September 20, 2019 / 10:36 PM / a month ago

U.N. aviation agency head says open to meeting climate activist Greta Thunberg

FILE PHOTO: Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg looks on as she testifies at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee and House Select Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on "Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis" on Capitol Hill in Washington U.S., September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The secretary general of the U.N. aviation agency said on Friday she is open to meeting with Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who will lead a Montreal climate protest next week in part targeting emissions from flights.

Thunberg, who sailed across the Atlantic from Britain to the United States in a zero-carbon emissions boat to protest air travel emissions, is being courted by some environmentalists and European politicians to address a global gathering at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) when she heads a Sept. 27 climate protest.

While no formal request has been made to bring Thunberg to the agency’s triennial assembly that kicks off on Tuesday, ICAO Secretary General Fang Liu said she would meet Thunberg if the 16-year-old activist’s schedule permits it.

“She has a very tight schedule but she is welcome if she wants to meet with us,” Liu told Reuters on the sidelines of ICAO’s aviation security symposium.

A representative for Thunberg, who participated in a climate protest in New York on Friday as part of a worldwide day of demonstrations, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Commercial flying currently accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions but that number could rise as global air travel increases if adequate steps are not taken to curb it. The aviation industry has cut carbon emissions from each plane traveler in half since 1990, largely thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft.

ICAO cannot impose regulations on countries but sets standards that are adopted by its 193 member states. It has brokered a plan aimed at achieving carbon-neutral growth from international flights starting in 2020. Industry and environmentalists have urged ICAO’s assembly to go further and commit to setting a long-term target for reducing emissions.

Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by Will Dunham

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