GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 30 JANUARY 2015
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Climate policy directed at aviation CO2 is woefully inadequate and requires demand management, finds study
Thu 29 Jan 2015 – Whereas there is a portfolio of opportunities for decarbonisation in the short and medium term for shipping, this is not the case for aviation and so demand management will be required to address the sector’s rising emissions. These are the conclusions of a study published in the journal Climate Policy by Alice Bows-Larkin of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The paper explores the similarities and differences between the shipping and aviation sectors in the context of avoiding a 2 degrees C temperature rise and finds that a reliance on global market-based measures to deliver the required CO2 cuts will likely leave both at odds with the overarching climate goal.
The paper presents analysis from the International Energy Agency that shows aviation and shipping CO2 grew by 78-83% between 1990 and 2010, a period when global CO2 growth from the aggregate of other sectors grew by closer to 40%. By 2010, it says, CO2 emissions from aviation and shipping were of a similar magnitude to those from the entire continents of either Africa or South America.
Referencing studies elsewhere, a range of scenarios for international aviation CO2 show rises up to 515% between 2000 and 2050, although more typical figures are around 220%. For any sector to do less than the average places considerable pressure on others to mitigate more in the effort to avoid 2⁰ C, says the paper.
The author challenges the view that measures such as emissions trading can deliver a satisfactory outcome for international aviation and shipping to play their fair part in delivering on 2⁰ C and that they allow the sectors to grow as much as demand for their services requires. Firstly, she says, if a strict global carbon cap was in place, the carbon prices necessary to achieve an urgent and rapid cut in CO2 would have to be substantially higher than those countenanced by policy makers. Secondly, waiting for a scheme to begin, with a probable phase-in period on top, would still mean a global growth in CO2 that would consume more than a fair proportion of the available carbon budget given emissions need to reach a peak, the author estimates, by 2020.
The industry’s target of a net CO2 cut of 50% by 2050 from 2005 falls substantially short of the 80% cut necessary to remain within a 2⁰ C budget, “even with trading functioning successfully,” argues Bows-Larkin.
“The rapidity with which the CO2 budget is being consumed requires immediate cuts in CO2 growth rates across all sectors. As long as aviation and shipping are outside of a global and strictly bound trading scheme, 2⁰ C implies CO2 growth rates need to be near zero by 2015 to 2020.”
Technology and operational change will not be sufficient to deliver such a shift in the aviation sector in the short term, although this could be the case for shipping, she says, where opportunities exist to use a range of potential alternative fuels and low-carbon technologies, as well as ‘slow-steaming’, in which slowing the speed of ships can deliver immediate cuts in CO2.
For aviation, this implies a need for demand-side intervention, at least in developed nations, she recommends. “Policies that could intervene include a moratorium on airport expansion, the implementation of an individual carbon quota scheme to include flights or, if considered feasible, additional price mechanisms to curb growth to the extent required to stay within the budget.”
Adds Bows-Larkin: “Technologies to cut CO2 in the required timeframe are few and far between. Nations where per capita flying as well as growth rates are high have no option but to consider constraining growth in the short term, until fuel efficiency improvements or the use of biofuel can more than offset the CO2 produced by a further rise in passenger-km.”
For aviation, pinning so much hope on emissions trading to meet the 2⁰ C challenge is misguided, she concludes.
‘All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy’ paper , Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
From shoes for disadvantaged African children to designer bags, Southwest’s old leather seat covers find a use
Tue 27 Jan 2015 – Under the Evolve programme, Southwest Airlines carried out a major redesign of its Boeing 737-700 fleet, plus a portion of its 737-300s, which included replacing the leather covers on 80,000 seats with environmentally friendly materials. This resulted in the weight of each aircraft being reduced by around 600 pounds (270kgs) but left the airline with 43 acres (17.4ha) of leather to dispose. Rather than sending to landfill, Southwest launched an initiative last year called LUV Seat in which the leather has been ‘upcycled’ and donated to projects in Kenya, Malawi and the United States. The leather has now been used for social projects to manufacture a variety of goods such as shoes and footballs in Africa, and a company in Portland, Oregon, has released a line of designer travel bags that has proved so popular there is a waiting list of would-be buyers.
