As we move ever closer to the crunch talks taking place at ICAO in October this year, the aviation community is today gathering in Montreal to talk all things sustainable at the Global Sustainable Aviation Forum.

Countdown to the ICAO Assembly

This event, which is organised by the Air Transport Action Group, takes place every year and has become an importantdate in the calendar for all sectors of air transport, or indeed for anyone with an interest in aviation environmental issues. This year, all eyes are on the ongoing negotiations at the UN’s ICAO on a global offsetting scheme for aviation emissions.

As followers of the sustainable development of air transport will know, the industry has a goal of achieving carbon-neutral growth from the year 2020. If this goal is to be realised, we need the world’s governments represented at ICAO to work together to agree on a global offsetting scheme, which will see all emissions over 2020 levels offset via the carbon market.

At this year’s Forum, representatives of airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers will have the chance to show ICAO negotiators just how important this deal is for the future of air transport. Delegates will explore a number of aspects of the proposed deal, including how offsetting can contribute to sustainable development (there are actually far more benefits to offsetting beyond the environmental) and some of the more technical elements of the deal, which will be of strong interest to airlines.

As well as exchanging views on the proposed global offsetting scheme, delegates will also get a chance to learn more about the longer term prospects for aviation’s climate efforts. While it is very important in the mid-term, the global offsetting scheme is not a long-term solution for air transport emissions. To make really significant cuts in CO2 (the long term goal is half 2005-level emissions by 2050) we need to develop new, more efficient technology and really reap the benefits of sustainable alternative fuels. The Forum will also take a look these prospects, with attendees hearing from some world experts in aerospace technology.

The Forum comes at a particularly auspicious time, as the next day ICAO gathers to undertake the next stage of negotiations on the offsetting scheme. This last big meeting before the Assembly in October will provide a good opportunity to fine-tune some the remaining outstanding issues of the proposed scheme before the final decision is taken later in the year. We all hope that the views expressed by the industry at the ATAG Forum will focus the minds of government negotiators and reinforce just how important their job is.