Industry Influence in Turbulent Times: A Study of Climate Regulation in the Aviation Industry

Niels Bondegaard Thomsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to explain how industry actors influence international climate regulation in aviation. The rationale behind the choice of topic is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of industry actors in regulatory processes. The issue of climate regulation in aviation has become increasingly relevant in recent years as the industry has come under increased scrutiny due to the climate impact of aviation. In the governing body of international aviation, ICAO, there have been negotiations revolving around climate regulation. As this type of regulation bears the potential to impact the industry in the coming years, this study examines how the industry actors safeguard their interests by exerting influence within the ICAO. Methodologically, the study approaches the issue through qualitative research, conducting interviews with relevant stakeholders in the industry.
Based on an analysis of industry actors’ role in the ICAO, the findings of the study show that industry actors have a central position within the ICAO which allows for exertion of influence. At the technical level of the ICAO, the industry gains access through the provision of expertise and data. As climate regulation reaches the decision-making level, the industry actors become entangled in contentious political discussions which revolve around the responsibilities of developed and developing countries to combat climate change. Thereby, the negotiations ascend into the broader discussions on climate change, and the power of the industry becomes contingent on the ability to act strategically within this political environment. As the findings show, the industry has managed to coordinate its standpoints and present a concerted action in the ICAO. Furthermore, the industry has acted proactively and has pre-empted ICAO regulation by suggesting potential solutions at the agenda-setting stage. When member states fail to align on a stance, while the entire industry proposes a way forward, industry actors become interpreted as part of the solution rather than the problem. As an effect, the industry achieves a central position at the decision-making level, thereby increasing the opportunity to influence the regulatory process.
These findings suggest that explanations for the nature of industry influence are rooted in the ability of industry actors to act strategically in a political setting by balancing interests and avoiding conflict. It also suggests that climate regulation in aviation should not be examined in 3isolation as it relates to overarching discussions about climate change which is a source of conflict between member states, thereby allowing the industry actors to obtain a more central role indecision-making.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages73
SupervisorsEleni Tsingou