The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has been accused of dragging its feet over measures to combat aviation emissions.
On Tuesday the UN body agreed to have the tools in place by 2016 to create a global market based system for cutting greenhouse gases. But the commitment will still need to be ratified at their general assembly later this month.
The environmental group WWF UK condemned the ICAO saying its inaction was “inexcusable”.
The EU was looking for a stronger agreement having suspended its inclusion of aviation in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for a year in November in the hope of a securing a more significant global deal.
It originally wanted the ETS to cover the entirety of flights coming in and out of the continent – a move that was opposed by the ICAO. The EU has agreed to compromise, with airlines only having to buy allowances for carbon dioxide emitted over its airspace.
Speaking at a conference in Brussels on Tuesday Jos Delbeke, the European Commission’s Director General for Climate Action, reportedly said: “That means that the EU ETS will be able to continue for intra-European flights. We would also have this part of international flights that is covered by regional airspace.”
Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner for the EU welcomed the agreement on Twitter: “Finally. Not perfect but progress [is] within reach on a global [market-based measure] to curb emissions from aviation.”
There was a colder reception from green campaigners, who slammed the ICAO for failing to take more concrete action to tackle global warming. The aviation industry is currently responsible for 2-5% of the global warming effect. Left unchecked its emissions are expected to rise by 70% over the next seven years and 300-700% by 2050.
Jean Leston, Transport Policy Manager at WWF-UK said: “If there was a competition for foot dragging, ICAO would have won it long ago. The world has waited 16 long years for ICAO to decide how it is going to reduce aviation emissions. If [this] disappointing council meeting is anything to go by, we’ll be waiting forever.”