In Nairobi, SOS Children’s Villages Kenya, the project’s primary non-profit partner that serves orphaned children and families in need, along with three other partners – Alive & Kicking, Masaai Treads and Life Beads Kenya – will use the leather to produce goods for distribution to local community groups.
Through the partnership, SOS youth are receiving paid apprenticeships and training to make shoes and footballs from the leather. The footballs are donated to support education programmes that use sports to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, and the shoes are distributed as part of a campaign to combat the jigger, a parasite that burrows under the skin. One recipient of the donated products is the Cura Orphanage, a residence for children who have lost their parents to AIDS.
Other partners include US-based non-profit TeamLift, which at a boarding school facility under construction in Malawi is developing a leather works training programme that will teach entrepreneurial skills while generating proceeds that will support the school.
Meanwhile in Portland, Looptworks, a company that rescues premium excess materials to design and produce sustainable goods, is upcycling Luv Seat leather into limited edition, hand-made bags. Looptworks has come up with three different designs – a backpack, a duffle bag and a convertible tote bag – which retail from $150 to $250. So popular have they proved that there is currently a five to seven week wait on orders.
The company claims that 4,000 gallons of water are conserved along with a 72% reduction in CO2 emissions from the making of each recycled bag compared to a virgin leather bag. It is also working with a local non-profit that is providing jobs to disabled adults who deconstruct and clean the Southwest seat material.
Southwest says the initiatives are the first phase of a multi-year campaign to re-use the leather in upcycling projects around the world.
“The Evolve redesign was a major milestone in supporting our sustainability goals,” said Bill Tiffany, VP Supply Chain Management for the airline. “But we didn’t want to stop there – with the pilot of LUV Seat in Nairobi, Malawi and the United States, we’re embarking on a new vision of social impact through training, job creation and ultimately product donation.
“We look forward to identifying additional partners through a call to action, using the #LUVSEAT hashtag, for our employees, customers and the general public to share their ideas of how we should upcycle the remaining leather.”
Southwest Airlines – LUV Seat, SOS Children’s Villages Kenya, Alive & Kicking, Masaai Treads, Life Beads Kenya, TeamLift, Looptworks – LUV Seat
United and JetBlue see value in a customer demand for environmentally sustainable holiday destinations
Fri 23 Jan 2015 – United Airlines has launched a new travel programme for customers looking to incorporate sustainability and environmental responsibility into their holiday requirements. The airline is partnering with The Mark Travel Corporation, its exclusive tour operator for United Vacations, and global non-profit Sustainable Travel International (STI) on the programme. United Eco-Skies Vacations will be piloted in Costa Rica, a country known for its eco-diversity and environmental stewardship, and if successful will be expanded to other eco-friendly destinations. Meanwhile, another US carrier, JetBlue, has carried out a study into the relationship between a tourist destination’s ecosystems and the value that has to the airline in a purely business sense. Leisure travel to the Caribbean’s pristine beaches and clear seas is key to JetBlue’s business model but that could be impacted by large-scale environmental degradation, says the airline.
United’s customers are now able to select ‘Sustainable travel’ under ‘Specialty vacations’ when visiting the United Vacations website. They are then invited to choose from four resort properties in Costa Rica that have been evaluated by STI as maintaining environmentally sustainable practices in accordance with recognised standards. Customers also have the option to purchase CarbonChoice carbon offsets associated with their travel.
Two of the hotels have been certified by the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program, another holds the Luxury Eco Certification Standard and the fourth is ISO 14001 certified in Environmental Management.
“United understands the importance of protecting the cultural, economic and environmental integrity of the destinations we serve,” said Angela Foster-Rice, Managing Director of global environmental affairs and sustainability for United. “We’re committed to long-term environmental stewardship, and this programme encourages and promotes responsible travel to ensure these destinations remain attractive places to live, work and visit for generations.”
