

Chief UK Transport Minister, Alistair Darling, had this to say about the ICAO General Assembly outcome on Sunday 10th October in a statement that was strongly critical of the US stance:

"This was a very successful result in the face of a very difficult situation. The whole world has accepted that it is essential to address climate change impacts. Our core principles have been confirmed. Attempts to restrict freedom of action on emissions trading have been averted. The incorporation of aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme remains our priority which we will pursue urgently during our Presidency next year.

The hostile position of many countries to the European position on aviation's greenhouse gases is puzzling. We must recognise the problem we face and take urgent action to tackle these emissions. We shall continue to make our case at every opportunity."

Jeff Gazzard, GreenSkiesAlliance co-ordinator commented:

"We now look forward to short term stabilisation targets and longer term reduction strategies that diminish the climate change impacts of air transport and an appropriate range of fiscal measures to achieve them.

There is sadly still an obvious contradiction between what Alistair Darling says he wants to do to control the climate change impacts of flying and his own plans for unrestrained UK aviation related CO2 growth as the massive planned expansion of UK airports is rubber-stamped by his own Department!

We will only support air transport's inclusion in the European Emissions Trading Scheme if it results in something substantially more than a cheap "get out of jail" card, and isn't just a cynical manipulation to allow airlines to continue merrily polluting away.

Whilst we are grateful for the tough position the UK took at ICAO, we fear that the UK is developing a contrived entry for airlines into the European ETS that will turn out to be disguised "business as usual". This will be totally unacceptable and is the next major skirmish in the battle to apply the "polluter pays" principle to air transport, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases!"

ENDS



Notes to Editors:
*ECAC is the European Civil Aviation Conference. Its 41 member states include the 25 EU countries. For more information go to: http://www.ecac-ceac.org/

Important Note: The UN ICAO Chicago Convention of 1944 allows member states to buy and sell kerosene free of tax for all international flights. In practice, aircraft fuel for domestic flights is also tax-free too - surprisingly, the USA does tax domestic kerosene sales at a rate of 4.4 cents a US gallon (approximately 1 cent per litre). This tax take is reserved for the Federal Airport Improvement Programme!


For more information please contact Jeff Gazzard, GreenSkiesAlliance co-ordinator on:
+44 (0)1565 653561, mobile +44 (0)7748 197412 e-mail: jeffgazzard@greenskies.org

Tim Johnson is the Director of the London-based Aviation Environment Federation and is the official observer at the ICAO Montreal meeting on behalf of a coalition of European and US environmental NGO's and public policy think tanks, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation. He can be reached on: +44 (0)207 248 2223 or by e-mail: tim@aef.org.uk


The UK Department for Transport press release and the Minister's comments are at:
<http://www.dft.gov.uk/pns/displaypn.cgi?pn_id=2004_0127>;
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pns/displaypn.cgi?pn_id=2004_0127

The ICAO resolution text reads:
b) Emission-related levies
1) Recognizes the continuing validity of Council's Resolution of 9 December 1996 regarding emission-related levies;
2) Urges States to follow the current guidance contained therein;
3) Recognizes that existing ICAO guidance is not sufficient at present to implement greenhouse gas emissions charges internationally, although implementation of such a charge by mutual agreement of States members of a regional economic integration organization on operators of those States is not precluded, and requests the Council to:
a) carry out further studies and develop additional guidance on the subject;
b) place a particular focus on the outstanding issues identified in earlier studies and by the Assembly; and
c) aim for completion by the next regular session of the Assembly in 2007;
4) Urges Contracting States to refrain from unilateral implementation of greenhouse gas emissions charges prior to the next regular session of the Assembly in 2007;
5) Requests the Council to study the effectiveness of, and to develop further guidance on emissions levies related to local air quality by the next regular session of the Assembly in 2007, and urges Contracting States to actively participate and share information in this effort; and
6) Urges Contracting States to ensure the highest practical level of consistency with ICAO policies and guidance on emissions levies related to local air quality

GreenSkiesAlliance
Europe's environmental NGO and citizen groups working together to control & reduce the negative impacts of air transport

GreenSkies Alliance Broken Wharf House 2 Broken Wharf LONDON EC4V 2DT
Tel: (0)20 7248 2223

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 
(c) GreenSkies, 2004.     Sir John Lyon House, 5 High Timber Street, London EC4V 3NS