With no irony intended, we could use the word glacial to describe the airline industry's rate of progress in addressing climate change. The more encouraging news is that we might soon be able to use the word progress without irony.
At a recent meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, a committee of the International Civil Aviation Organizations (ICAO) unanimously agreed on a method for describing and measuring carbon dioxide emissions from commercial aircraft.
The system is said to account for variations in aircraft design, payload and fuel efficiency. For ICAO, a U.N. body that represents the aeronautical authorities of the world's governments, this is a bit like the old gag about peace negotiators finally agreeing on the size and shape of the negotiating table.
In other words, it's progress.
The airlines have welcomed it as such, and not merely because it puts the industry in a position to show that it is doing something. The most important thing about this event may be that it was an agreement negotiated under the auspices of a global body rather than imposed on the industry unilaterally by a single national government or regional entity, such as the European Union.
As we have noted in this space before, the E.U. decision to force the airlines of other nations into its Emissions Trading Scheme did more to upset the world's diplomats than to address climate change.
In the wake of the ICAO action, the E.U. has said it is committed to pursuing a global solution. Perhaps it can find a way to demonstrate that commitment.