Aviation’s black box: Non-disclosure agreements, closed doors and rising CO2

(Climate Change News, 12 Sep 2019) One of the world’s most important institutions in the fight against climate change is also one of the UN’s most opaque.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), headquartered in downtown Montreal, has been charged with reducing the rising carbon emissions from international flight – an enormous commercial, technical and public relations challenge for the industry.

Between 2013 and 2018, aviation sector emissions grew from 710 to 905 million tonnes of CO2, according to the latest estimates by the International Air Transport Association (Iata). Flying now generates just under 3% of global emissions, roughly the same as Germany. Icao’s own forecast anticipates emissions to increase by up to 300% by 2050 under business as usual.

Climate advocates say oversight is critical in a matter of such high public interest. But through interviews with delegates and observers, Climate Home News has found scrutiny is restricted and key information protected by non-disclosure agreements.

While observers find access difficult, industry presence at Icao is the norm. That is partly a legacy of Icao’s origins. Founded in 1944 as a way to use commercial aviation to ensure cooperation and peace-keeping, Icao was created as a forum for cooperation between large aviation countries in an era dominated by flag-carrying airlines. Sensitive commercial data informs some discussions and Icao’s central decision-making has been designed to protect it.

“Meeting behind closed doors to discuss measures to reduce emissions from international aircraft is not acceptable,” said Brice Böhmer, climate governance integrity lead at Transparency International.

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Climate Change News, 12 Sep 2019: Aviation’s black box: Non-disclosure agreements, closed doors and rising CO2