U.S. envoy to U.N. aviation body hopeful on airline climate plan

TORONTO Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:00pm EDT

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TORONTO (Reuters) - The new U.S. representative to the United Nations body that oversees civil aviation said on Friday he is hopeful the organization's members will be able to agree on a global system to curb carbon emissions from airlines.

The question of how to reduce emissions from planes brought the European Union, the United States, China and others to the brink of a trade war last year. All eventually agreed to let the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization craft a global "market-based measure" by 2016.

"I am extremely hopeful that we will be able to come to an agreement. I don't think I would have taken this position if I wasn't hopeful of that," said Michael Lawson, the new U.S. ambassador to ICAO, in an interview.

Lawson was confirmed by the Senate on Monday and arrived in Montreal, where ICAO is based, on Thursday. He has landed in the middle of several high-profile discussions at ICAO.

Along with environmental policy, the organization is looking at how best to track flights after the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane in March, and how to protect passengers flying over conflict zones after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine last week.

Lawson said safety is one of the most important issues before ICAO, referring to the two Malaysia Airlines incidents. But he declined to discuss U.S. positions in detail, since he had not yet been fully briefed.

On Thursday, a senior State Department official said the United States is not seeking changes to the ICAO guidelines on global aviation after the two incidents, but would participate in any ICAO-led reviews to determine whether changes are needed.

Asked whether the push to regulate aviation emissions is part of the Obama administration's "climate action plan," Lawson said it is. As part of the plan, announced last year, the administration has pledged to work to persuade other countries to fight climate change.

Lawson, a retired partner of law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, has served on the board of the organization that oversees Los Angeles International and several nearby airports.

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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