ICAO Marks 40th Assembly Opening with Protests, Progress

The triennial meeting of the global aviation agency takes place in Montreal through October 4.

The first session of ICAO’s interim Council
The first session of ICAO’s interim Council met in Montreal on August 15, 1945, just as hostilities ceased in World War II.ICAO

The triennial meeting of the global aviation agency ICAO is taking place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on September 24 through October 4, 2019, and it has been punctuated so far with protests on climate change—while at the same time maintaining its focus on global priorities to address aviation safety, air navigation capability and efficiency, security, economic development—and environmental protection.

The ICAO Assembly, as the meeting is officially known, forms the International Civil Aviation Organization’s sovereign body, convened by the governing Council at least every three years. During the session, the overall work of the agency goes under review, and when outcomes have been determined, the 193 participating countries in ICAO (designated as “Member States”) receive those outcomes and vote on issues and concerns put before the Assembly. A majority vote carries, unless another path is outlined by the ICAO Convention.

On Sunday, September 29, the Executive Committee addressed environmental protection, the topic most pressing in light of climate strike protests that took place outside of the Assembly in Montreal on Friday. The committee considered the draft statement of the Long-term Global Aspirational Goal, which is intended to be included in the Executive Committee Report for the 40th Assembly.

The text reads: “The Council, with the technical support of CAEP and in consultation with States, the industry and other relevant stakeholders, should prioritize the work on the feasibility of a long-term global aspirational goal for international aviation CO2 emissions reduction, and present options for consideration by the 41st Session of the ICAO Assembly. In doing so, the Council should also prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the options for a long-term global aspirational goal, building upon ongoing and planned initiatives and actions, including innovative technologies, and partnerships amongst States and industry, and whilst providing the necessary support to States in need, under the ‘No country left behind’ initiative, in particular on the capacity building and assistance needed.”

A consolidated statement posted jointly by China, India, and Russian Federation in response to the draft statement called out, in particular, that the current low level (less than 2%) of total global CO2 emissions that the aviation industry contributes is "projected to increase as a result of the continued growth of air transport," yet "emphasis should be on those policy options that will reduce aircraft engine emissions without negatively impacting the growth of air transport especially in developing economies," among other primary points, including the petition for continued collaboration in the area of environmental protection.

Another result reported after the plenary session on Saturday, September 28, included the election of the following Member States to the governing Council on the first ballot (Part I): Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the United States; and on the second ballot. (Part II): Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Spain. The Part III election will take place on October 1, to include: Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Zambia. The disposition of the Council ensures that not only are major states critical to air transport included, but also that the geographical regions of the world are adequately represented by the Council.

Look for a further update on outcomes from the Assembly next week, following its conclusion.