Aviation Climate Change elements
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Climate Change Control is Aviation’s #1 Challenge

Controversy is Complex and incredibly Technical

One Cognoscenti is leaving A4A and ICAO adds one

Climate change control is aviation’s most contentious and intractable challenge. There are those who believe that a reasonable solution is to cancel all flying. At the other end of the debate continuum, advocates are asserting that time and research will solve the problem. Given these antipodes, the dialogue is difficult to navigate. Slight misstatements by either side could lead to the other side’s winning repartee. Any loss of credibility with the general public would likely be lethal blow to their support.

This preamble sets the stage for two significant changes in the college of aviation climate change control  leaders. First, the airlines’ most able advocate, Nancy Newman Young, is retiring. Second, Michael Gill has assumed the position of ICAO’s Director, Legal Affairs & External Relations.

Young and GillMs. Young established a reputation as an incredibly knowledgeable and capable representative of the US airlines. Her command of the technical aspects of this global environmental issue gave her great advantages in the discussions. She recognized by Biofuels Digest for her vital role in shaping global environmental policies and was named one of the Top 100 People in Advanced Bioeconomy.

Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, wrote this long and accurate summary of Ms. Young’s contributions to his members and to all aviation:


A4A Calio letter re Nancy Young

[letter head added]

This paean of praise is joined by several of her colleagues, all of whom have impressive resumes and roles in the global aviation climate change debate:

  • Jeffrey Shane, JD, Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Affairs,  DoT Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, DoT Under Secretary for Policy, General Counsel IATA–

“Nancy probably had the hardest job at A4A — defending the airlines  against utterly unachievable demands while fully understanding very early that climate concerns would rapidly become an existential challenge for the airline industry. She was an unquestioned leader in forging a credible path forward, while maintaining the respect and affection of everyone who worked with her.”

“For many years Nancy Young has been a loyal and effective advocate on behalf of the airline industry, blazing trails in sustainability and raising awareness of the measures undertaken by airlines to reduce their environmental footprint.  She leaves an impressive and broad legacy, and her departure from A4A leaves an enormous void.  Like everyone who admires her, I look forward to seeing where she directs her boundless energy and keen intellect next.”

  • A colleague with whom Ms. Young worked for years:

“Nancy Young has been a leader in bringing the aviation industry together to address the most pressing environmental issues of our time. Indeed, she was the first person I heard talking about the impacts of aircraft emissions on climate, back in the early 2000s, and since then has been tireless in her efforts to get international agreement on a mechanism to quantify, report on and offset those emissions. Nancy was part of a small group of visionaries who saw promise in the development of sustainable jet fuel and was instrumental in getting airlines on board with what became the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative. Throughout her career she has always held to the highest standards of integrity and compassion, and many who have been privileged to work with her are even more privileged to count her as a friend.”

Aviation CC efforts

Michael Gill  joined ICAO as Director, Legal Affairs & External Relations, where he  will support the Secretariat team and Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar in helping the member States achieve the safe, secure, and sustainable recovery of the global civil aviation network. Working together with industry, labour bodies and civil society, the Director position has  a unique opportunity to bring forward the next generation of flight.

Avocat Gill comes to this position from the executive director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the only global association that represents all sectors of the air transport industry. Its mission is to promote aviation’s sustainable growth for the benefit of global society. The Geneva, Switzerland trade group represents “airports, airlines, airframe and engine manufacturers, air navigation service providers, leasing companies, airline pilot and air traffic controller unions, aviation associations, chambers of commerce, tourism and trade partners, ground transportation and communications providers.” ATAG provides a forum for the commercial aviation sector to work together on long-term sustainability issues.


Earlier, Mr. Gill was the Director, Aviation Environment of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in November 2013, with responsibility for developing and implementing IATA’s work in the environment field, particularly in the areas of climate change, noise, biofuel commercialisation and the IATA environmental assessment programme. Prior to that, he spent six years as senior legal counsel in IATA, supporting IATA’s external affairs portfolio. In that role, he led IATA’s delegation to three ICAO diplomatic conferences on airline regulatory and security issues.

Before joining IATA in May 2007, Michael was an aviation lawyer in private practice at the Paris Bar, acting for airlines and their insurers. He holds law degrees from both King’s College, London and the Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh. He is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales and an avocat in France.

The ICAO position is a very high profile job. The good news is that Mr. Gill has tremendous credentials on the climate change control issue which finds the Organization as the primary, if not sole, decision maker on these global environmental rules. His appointment was not well received by environmental groups (e.g., Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based NGO). In spite of this opposition, Gill’s appointment as director of legal affairs and its external relations bureau  was announce after the negative reaction.


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