Cape Town.04.06.13. Delegates from airlines all over the world attending the 69th IATA Annual General Meeting world air transport summit leave the Ballroom venue at the Cape Town International Convention Centre where they attended the AGM working session on Tuesday. Picture Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - International airlines meeting in Cape Town have agreed to a “global” plan to jointly cut their greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, in part to help prevent a “patchwork” of potential national carbon taxes, which would be an “administrative nightmare”.

On Monday, a clear majority of the 240 airlines comprising Iata (the International Air Transport Association) adopted a resolution calling for a “market-based mechanism” to help reduce emissions. These airlines together account for over 80 percent of global air traffic.

Iata said the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) could use their resolution as a blueprint to design a “global policy” to help cut, or offset emissions.

Icao, a 191-state organisation that establishes worldwide aviation policy and regulations, is set to meet in Montreal, Canada in September.

It will debate if, and how to institute the greenhouse gas cuts and offsets.

Paul Steele, Iata’s environment director, said the organisation was concerned that individual states could try to implement their own carbon taxes without global collaboration. “Such a ‘patchwork’ would be an administrative nightmare,” he said.

Steele said Iata members feared the prospect of national carbon taxes, whose “burdensome requirements” would gum up the working of the airline industry by imposing millions of dollars of costs in adherence and policing.

Airlines had a taste of the effect of regional carbon taxes, when the EU threatened to impose such a tax on all airlines flying to Europe.

The EU climbed down from the proposal late last year after warnings it could produce a tit-for-tat trade war.

Iata’s resolution – adopted by all members besides the Chinese and Indian delegations – called on governments to “establish procedures for a single market-based measure (MBM)” which would come into place in 2020.

The details of how the mechanism will work are still unclear, but the resolution states that “a single mandatory carbon offsetting scheme” would be preferable.

This could mean airlines buy tradeable carbon credits to offset any increases in their emissions.

“For governments, finding agreement … will not be easy,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general.

“It was difficult enough for the airlines, given the potential financial implications.”

Christoph Franz, chief executive officer of Lufthansa, said yesterday it was important that any scheme be applied to all airlines

“A global system will have the same burdens for everyone, like a rise in the fuel price,” he said.

Franz said that biofuels could also help reduce emissions.

He said Lufthansa aircraft had already flown over 1 000 flights on a mixture of biofuels and kerosene.

“How to produce large-scale production of biofuels” for the aviation industry was the next big issue to address, said Franz. - Cape Times