Eco-tourism has also become an important market for fellow US carrier JetBlue, which has a wider definition of the term and includes those who travel to the Caribbean – a prime market for the airline which flies around 1.8 million tourists annually to the region – in search of the classic tropical shoreline.
“We can think of almost every leisure customer who flies JetBlue to the Caribbean and enjoys a pristine beach as an eco-tourist in some capacity,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, the airline’s Head of Sustainability. “Think about it in terms of Orlando’s theme parks – these popular attractions are inherent to flight demand and ticket pricing into Orlando. We believe clean, unspoiled beaches should be recognised as the main driver for Caribbean leisure travel. These valuable assets undoubtedly drive airline ticket and destination demand.”
The existence of the Caribbean’s ecosystems and shorelines has a direct impact on the demand for flights and therefore, says JetBlue, their appearance and cleanliness should also be a major focus. No community or industry benefits when beaches and oceans are polluted, said JetBlue Executive Vice President James Hnat. “However, these problems persist because we are not adept at quantifying both the risk to communities and our business associated with them.”
So to identify the dollar value of conservation to JetBlue’s revenue from flights to the Caribbean, it has undertaken a study with management consulting firm A.T. Kearney and conservationists The Ocean Foundation.
“It is critical to include a thorough analysis of the major environmental factors that we have always believed influence a tourist’s decision to travel to a Caribbean destination – trash on the beach, water quality, healthy coral reefs and intact mangroves,” said The Ocean Foundation’s President, Mark Spalding. “Our hope is to statistically tie together what, at a glance, appears to be obviously related factors – beautiful beaches and tourism demand – and develop analytical evidence specific enough to matter to industry’s bottom line.”
The study set out to prove a theory that there is a direct causal relationship between low airline revenue per available seat mile (RASM), an industry measure of revenue performance, and polluted beaches and water and, conversely, high RASM and cleaner, more desirable beaches. This would make a case that JetBlue could command a higher RASM to destinations with clean beaches supported by healthy ecosystems. The higher revenue and demand would in turn feed into the income stream for small islands reliant on tourism.
“Our hope is that this work would promote the understanding that without financial investments in the preservation and conservation of the natural resources upon which tourism depends, degradation will increase, tourism will decline and tax revenues will diminish,” say the partners in their report, ‘EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing’.
However, despite access to a wealth of data that exists about the health of Caribbean ecosystems, the study could not establish a definitive causal link due to the data not being consistent and comparable.
“Although our analysis showed there is a correlation between the ‘eco factors’ and RASM, we believe that in the future causation will be proved with more robust data,” said A.T. Kearney partner and a contributor to the report, James Rushing.
The report recommends businesses, governments and NGOs work together both to quantify the value of environmental protection of the Caribbean’s beaches and to ensure they are preserved.
United Eco-Skies Vacations, Sustainable Travel International, ‘EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing’ report (pdf), JetBlue – Sustainability, The Ocean Foundation, A.T. Kearney
Annual savings of around one million tonnes of aviation CO2 steer NATS towards its 2020 emissions target
Wed 21 Jan 2015 – UK air traffic services company NATS has reported aviation-related CO2 reductions now amount to around one million tonnes each year as a result of improvements and efficiency gains introduced since 2006. Based on current prices, NATS claims to have saved airlines over £115 million ($174m) in fuel costs and achieved an average 4.3% cut in CO2 per flight, which means it has exceeded its own interim target of a 4% reduction by the end of 2014. The company says this has been accomplished as a result of changes to UK airspace that allow for more direct routes and improved vertical profiles, the use of more efficient procedures such as continuous climbs and descents by aircraft, and the introduction of new air traffic control technologies. However, reaching its longer term goal of a 10% cut per flight by 2020 will be a tough challenge, admits NATS.
