* ICAO Secretary General says EU scheme had been a concern
* UN agency may not narrow options by its fall 2013 assembly
* "Framework" is to be ready by assembly
By Allison Martell
Nov 15 A top official at the UN's civil aviation
agency said on Thursday he welcomed the EU's suspension of a
scheme to control airline emissions in order to give the UN
agency time to thrash out a plan to reduce the industry's carbon
In a surprise on Monday, the European Union put its scheme
on hold for a year after the UN agency, the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO), agreed to set up a committee to
work through difficult political issues such as how to deal
fairly with developing nations.
"Given the opposition of a wide majority of countries, (the
EU scheme) was a source of concern for us," ICAO Secretary
General Raymond Benjamin said.
But Benjamin could not rule out further delays in his
agency's push to come up with a global plan to reduce the
airline industry's environmental impact.
Benjamin said in June that he believed the agency would
narrow down the three "market-based measures" still being
considered and put its weight behind a single option by March
But on Thursday he said he could not guarantee that this
would happen before next fall's ICAO general assembly in
"I cannot pre-empt the progress which will be made," he
said, noting that previous resolutions only require that he
determine whether establishing such a scheme is "feasible."
The EU has been under pressure to scrap its law, which
requires all airlines using European airports to pay for carbon
emitted during flights to and from the continent. Opponents say
the rule violates the sovereignty of non-EU states.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to bar
airlines from complying with the EU law.
The European Commission - the EU's executive - has long said
that if ICAO comes up with a robust global framework to limit
emissions, it could modify its own law, known as the Emissions
Trading Scheme. That would very likely resolve the conflict.
On Monday, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard still
had strong words for ICAO: "If this exercise does not deliver -
and I hope it does - then needless to say we are back to where
we are today with the EU ETS - automatically."
Diplomats and technical advisers at ICAO are evaluating a
variety of market-based options - including a cap and trade
system - for controlling aviation emissions. The two other
options still in contention are global carbon offsetting and
offsetting with a revenue-generating mechanism.
At the same time, ICAO is working on a "framework" that lays
out how any market-based measure should be implemented - for
example, how to account for emissions released over
international territory, and how to address developing
countries' fears that any scheme could hold back growth.
The framework - which Benjamin said must be ready in time
for the assembly - is something that could apply to a variety of
different mechanisms, and local or regional systems like EU ETS
itself as well as any global scheme.
Benjamin said he did not want to speculate on what it would
take to satisfy the EU. He noted that six months ago, it seemed
that the EU would start fining airlines who did not pay into its
scheme by April 2013.
"Now, six months later, this is not the situation," he said.
"I will not start guessing what will be the position of the
European Union in September, October of 2013."
(Editing by Frank McGurty; and Peter Galloway)