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The head of the United Nations body that oversees civil aviation said on Monday he expects to have a draft proposal on measures to tackle emissions from aviation by March 2013, rather than at the end of 2012 as he had said previously.
The International Civil Aviation Organization's governing council is expected to discuss "market-based measures" to reduce emissions next week. Secretary-General Raymond Benjamin said he will ask it to eliminate one of four options on the table at that session. Others could be ruled out when the council meets again in the autumn.
"I believe that the turning point will be in March next year, when we will put one option on the table, if all goes well," he said. "It depends on the member states."
Stiff resistance from China, the United States and other nations to the European Union's airline emissions trading scheme has put the ICAO under pressure to come up with a global alternative that could resolve the dispute. In March, Benjamin told Reuters that ICAO was on track to have a draft by the end of 2012.
Under the EU's system, airlines must buy permits for greenhouse gas emissions for planes operating in, and traveling to and from, Europe. Opponents say that violates non-EU states' sovereignty, and that ICAO is the right place to come up with an emission-reduction plan.
Benjamin spoke on the sidelines of a media event at Toronto's main airport, where he was about to board a special Air Canada flight powered partly by used cooking oil.
It was part of a marathon four-flight trip from ICAO's Montreal headquarters to Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.
The journey, which involves several airlines and aircraft from Airbus, Boeing Co and Canada's Bombardier Inc, is meant to highlight the aviation industry's progress toward sustainability.
Benjamin said his ultimate objective is ICAO's autumn 2013 assembly, where its 191 members would have to approve any global emissions plan. The full assembly meets only once every three years.
"We have to have something for the assembly," he said.
But an early consensus on the smaller council would give some reassurance that the U.N. body can help resolve escalating conflict over the EU plan.
The China Air Transport Association said last week that China will take countermeasures that could include impounding European aircraft if the EU punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its scheme.
The warning came as EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said carriers would have to submit carbon emissions data or face enforcement action.
Airbus says that because of the trade row, Chinese airlines have suspended long-distance jet orders worth up to $14 billion.
The ICAO council's President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez told Reuters in March that the four options being considered are mandatory offsetting of emissions from airlines, mandatory offsetting with some revenue-generating mechanism, and two cap-and-trade systems.
Under one, all aviation emissions could be traded. Under the other, only increases or decreases from an initial emissions baseline could be traded.