Over 300 changes to UK airspace have been made over the past six years in an effort to find better and more efficient routes for airlines, it reports. More flexible use of military airspace alone accounts for savings of around 30,000 tonnes of CO2 and the introduction of the GAATS+ tools that allow controllers to offer airlines the most efficient altitudes for flights crossing the North Atlantic is responsible for further savings of over 110,000 tonnes.
“This is an important stage in our long-term programme to reach the 10% target,” NATS Head of Environment and Community Affairs Ian Jopson told GreenAir. “To be honest, when we set the target back in 2008 we didn’t exactly know how we were going to achieve it. But we’ve engaged with the airline and airport sectors to identify where the inefficiencies are and how to manage them out of the system. Achieving the interim target – in fact beating it – gives us a lot of confidence.”
However, said Jopson, big challenges lie ahead and even the large investment – in the region of £600 million ($900m) – in new air traffic technologies that is planned through till 2020 will not be enough to get NATS to the target. “We are still looking for other efficiencies to meet the gap and other innovative ways to further reduce air traffic CO2,” he said.
The task is made more difficult as many of the benefits that have been already delivered are what can be described as the low-hanging fruit. This is coupled with an expected rise in air traffic demand after the industry downturn. NATS has just reported a 2.2% increase in 2014 traffic volumes compared to the previous year, handling over 2.2 million flights. December saw non-transatlantic overflights grow by a sizeable 8.5%, followed by transatlantic arrivals and departures with a 6% rise. Domestic traffic grew for the second consecutive month and scheduled traffic rose at 12 out of the 15 airports where NATS operates air traffic control.
“You almost have to over deliver in order to compensate for the increase in traffic,” said Jopson.
Many of the changes NATS has made have been on a relatively small scale and now NATS is planning a major undertaking that involves a root-and-branch redesign of the airspace over the south-east of England – in particular the London area, the second busiest in the world – and the Manchester area.
“Airspace is our infrastructure and as is the case not just in the UK but also in many parts of the world, it needs to be updated and the very latest technologies, such as performance-based navigation, put in place,” explained Jopson.
With fuel making up 30-40% of their overall costs, airlines have had enough of an incentive to work closely with NATS to deliver savings in both fuel and emissions, said Jopson. In the lead up to 2020, he foresees an even greater requirement to reduce emissions given the prospect of a global market-based measure to cap aviation emissions coming into force. “Airlines will always have a need to collaborate with us to reduce fuel burn and emissions.”
Jopson also expects to see major progress on the delivery of the Single European Sky by 2020. “We are already starting to deploy some of the SESAR operational enhancements and we have been closely involved in some of the environmental programmes and contributing to the research,” he reported. “We will deploy a lot of the concepts in our airspace redesign and we are now doing a huge amount of work on cross-border arrival management. Cross-border collaboration is something we need to be doing a lot more of in the future and will be important in filling the gap to achieve our 10% target. The Single European Sky is the vehicle for that.”
In addition to the 10% goal, NATS has also been set a financially incentivised operational and environmental efficiency target by its regulator, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Narrower in scope as it applies just to UK domestic airspace, the so-called 3Di (three-dimensional inefficiency) metric measures the route and trajectory of every flight, which is accorded a score – the lower the score, the higher the efficiency.
The target score for 2014 was reduced and for the first half of 2014, NATS achieved a rolling average score of 23.3, lower than the 23.7 for the same period in 2013 but higher than the tougher 23.0 score set by the CAA.
Jopson said the numbers were still being crunched for the year as a whole but he is confident of being close to the target. If NATS achieves its target scores for the period 2012 to 2014 then around 600,000 tonnes of CO2 will have been saved.
He said NATS has now agreed targets with the CAA for the years up until 2020. “Not only have we been given more stringent targets, they have tightened the whole regime,” he added. “This shows how important the regulator and our airline customers view our environmental programme.”
