Al-Ahram Weekly Online   28 October - 3 November 2010
Issue No. 1021
Sky High
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Long and winding road

ICAO Secretary-General Raymond Benjamin says that Arab carriers are playing a vital role to fight climate change

"I am here to share my thoughts on the environmental challenges to the air transport industry," stated Raymond Benjamin, secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). "The Arab region has contributed in an efficient way to the fight against climate change. This has been in a large part through the acquisition of modern, fuel efficient aircraft. Arab governments as well have contributed positively in providing energy efficient infrastructure such as airports and air navigation services," he added in an exclusive interview to Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo.

According to Benjamin, the historic resolution adopted by the 37th session of the ICAO Assembly three weeks ago is a cornerstone shaping a global commitment to collective action to reduce carbon emissions from international aviation, among developed and developing countries. "The Assembly reaffirmed that the climate change issue as it applies to international aviation must be managed and resolved through the ICAO in a manner that is fully complementary to the manner in which UNFCC cooperates."

He expressed the belief that the ICAO was capable of building consensus on some of the most challenging issues of the time. "More specifically, the Assembly looked at concrete steps to assist states to contribute to global efforts, while ensuring that states with small contributions to the global air traffic are not burdened disproportionally."

Some elements of the resolution, however, remained under the radar, yet they are critical to the overall success.

"One of the key ones is the action plans that states provide to the ICAO, which outline the respective policies and actions, as well as annual reporting to the ICAO on international aviation CO2 emissions. This makes it possible for the ICAO to measure progress in relation to the goals."

To help the process along, Benjamin told the Weekly, the assembly requested the council to help disseminate economic and technical studies and best practice related to goals, and to provide guidance and other technical assistance for the preparation of action plans by June 2012.

"Through our audit programmes for safety and security, we established with the cooperation of states, detailed action plans to correct deficiencies identified through the audits. We can do the same with the environment. This can further assist in identifying sources of assistance, including financing. States need and want more information before making decisions and action plans do just that."

Arab carriers on the other hand, insisted that a vision to fight climate change that includes aviation should consider the fact that Arab fleets are more modern than European fleets, which put less responsibility on their companies in dealing with emission reduction scheme.

"I agree that the Assembly resolution is not perfect and does not solve everything. There remained differences between developed and developing states. There remain varied positions on the management of market-based measures. It needs to clarify how to deal with states with a small traffic base. The point is that the resolution provides a context for these and other issues to be worked out."

"I believe it is possible to reach agreement on even the most widely divergent views. Aviation wins, the environment wins. Achieving sustainable aviation is a long and winding road. Like all global challenges, it requires a global solution.

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