India says new international treaty will be required to enforce ICAO aviation emissions global market-based measure
India's Prashant Sukul at the ATAG Summit
Tue 6 May 2014 – India’s representative on the governing ICAO Council believes an agreement can be reached on a global market-based measure (MBM) to reduce the impact of growing international aviation carbon emissions but it would need to be backed up with an international treaty signed by all 191 member states. Without such a binding agreement, it will be hard to enforce compliance on airlines and countries, Prashant Sukul told the aviation industry’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit. However, the FAA’s Carl Burleson, an experienced US negotiator on the ICAO MBM issue, responded that formulating a treaty would cause an unnecessary delay in implementing the scheme. Sukul said India and the other BRIC countries would expect to be a part of the global MBM from its proposed start in 2020 and added the new process now taking place at ICAO “had to work”.
In a panel session at the Summit, organised by the industry’s Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), Sukul admitted that little had been achieved by the past three ICAO assemblies, which, he said was down to the mechanics of the process. India, along with the other BRIC countries, have since proposed and seen adopted the Environment Advisory Group (EAG), which Sukul said was now driving discussions further and faster at ICAO. The proposal had called for a wider consultative and more transparent process with the participation of all member states, as well as with industry and environmental NGOs. “We mustn’t exclude anybody,” he told delegates. “There is no going back – this has got to work.”
He confirmed that India and the other BRICs would expect to join the global MBM from the start in 2020.
One proviso Sukul placed on a successful outcome at the next ICAO Assembly in late 2016 concerns the wider climate change negotiations taking place at the UNFCCC, where a crucial post-Kyoto international agreement is anticipated at the Paris COP in December 2015. “You have to link the UNFCCC and ICAO processes and operate them in tandem,” he explained to GreenAir in an interview during the ATAG Summit. “Doing something in isolation for the aviation sector won’t work because the cost of implementation and administration of a market-based mechanism would be much, much higher.” It would be particularly onerous on countries with a small aviation activity and for whom the costs would be proportionately much higher, he argued. “They would demand de minimis exemptions and that would be a complete disaster as you would be back to a scheme for only a limited number of countries.”
Carl Burleson, the FAA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment (a new political appointee, Rich Swayze, is to take up the Assistant Administrator post) said the United States had been very pleased with the outcome of the 2013 ICAO Assembly and had been encouraged by the speed at which the ICAO Council had moved in setting up the EAG.
One of the first moves in the process has been the release of a ‘strawman’ document by the ICAO Secretariat for consideration by the EAG that outlines how a potential MBM scheme might look. Burleson said the document had provoked “full and frank, but useful” discussions. The ‘strawman’ covers controversial issues such as thresholds and special conditions for early movers, new entrants and fast growing operators. Sukul reported the question of exemptions had dominated a recent EAG meeting, with his view being that they should be kept to a minimum.
Damien Meadows from the European Commission said previous breakthroughs at ICAO on the issue had petered out but Europe remained “absolutely committed” to the implementation of a global market-based mechanism. “However, there are very many issues that have to be resolved for it to work,” he added. “The formation of the EAG is a good start but it is crucial there is full and active participation by all countries. Transparency in the process will be helpful.”
He appealed for the underlying documents under discussion, such as the ‘strawman’, be made available in the public domain at some stage for wider consultation with industry and civil society, a call echoed by Sukul.
Annie Petsonk from Washington-based NGO Environmental Defense Fund said civil society had so far not been included in the EAG process. “There is a challenge for the EAG to open it up. Dealing with the climate change issue is essential for the industry’s licence to grow and to tackle it successfully there will have to be engagement with a broader array of stakeholders.”
Sukul said there would be consultation on the process. “It has to be transparent as it has to be ratified by 190 countries.”
Dirk Forrister, President of the International Emissions Trading Association, said the process presented a huge opportunity but wondered whether it would deliver or turn out to be another delaying tactic. He said the carbon market community was ready to offer its experience and expertise in developing a global mechanism but advised against “reinventing the wheel”.
Sukul believed a treaty signed by all ICAO states would be necessary to implement the mechanism on a global basis as compliance and MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) would play a very important part. He was concerned that market transactions could lead some states to see it as an opportunity to raise their own revenues from the scheme and cause market distortions. Such a treaty, he argued, could be developed and completed after the MBM had been agreed in 2016 and before its implementation in 2020. Compliance by airlines, he later told GreenAir, required the enforcement of a legal mechanism and this, he argued, could only be set up through a treaty or protocol.
Burleson countered that a treaty was not needed as ICAO had a long history in putting in place environmental standards and regulations. “We would also have to wait a very long time for it,” he added.
IATA Director General Tony Tyler told the conference that the agreement on a global MBM framework at last year’s ICAO Assembly had been an important milestone. “But far from a conclusion, it’s only the end of the beginning,” he noted. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work over the next three years. The discussions on the details of the MBM will not be easy, but we must stay the course. If we remain united, we earn our licence to grow with our stakeholders and our passengers. And we will have the strength to find solutions to the challenges that are likely to emerge.”
Added incoming ATAG Executive Director Michael Gill: “We are within touching distance on a global MBM. Progress has been made but there is still a lot to do. Failure of the ICAO process is not an option.”
ATAG video from the Summit including interviews with Dave Barger, CEO JetBlue Airways; Michael Gill, Executive Director, ATAG; Tony Tyler, Director General, IATA; and Annie Petsonk, International Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund: