February 4, 2013

With a vote by the European Parliament scheduled for April on whether to “stop the clock” on full implementation of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) High-Level Group that is working toward a global plan for abating greenhouse gases continued their meetings in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) continued its concurrent meetings in Montreal, with top NBAA officials participating. IBAC’s goal is to ensure that the non-commercial aviation sector is fairly represented in any solution considered by ICAO.

After almost two decades, it remains a difficult task, according to NBAA’s representative in the IBAC discussions.

“There are differing views on defining the best mechanism and the best approach to dealing with climate change, given regional perspectives,” said NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown. “But there are also principles the High-Level Group nations have already agreed upon.”

Those common principles include the need for a global, rather than regional solution (such as the EU-ETS) and the desire to make sure whatever funds are derived from such a program are used for aviation programs – especially those dedicated to aviation greenhouse-gas reduction.

Perhaps most important, Brown said, given the experience operators have already had with what many consider a byzantine process of administering EU-ETS carbon accounts, is the desire for a program that is easy to comprehend and manage.

The ICAO High-Level Group is under deadline. Its members have until ICAO’s Triennial Assembly in October to make significant progress toward a global plan for reducing aviation carbon emissions. Otherwise, the EU-ETS clock will start ticking again, according to conditions put forth by EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

“There is, at this point, a great deal of confidence that deadline can be met,” Brown said.

Alongside the ICAO High-Level Group meetings in Montreal, members of IBAC also are meeting, with the stated goal of ensuring that the voice of business aviation is heard during the process of formulating a worldwide market-based measures (MBM) program of carbon emissions reduction.

“Everybody wants whatever the outcome is to be simple and inexpensive,” said Brown. That is an integral part of the message IBAC members hope to deliver to the ICAO High-Level Group delegates sometime later this spring.

“We’re hopeful they’ll consider the differences. EU-ETS was discriminatory on many different levels. First, it was discriminatory against all of aviation, because it was initially a program designed for controlling the carbon emissions of power plants. But it’s also discriminatory because it makes important distinctions between commercial and non-commercial flight. Eliminating those discriminatory elements is extremely important,” Brown explained.

Brown said he believes the ICAO High-Level Group has a great deal of momentum behind it. The recent passage of the federal EU-ETS Prohibition Act, along with staunch opposition to EU-ETS by China, India and Russia, are clear indications of opposition to unilateral or regional MBM programs, he said.

“So now there’s an opportunity for people of goodwill to get together on a new system and do what we all want to do: Use our available energy efficiently and be good citizens by polluting as little as possible,” Brown said.