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China should stand with the industry in supporting its global emissions strategy

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October 1st 2019

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It was not surprising there was dissension among some delegates of the 193 states attending the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 40th Assembly in Montreal at the turn of the month. Read More »

Three years ago, after negotiations that often were touch and go affairs, delegates to the 39th ICAO Triennial Assembly voted in the world’s first industry carbon offsetting scheme, the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

It was the single global economic measure that aimed for carbon neutral growth by 2020 and a 50% reduction in emissions, from 2005, by 2050. The scheme was calculated to generate US$40 billion in climate funding and offset around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from airlines between 2021 and 2035.

Today CORSIA is a reality, but long standing differences among some member states about the application of the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CDR) in the industry have never been laid to rest. And CDR has always been the bug in the bed when developing any industry climate mitigation strategy.

Putting aside China’s disingenuous claim to be an emerging economy that would suffer economic drag from CORSIA compared with first world economies, it was a relief that one of the final acts of the ICAO Assembly was to prioritize the industry’s goal of a 50% cut in emissions and to advocate backing for the ‘No country left behind’ initiative, which will support emissions reduction management for less developed countries.

If it is to achieve these goals, the entire aviation industry spectrum and all governments must cooperate fully to reach their targets of drastically reduced emissions from flying.

It was, therefore, disappointing to witness three of the most influential countries in the world - China, India and Russia – issue a joint statement that said the “emphasis should be on those policy options that will reduce aircraft engine emissions without negatively impacting the growth of air transport, especially in developing economies”.

In fact, these priorities already have been accepted by the industry and ICAO member States. Clearly, the decision of these three countries to issue a separate statement was political. China, in particular, clings to its “developing nation” status, even though it is now the world’s second biggest economy and home to some of the world’s biggest airlines. China Southern Airlines is the largest airline in Asia and among the top five carriers in the world in passenger numbers.

Public declarations of divisions among ICAO’s member airlines will harm CORSIA’s progress and provide the protest movement with misinformed ammunition to attack the industry.

We all know airline passenger demand is growing faster than any emissions scheme now in operation. We should be concentrating on resolving this serious threat to climate damage rather than taking to the world’s stage with debatable claims about CORSIA’s damage to the world’s second largest economy, China, and the world’s fastest growing economy, India.

Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group

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