Opening of COP 17 in Durban
Mon 28 Nov 2011 – The UNFCCC COP 17 climate talks get underway today in Durban with little of the expectations that have been a feature in recent years, notably Copenhagen in 2009. With the Kyoto Protocol expiring next year and no enthusiasm from developed countries outside of Europe, Australia and New Zealand for its extension, a new binding deal is not now expected before 2015 at the earliest. Without a new deal, the chances of reaching a global agreement on ambitious binding emissions reduction targets for international aviation look similarly slim for the foreseeable future. Attempts at progressing negotiations on aviation and shipping emissions in the UNFCCC AWG-LCA stream have so far produced little, although they will continue during the Durban session. Interest by aviation industry representatives attending COP 17 is likely to focus on a possible contribution to the $100 billion Green Climate Fund from an airline levy and also an item submitted by India for the main agenda concerning unilateral trade measures.
Despite the legal opinion from the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice that the inclusion of non-EU airlines into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was fully in compliance with international law and treaties, the big emerging economies from the developing world continue to insist otherwise and have firmly stated their opposition to the “unilateral” measure. In October, around 26 states – not all from the developing world – signed the Delhi Declaration in protest, which was subsequently adopted at an ICAO Council meeting earlier this month.
With the start of the scheme on January 1, just a month away, this is the last chance they have to derail Europe’s plan before it gets underway.
In a proposed item for inclusion in the provisional main COP 17 agenda, India “believes that any agreed outcome of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) process must contain a firm and unambiguous commitment from developed countries that they will not resort to unilateral trade measures.”
India says that such measures in the name of climate protection must be dealt with under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol regime. “Climate policies crafted nationally/regionally and imposed beyond borders is unlikely to accurately reflect the principled balance of obligations in the climate regime,” continues the document. “The European Union’s extension of its Emissions Trading Scheme to aviation, and thereby to all carriers landing in or departing from EU airports offers a ready example. First, the EU scheme, subject to a few limited exceptions, applies to all airlines. The scheme stands in violation of the UNFCCC as it does not respect the principles of CBDR of developed and developing countries and proposes to operate the ETS outside the EU boundaries without multilateral or bilateral consent.
“Further, EU member states have the discretion to determine how revenues from the auctioning of GHG allowances will be spent. Although intended for EU mitigation activities, and adaptation in the EU and developing countries, there is no obligation to deploy revenues thus.
“The FCCC balance of obligations requires developed countries to provide financial assistance to developing countries, yet here developing country airlines will be contributing to climate and other activities in the EU. In this instance, unilateral measures taken in the name of climate protection turn the FCCC-Kyoto balance of obligations on their head. Unilateral measures imposed beyond borders lend themselves to such perversions of multilaterally agreed frameworks for action.”
India argues that if nations are allowed to impose such measures they have little incentive to participate and reach compromise solutions in the multilateral process, and “chip away” at the principles on which the climate regime is built. “Further, they threaten the outcomes that may be reached,” it concludes.
The agenda item calls for the COP or AWG-LCA process to pursue the issue at COP 17 and adopt drafting language that prohibits Parties from engaging in unilateral trade and other measures.
Indications suggest the Indian proposal will not necessarily be taken up in the early stages of discussions but could become a focal point for disagreement. According to COP-watcher Damian Ryan, Policy Manager of The Climate Group, it is almost certain to be discussed and how the EU plays the debate will be important.
“This is because by taking unilateral action, the EU has in fact gained extra leverage in other areas of the negotiations, notably with respect to Kyoto and climate finance,” he said. “As I see it, the EU has got something that others want – or, more precisely, has imposed something that others want to get rid of.
“The fact that it has been successful so far in resisting calls to back down on the EU ETS put it, I believe, in a strong position to obtain concessions in other areas if it chooses to do so. Aviation then becomes a negotiating coin. My whole presumption is based on whether the EU is in fact willing to do so – perhaps aviation is a red-line, non-negotiable issue.
“I doubt this is the case though, not least because the EU has always said it would consider alternative measures from other countries.”
ICAO will be holding a side event tomorrow (November 29) focusing on explaining its action plans for achieving global goals on international aviation emissions reduction. The following day (November 30), IATA is also hosting a side event to discuss the practical and economic implications of sourcing finance from the sector for the Green Climate Fund.
UNFCCC COP 17
UNFCCC DOC FCCC/CP/2011/1 (item 13) – India submission on unilateral trade measures (pdf)
The Climate Group – COP 17 Briefing
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