Although improving flight efficiency and reducing emissions are the prime concern for NATS’ environmental efforts, there is currently a focus on dealing with noise concerns around UK airports. However, said Jopson: “Reducing emissions and aircraft noise don’t have to be mutually exclusive – a lot of the work we have been doing on noise respite, for example on track alternation, has shown we can still deliver emissions savings.
“Performance-based navigation both reduces emissions and also concentrates noise, and we have to understand how we can manage that so we can get the best outcome for communities as well as the industry.”
NATS – Environment
Contract awarded for UAE pilot project that will use desert plants and seawater to produce jet biofuel
Wed 21 Jan 2015 – A consortium of aviation, biofuel and research interests have awarded a contract to construct the world’s first bioenergy pilot project that will use desert land and seawater to produce sustainable aviation fuel in the United Arab Emirates. The project, which is expected to be operational by late summer, is based on research carried out at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology into using coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, whose nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilises oil-rich halophyte plants that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production. The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) was founded by Masdar, Etihad Airways, Boeing and Honeywell UOP, and later joined by aerospace companies Safran and GE.
Masdar CEO Dr Ahmad Belhoul said the research had enormous implications for producing food and fuel in water and arable land constrained regions. “Considering that about 20% of the world’s land is desert and 97% of the world’s water is salt water, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity problem on its head by creating a bioenergy solution applicable in countries around the globe.”
Halophyte plants thrive in arid desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow. After the fertilisation process, the effluent is passed through cultivated mangroves before being discharged back into the sea, further removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage .
According to the SBRC, the goal of the pilot project, which has been awarded to Abu Dhabi-based International Mechanical & Electrical Co (IMECO) and to be built at Masdar City, is to demonstrate the integrated bioenergy process as a commercially viable and sustainable system with respect to essential food and fuel production, suitable land use, reduced carbon emissions and wastewater clean-up.
“The work thus far has primarily been laboratory based, with some small scale growing of salicornia from collected seeds,” explained Linden Coppell, Head of Sustainability at Etihad Airways.
“This is a big step – actually replicating the entire Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (ISEAS) in ‘pilot’ scale – with all the elements of the system allowing us, for example, to manipulate it with varying salt and nutrient levels. This will allow us to more confidently scale up to the 200-hectare site we have assigned in a couple of years.”
Added the airline’s CEO, James Hogan: “This project is a great example of the public-private collaborations Etihad believes are essential to stimulating innovation and driving real change within the transportation industry.”
It was also hailed by Barbara Bramble, Chair of the international standards body Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). “The Masdar Institute research is truly game-changing for large-scale biofuel production,” she said. “This project puts the UAE at the forefront of a global movement to create sustainable alternative fuels that support – not compete with – food production and fresh water conservation.”
The awarding of the contract was announced during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which focuses on energy and water security, climate risk and sustainable development, and is hosted by Masdar. The event also includes the World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit.
“Masdar Institute is in pursuit of solutions to the water-food-energy nexus, which is being taken to the next level through this contract,” said Masdar Institute President Dr Fred Moavenzadeh. “We would like to thank the UAE leadership for their continuing support to address the country’s needs for sustainable food, fuel and water security through such efforts. Collaborative undertakings like the one we are engaged with through the SBRC will enhance our ability to sustainably meet the UAE’s growing needs.”
Masdar Institute - SBRC, IMECO, Etihad Airways – Greener Together, Boeing – Sustainable Aviation Biofuel, RSB
COMMENTARY: Addressing carbon emissions from international aviation requires the recognition of special circumstances
Mon 26 Jan 2015 – At ICAO’s 38th Assembly in 2012, States agreed to develop a global market-based measure (MBM) to address carbon emissions from international aviation. It is expected that in 2016 the 39th Assembly will consider a proposal for a global scheme designed to start in 2020. According to the resolution adopted (A38-18), in developing such a scheme, ICAO must take into account the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR), special circumstances and respective capabilities (SCRC), non-discrimination, and equal and fair opportunities. But what do these seemingly contradictory principles mean in the context of addressing international aviation’s carbon footprint? Aviation legal expert Alejandro Piera explains.
The Kyoto climate change treaty embraces CBDR. Although States disagree on its definition, scope and whether, in its current form, it should remain part of a new international agreement, the principle bears the following salient characteristics. First, all States bear a common, inter-generational obligation to protect the climate system as a whole. Secondly, while recognising they are responsible for the largest share of historical emissions, developed countries should take the lead in mitigation efforts.
In order to take into account of the special circumstances of developing countries, on the basis of equity and fairness, CBDR differentiates responsibilities. Developing countries do not have to pursue quantified emissions reductions but they are required to maintain national inventories and cooperate with the international climate change regime. In essence, there are those with reductions obligations and those without.
In the context of international aviation, for instance, some developing countries have clearly stated that “developed countries should take the lead in taking reduction measures in order to offset the growth of emissions from international aviation of developing countries.” Developing countries would argue that “developed States [must] take more ambitious [mitigation] actions [to] offset an increase in emissions from the growth of air transport in developing States.”
Developed countries would, on the other hand, argue that emissions from developing countries are growing at a very high rate. In fact, developing countries are likely to account for more than half of global emissions by 2020, if not before. Various models confirm the view that developing countries will soon rank amongst the largest emitters. It makes very little sense for developed countries such as the US to assume emission reduction commitments if major developing countries – powerhouses such as Brazil, China and India – are not on board. Arguably, without the participation of developing countries, it will be extremely difficult to achieve any significant reduction in GHG emissions.
Finally, CBDR also touches upon the often forgotten “respective capabilities of States" – an element that a number of developing countries consciously opt to disregard. In theory, at least a literal interpretation of CBDR would suggest the differentiation treatment should not be applicable for those States that are “capable” of contributing more to climate change, regardless of the fact that they may be labeled as developing countries. For instance, with the highest per capita income, the State of Qatar is in a much better position to tackle climate change than the small island state of Seychelles.
CBDR finally arrives at ICAO
One of the most interesting aspects of the outcome of the last ICAO Assembly is that for the first time, ICAO now acknowledges CBDR within the operative clauses of its Assembly resolution. In the past, references to CBDR were only included in the preambular clauses. CBDR is no longer just a symbolic principle included for rhetorical purposes but is now a concept which, along with other principles, should be put into practice.
The inclusion of CBDR into the resolution bears remarkable consequences for ICAO’s future work in addressing climate change. First, although 50 States filed reservations against it, the principle now forms an integral part of ICAO’s guiding principles on MBMs. For States abhorring CBDR, it will be very difficult to preclude its consideration as one of the principles that must guide the design of a global MBM. Secondly, it will also be an uphill battle to continue arguing that CBDR does not exist in the international civil aviation context. CBDR has been upgraded from the preambular to the substantive clauses.
Arguably, for the vast majority of member States, CBDR deserves not only to be recognised but also made operational in any global MBM scheme. It is illusory to expect that in 2020, once ICAO’s global scheme hopefully starts, everyone will be treated equally.
Thirdly, the Assembly resolution lists different principles. It is therefore now evident that CBDR and SCRC are different principles with different meanings. In the past, some States argued that SCRC was the manner in which international civil aviation applied CBDR at ICAO. The challenge, of course, will be how to reconcile these two principles.
Although nowhere defined in the Chicago Convention, non-discrimination is a cornerstone principle of international civil aviation. In fact, one of ICAO’s objectives is precisely to “avoid discrimination between [States parties]”. Several provisions of the Chicago Convention nonetheless capture this principle. For instance, in exercising jurisdiction over the arrival and departure of aircraft from its territory, a State may not discriminate between the aircraft on the basis of nationality.
In the context of international civil aviation, the non-discrimination principle manifests itself in the form of a prohibition that enjoins States to refrain from arbitrarily and capriciously applying differential treatment to aircraft operators on the basis of nationality. Such treatment may not be justified on any objective basis. More specifically, in the context of designing a scheme to address GHG emission from international aviation, the non-discrimination principle means that aircraft operators flying on the same route should be subject to the same rules.
