Regulators have been urged to use aviation as a strategic asset to help boost global economies.

The call came yesterday from Iata director general and chief executive Tony Tyler amid concerns over issues such as the EU Emission Trading Scheme and the UK’s Air Passenger Duty.

The industry originally supported ETS as an intra-European solution that would avoid uncoordinated tax measures. But the scope was extended beyond Europe’s borders and there was no let-up in taxation, Iata said.

“Departure taxes in the UK, Germany and Austria – introduced as environmental measures – cost over €4 billion,” said Tyler.

“At current prices for UN-issued Certified Emissions Reductions, that would offset aviation’s global CO2 emissions about one-and-a-half times. And ETS is coming on top of that.”

Non-European governments such as China see this extra-territorial tax collection as an attack on their sovereignty and they are taking action.

“Aviation can ill afford to be caught in an escalating political or trade conflict over the EU ETS,” warned Tyler.

“The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is the only way forward. I sense a greater appreciation in Europe that a global solution under ICAO may take time, but it will produce a superior result.

“It is more important than ever for Europe to be a fully engaged participant in discussions at ICAO aimed at delivering a global solution,” said Tyler.

“Positive economic measures such as emissions trading are a necessary, if temporary, bridge to reach aviation’s climate change targets. To be effective and avoid market distortions, these measures must be globally co-ordinated.

“Europe deserves credit for pushing this issue up the international agenda and it is at the forefront on emissions trading. But its unilateral approach must change.”

Speaking in Singapore, Tyler added: “When the relationship between industry and government works, the results are brilliant. Policies that support aviation’s competitiveness deliver wide-ranging benefits across economies by connecting business to markets.

“Within the next decade China is expected to reach the $15,000 per capita income level at which point annual air travel becomes possible. Achieving that in China will generate an extra billion annual travellers.”

Growth brings challenges in areas such as security and climate change. These are best met by governments and industry working together with common purpose, he stressed.