Environmental challenges have changed over the years. In a sense it is a shame the solutions have too. The carbon emission problem is not the first time the industry has had to fight for a global agreement with governments. Previously, noise was the main concern
Working with industry, ICAO states agreed upon the Balanced Approach. There were four elements to the concept. Quieter aircraft, better land management, noise abatement options, and operational restrictions were combined to find the most efficient and cost-effective solution.
Importantly, the concept managed to embrace the needs of developing as well as developed countries. Older, noisier aircraft were to be phased out in stages, but special considerations for the developing world included extended timelines and some financial assistance.
The approach proved highly successful. Today’s aircraft are 50% quieter, and no airline was unfairly penalized by the solution.
Current negotiations on emission reduction are still waiting for a similar breakthrough, and aviation is faced with the faux solutions of regional emissions trading schemes.
Efforts to agree to a deal at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen, which would incorporate aviation’s global, sectoral approach, have foundered on Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR).
Developing countries want the developed nations to agree further reductions in their own emissions while also helping to fund mitigation efforts in the so-called third world.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from the earlier noise deal brokered through ICAO. “There is a gap between the way that ICAO works with global standards and the way that the UNFCCC works with common but differentiated responsibilities,” says Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO. “Bridging that gap to come to a solution is an enormous challenge.
“ICAO, working with industry, has always managed to find solutions to move aviation forward, even on tough issues,” he continues. “Noise is a good example. ICAO and the industry found a solution that is still effective today. With this same thinking, states did manage to bridge their differences and sign a declaration.”
Aside from agreeing with each other, states will have to catch up with the air transport industry’s environmental efforts. Aviation has set tougher targets and already achieved much more than has been agreed at either ICAO or UNFCCC level.
That trend, at least, may be set to continue. Research indicates aircraft will be 50% quieter by 2020. And the move towards more fuel-efficient aircraft continues. Between 2010 and 2020, some $1.5 trillion will be spent on new models.