European Parliament member Peter Liese of Germany led a delegation to meet with US officials last week, Reuters reports. Negotiators are scrambling to reach an agreement through the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – required to avoid the European Commission reinstating its carbon emissions laws on flights taking off or landing from EU member states. Those laws sparked murmurs of trade wars, as 26 countries including the US and China lodged a formal complaint through ICAO, and both houses of Congress passed blocking legislation.
Last month the International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing 85 percent of the world’s airline traffic, adopted a resolution calling for a market-based measure to manage and offset emissions. That resolution proposes that airlines offset increased emissions after 2020 by buying carbon credits from other sectors.
ICAO must complete its own resolution on a market-based plan in the next six weeks or so, but Liese said current drafts are not ambitious enough, and he sees only a 50/50 chance of reaching a deal strong enough to prevent the EC from reinstating its laws. European Commission director-general for climate action Jos Delbeke, meanwhile, was optimistic that ICAO would adopt a “useful resolution.”
Airlines’ efforts to cut carbon emissions could be hampered by problems with fuel-efficient aircraft. Most notably, a number of fires and other technical difficulties have held back implementation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the entire fleet was grounded worldwide for four months starting in January. The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch found that a fire on board an Ethiopian Airways plane at Heathrow airport this month started near the jet’s emergency locator transmitter, and this week the US Federal Aviation Authority is expected to order inspections of the beacons on all 787s, the Guardian reported.
Safety concerns over the 787 will slow “the introduction of some lightweight innovations for fuel efficiency,” Lux Research analyst Cosmin Laslau told Environmental Leader. But Laslau says airlines will continue to seek fuel-saving measures – such as electric taxiing systems – because the opportunity for cost savings is huge.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.