Fri 16 March 2012 – Despite deep reservations by a number of major developing states over CBDR, an agreement was reached by ICAO Council members on Wednesday that work should continue on finding a market-based system that would enable the international aviation industry to offset growth in carbon emissions. The high-profile importance of this issue has become a major challenge for the UN agency as the dispute between Europe and other major powers over the EU ETS continues to escalate. The general consensus reached at the Council, however, should be viewed as welcome progress after a stormy previous meeting left the EU isolated following the adoption of a resolution condemning its carbon scheme. The President of the ICAO Council, Roberto Kobeh González said he was very pleased with the outcome and is optimistic a plan can be presented at next year’s ICAO Assembly.
The Council met to consider a report by an Ad-hoc Working Group (AWG) personally set up by Kobeh to investigate six possible market-based measures (MBMs) that had been suggested by an outside consultancy, which has now been narrowed down to four options:
- Global mandatory offsetting;
- Global mandatory offsetting complemented by a revenue generation mechanism;
- Global emissions trading (a cap-and-trade system); and
- Global emissions trading (a baseline and credit system).
These four options have been given the green light by the Council for further evaluation by the AWG, chaired by the UAE’s permanent representative at ICAO, Capt Aysha Al Hamili, and consisting of representatives from Australia, Denmark, Guatemala, Nigeria and the United States. The group is joined by an air transport industry representative in an observer capacity and other technical experts. Although no major developing country such as China, India or Brazil is on the group, Kobeh points out that all ICAO regions are represented.
Some of the BASIC states represented on the Council expressed opposition that the provisions of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) laid down under the Kyoto Protocol were not accommodated under the AWG’s MBM work. Kobeh told GreenAir Online that although there were strong reservations, it was agreed the issue of CBDR could be put aside for a later date.
The group is to report back to a Council meeting in June and a final proposal is hoped to emerge later in the year, probably October or November.
“I can’t anticipate what the Council will decide but I am optimistic we will have something to take forward to the ICAO Assembly in 2013,” he said.
Not under consideration by the AWG is the de minimis proposal that entered the final climate change resolution at the last Assembly in 2010, under which the airlines of many states would be exempted under a global market-based system. The approach adopted threw up a number of anomalies, leading to formal rejection of the proposal by many states. The hot-potato issue has since remained largely untouched.
Although the triennial Assembly does not take place until later in 2013, Kobeh points out there is also much work to be done elsewhere and MBMs is just one of a number of mitigation areas that ICAO is active in. Following the last Assembly, member states were requested to submit action plans on how they could reduce aviation emissions and ICAO has been holding a series of regional workshops.
“We have to push the states for their action plans but it’s not easy and we have to support them on this,” said Kobeh. “It’s also important that we can measure the progress of the states in the reduction of their emissions.”
Kobeh added that ICAO would like to take part in Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, taking place in June. He said the organisation wanted to showcase its capabilities in areas such as sustainable aviation biofuels but was still awaiting a formal invitation.
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