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Aviation heads to act on climate change, but set no targets
Switzerland Aviatio 5395735
Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of British Airways, talks during the Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, April 22, 2008. Aviation chiefs during the summit have signed a declaration that pledges to address the industry's impact on climate change but shuns concrete targets to reduce carbon emissions. - photo by Associated Press
    GENEVA — Aviation chiefs pledged Tuesday to address the industry’s impact on climate change but shied away from setting concrete targets to reduce global-warming gases.
    A declaration signed by trade bodies and aircraft makers commits the industry to develop new technologies with the eventual aim of achieving carbon-free travel.
    The signatories included trans-Atlantic rivals Boeing Co. and Airbus, engine makers Rolls Royce and General Electric, as well as industry groups such as the International Air Transport Association, which represents more than 240 airlines worldwide.
    Signatories declared they will work toward taking on climate change by helping to set up an international emissions trading program under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
    By putting their weight behind that program, the industry again signaled its opposition to the European Union’s plans to establish a regional emissions trading system.
    The 27-nation bloc’s attempt to include commercial airlines in its cap-and-trade program has been opposed by the airline industry as well as by the United States, China, and other countries.
    ‘‘Europe’s unilateral approach will only lead to legal battles and trade wars,’’ International Air Transport Association chief executive Giovanni Bisignani told delegates at the industry meeting in Geneva.
    He said other countries would not accept, let alone adopt, a trading system imposed by the EU.
    Europe wants all airlines that fly within the EU to trade pollution allowances beginning in 2011, forcing them to buy more if they want to increase their flights. Airlines flying to the EU would join the program a year later — a move that would hit U.S. airlines on the lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.
    U.S. officials have warned that including non-European airlines in the EU cap-and-trade program may break international aviation and trade law.
    Bisignani said with fuel costing the industry $156 billion last year, both airlines and aircraft makers have reason enough to want to lower fuel consumption.
    ‘‘No other industry has such an enormous incentive to be fuel-efficient,’’ he said.
    That view was backed by Marion Blakey, chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group.
    ‘‘There is no other industry that in only a couple of decades dropped its fuel usage by 70 percent,’’ she told The Associated Press.
    Scientists estimate that airlines are to blame for at least 2 percent of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas linked to global warming. Other gases emitted by aircraft are also thought to add to global warming but scientists have been unable to agree on their exact impact.
    Blakey, a former head of the Federal Aviation Administration, said new technologies combined with more efficient use of air space would help drive down fuel usage, which now stands at just under about 1.6 gallons for every 100 miles a passengers travels.
    ‘‘With political will you can see a single sky in Europe, which gives tremendous efficiency,’’ she said, referring to the industry’s long-running demand that national air traffic control systems in Europe be combined in a single operation.
    Environmentalists argue that the problem of carbon emissions from aviation will not improve unless radical changes are made to improve efficiency. In the meantime, they say the growing number of flights threatens to undo improvements made in other industries, ultimately undermining international targets to halve emissions by 2050 compared with 1990.

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