Environmental groups have criticized the UN body tasked with reducing global aircraft emissions for hiring a former airline industry lobbyist for a high-level position.
Activists say Michael Gill’s hiring for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reflects his flaws and biases toward the industry.
Gill was most recently the executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, an industry body, and the director of aviation and environment for the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
As such, he led the lobbying for what environmental groups say was the weakening of emissions reduction measures created by ICAO.
The UN body works with member states to reduce the carbon footprint of international aviation (pdf) through its lane scheme, which is based on airlines buying credits to offset the increase in COtwo from a fixed minimum level. Critics say the scheme has not reduced aviation emissions, but it has offset growth in the industry.
After lobbying by industry last year, ICAO agreed to change the baseline for minimum emissions above which carbon offsets are required only from 2019-20 to 2019. The previous date, which included 2020 when The Covid-19 pandemic practically eliminated flights and drastically reduced aviation emissions, it would have set a lower level of minimum emissions.
In his role at Iata, Gill was a key lobbyist for pushing the industry forward. take 2019 as the date to measure emissions. He said the new date would save the airline industry $ 15bn (£ 11bn).
“We went to ICAO and said 2019 emissions should be used,” Gill said in May last year, arguing that the change would avoid creating an “unusually difficult baseline” for the sector.
“If ICAO does what we have suggested, it could avoid $ 15 billion in additional compensation costs, so it is very important that ICAO get it right,” he said.
Industry pressure was successful. ICAO introduced its change to the reference date last June, saying he wanted to “avoid an inappropriate financial burden on the aviation industry.”
ICAO announced Gill’s appointment as director of legal affairs and its external relations office last week.
Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based NGO, said: “Hiring one more former aviation industry lobbyist at ICAO won’t change the organization’s overall ineffectiveness much … ICAO is fundamentally flawed and biased in favor of the industry, which is why it has continually failed to adequately address emissions from aviation “.
The Corsia scheme has been heavily criticized for not reducing actual emissions. Instead, it relies on industry buying carbon offsets for emissions growth above 2019 levels. The offsets, set at around 1 euro (86 pence) per tonne of COtwoThey were very cheap for the industry, Dardenne said.
“It is not surprising that the best tool he has come up with to address aviation emissions is an economic compensation scheme that allows airlines to continue polluting for decades to come,” he said.
An ICAO spokesperson said Gill’s appointment was made in accordance with human resource practices which, in turn, were aligned with UN provisions to avoid conflicts of interest.
“All ICAO personnel must abide by the ICAO service code, which requires the highest levels of commitment to independence from outside influence as international public officials,” he said.
“The responsibility for reducing emissions from all sectors of human activity, including but not limited to aviation, rests clearly and unequivocally with the states.
“ICAO is a standards-setting body, and the role of the ICAO secretariat within the aviation sector is strictly to provide impartial technical assistance to states in the development and agreement of these standards.”
Corsia’s plan is currently voluntary, but will apply to all 193 UN member states after 2027. Some analyzes suggest emission levels above which carbon offsets are required are so high that airlines won’t start buying credits until 2026.
A report for the German Environment Agency Last year it found that more than 80% of the compensation projects that are part of Corsia overvalued their effect because they would have been carried out whether the credits had been purchased or not.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism