UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation has failed to thrash out an emissions-trading scheme for airlines
Leading airlines have warned that they could be punished at the Copenhagen climate change talks this year because the industry has failed to influence environment ministers.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, urged airlines to increase their lobbying efforts after delivering a warning about the efforts of the United Nations body charged with representing airlines, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
ICAO, which is comprised of transport ministers from UN member governments, has failed to thrash out an emissions-trading scheme for airlines and is not due to meet again until October, by which point other groups could have proposed tougher measures for airlines.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Kuala Lumpur, Walsh said Iata should take the initiative before it is too late.
"I don't think ICAO has done enough and I don't think they will be able to influence decisions at Copenhagen. That is why it is important for Iata to reach a position," he said.
Walsh also echoed fears among airline executives that carriers will be singled out by politicians because they have not been included in official carbon dioxide reduction targets.
"Getting our voice heard and being represented is critical. We have got to ask ourselves who is representing the airline industry at Copenhagen. We have got to do something to get our voice heard."
Walsh admitted that airlines had made an error by focusing their lobbying efforts on transport ministers and not their colleagues at environment departments.
"We tend to spend more of our time talking to transport ministers than environment ministers," he said. "It's not going to be the transport ministers who will be at Copenhagen. We may have been talking to the wrong audience and we have to turn that around very quickly."
Tony Tyler, chief executive of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, said airlines still had an opportunity to state their case. "We don't want to be faced after Copenhagen with that feeling of 'oh my goodness we should have done something'."
Iata has been pushing ICAO to agree an action plan that would include a global emissions-trading scheme for airlines. However, ICAO's efforts have been stymied by a failure to reach agreement with emerging superpowers such as Brazil, India and China.
Other countries are preparing to fill the policy gap at Copenhagen while Iata stands on the sidelines. The world's poorest countries are pushing for a long-haul flight tax that would contribute $10bn (£6.2bn) towards fighting global warming and could be agreed at Copenhagen, where governments will thrash out a sequel to the Kyoto climate change agreement.
International aviation and shipping were carved out from Kyoto on the proviso that ICAO and the International Maritime Organisation came up with their own climate-change schemes – which both groups have failed to do after a decade of talks.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017