The Airports Council International (ACI), concerned that a trade war could break out if the European Union continues down the path of extending its emissions trading system (ETS) to aviation on Jan. 1., this week said that the issues of aircraft emissions should be addressed globally by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

ACI Director General Angela Gittens said at the ACI World Annual General Assembly in Marrakech, Morocco, that the airport body is “very concerned over the trade conflict” that is developing over the EU’s plan to extend the ETS to all airlines flying into and out of European airports. “A conflict would create extreme hardship on airports,” Gittens said, particularly if traffic rights were revoked by the group of countries that is opposing the inclusion of airlines in the EU ETS. Gittens demanded that “emissions should be addressed through ICAO.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed a resolution by ACI that calls for ICAO to develop a global ETS. “We much appreciate the ACI support,” IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said during an appearance at the ACI event.

Tyler estimates that the EU ETS will cost airlines worldwide at least $1.6 billion in 2012. “The opposition [to EU-ETS] comes as much from governments as from airlines,” he said. “It is hard to see how this can be introduced. There needs to be some acknowledgment that this is a unilateral move.” However, Tyler conceded that so far there is “no public sign of the European Commission backing down.”

Tyler was in Marrakech to promote deeper cooperation with airports. IATA and ACI plan to identify joint projects and want to add the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization as a partner soon. Areas of cooperation are to include immediate policy issues, such as ETS, but also safety, security and service levels at airports.

In his keynote address, Tyler called for airports and airlines to work together on developing airport master plans to “ensure that investment are being made that match the needs of the airlines.” He also emphasized the need for cost-efficient, affordable airports.