Speaking at the ATAG (Air Transport Action Group) Global Sustainable Aviation Forum in Montreal, IATA’s Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, addressed the tricky question of whether it is fair to impose a single global standard on smaller and developing aviation markets as the industry works towards a reduced carbon footprint.

Tyler addressed “unanswered questions” on COSIA, the Carbon Offset Scheme for International Aviation.

COSIA is part of the industry’s environmental ongoing sustainability programs, which include initiatives to improve technology, operations and aviation infrastructure.

Tyler argued that all airlines accept that ensuring industry sustainability will involve “manageable” costs, but that those costs be “market-based” rather than “a patchwork of inefficient and ineffective charges and taxes, cooked up to raise cash, not to tackle climate change.”

While global airlines are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 2020, airlines from smaller and disadvantaged aviation markets have raised concerns over being expected to keep up with standards imposed for larger markets—represented by airlines which have been responsible for growing aviation’s carbon footprint for many decades.

“We must have a practical, transparent, fair and environmentally credible scheme,” Tyler said.

He emphasised the need to agree on this point before addressing “questions of cost and complexity which will most certainly take time to iron out.“

On questions of equitable standards, Tyler said:

“We expect the cost will be not insignificant, but manageable–and I think that would be the right balance. I am under no illusion that reaching an agreement will be easy. Airlines would prefer COSIA to apply as equally as possible to carriers across the world, to minimise market distortions. We also recognise that situations vary from airline to airline—as does the perception, or even reality, of what is truly fair.

“ICAO is suggesting a two-phase implementation, to address the concerns of less wealthy nations with small air transport sectors. They don’t want to be penalised for the historic carbon emissions of the developed world. It is an important and understandable view. Indeed, a two-stage proposal may be feasible if the lines are drawn carefully,” Tyler said.

IATA’s Director General and CEO repeated previous statements that aviation is a “force for good,” which aids economic growth and social development, and part of that commitment to contribute positively to society must be a commitment to environmentally responsible action.

“The industry is resolute. We are determined to do the right thing in mitigating our climate change impact. We are counting on the 191 member states of ICAO to enable that important result by reaching an agreement later this year,” Tyler said.

Among the challenges the industry faces are the complications of upgrades to aircraft, new air traffic management systems, and the incorporation of alternative fuels.

With dialogue on the standards by which the industry will be measured, and the actions required still ongoing, it will take considerable determination to accomplish stated aims.

It is unclear whether sufficient progress could be made for the industry to show marked improvement to its CO2 footprint over the three and a half years.

Featured Image: View of Geneva Airport and Swiss Alps from IATA Headquarters, © FCMedia, 2015 


Read More on Aviation’s Sustainability Initiatives Here

COP21: Aviation Makes Firm Commitment to Sustainability, IATA Says, APEX

Improving Efficiency of EU Airspace Could Yield €245 Billion Reward, IATA, Flight Chic

The 4 Most Environmentally Friendly Airports in North America, Flight Chic

29 Leaps in Aviation Over the Past Year, Flight Chic

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