Reinventing CBDR: ICAO’s SCRC
As a result of the pressure exerted by some developing countries since 2007, ICAO has included references to CBDR in its Assembly resolutions on climate change but only in the preambular clauses. However, to offset the potential market distortions that CBDR may create if applied in the aviation environmental context, reference to the principle has always been either preceded or followed by ICAO’s non-discrimination principle.
Until 2013, CBDR never featured in the operative clauses of ICAO’s Assembly resolutions. The intention behind this was to acknowledge in a declaratory manner that although CBDR guided the UNFCCC process, it did not have any practical application within the international civil aviation regime. Again, a number of developed States have strongly argued that because it conflicts with non-discrimination, CBDR has no place in an international civil aviation context.
In 2010, while still replicating both the CBDR and the non-discrimination principles in the preambular clauses of its climate change resolution, the Assembly attempted to move away from the political divide and potential operational repercussions embedded in CBDR by developing the new concept of special circumstances and respective capabilities (SCRC) of developing countries. As such, in working towards achieving ICAO’s global aspirational goals, the 37th Assembly suggested that States and international organisations should take into account SCRC.
Originally, the scope of SCRC was exclusively restricted to developing countries. In 2013, however, the 38th Assembly made several references to the principle without restricting it to developing countries. As its name suggests, this principle seeks to accommodate those States whose specific circumstances may require special consideration in order for them to fully participate in ICAO’s initiatives to tackle GHG emissions.
What is the difference?
On the basis of fairness and equity, both CBDR and SCRC aim to address the challenges that some developing countries face in their effort to combat climate change. It is clear that not all countries are equipped with the same resources to perform this task. Both principles therefore seek to recognise the special conditions of some States to address the problem.
These principles, however, differ in at least four key respects. First, there is a clear difference in their political perception. As embedded in the UNFCCC climate change regime, CBDR implies that only developed countries bear mitigation obligations. If one were to follow this interpretation, applying it in the ICAO context would pose operational challenges and increase the political risk of perpetuating a differentiated scheme in another forum beyond the context of the climate change regime.
Foregoing CBDR sets the precedent that developing countries may be willing to accept a climate change regime without differentiated obligations. CBDR is also perceived as the perfect excuse for inaction because developing countries will continue to argue that they should not bear any obligation in spite of the fact that their airlines compete head-to-head with airlines from developed States and quite often have been much more successful.
In addition, the rate of growth of air transport in many developing countries is now higher than it is in developed States. This explains why developed States and the aviation industry argue that CBDR does not exist at ICAO. On the other hand, SCRC is an ICAO creation – although its wording would seem to be a reformulation of existing UNFCCC language.
Secondly, as mentioned above, CBDR refers to the “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” of States. However, when developing countries such as Brazil, China and India refer to CBDR, they purposely ignore the last part. This is clearly self-serving. SCRC, on the other hand, emphasises this forgotten part of the CBDR language. In theory at least, this would allow differentiation amongst developing countries – a concept that some States have strongly resisted within the UNFCCC context.
For instance, for the purpose of UNFCCC’s classifications, Mauritania, Qatar, UAE and Yemen are all developing countries. However, Qatar and UAE have achieved a significantly higher level of aviation development. In fact, the growth of aviation in these two countries poses a real and tangible threat to well-established aircraft operators in developed States. This is certainly not the case for civil aviation in Mauritania and Yemen. Given that their “respective capabilities” are substantially different, it does not seem fair to treat all of these States in the same manner.
Thirdly, some States are of the view that when dealing with environmental issues, ICAO should assess the impact of proposed measures for both developed and developing countries. In this context, SCRC in its latest form does not preclude the extension of special consideration to developed States whose capabilities may justify a request for assistance under a given set of circumstances. One could reasonably argue that in spite being a developed State and member of the European Union, Greece may be going through some special circumstances. Some States have expressed the view that SCRC should only be applicable to developing countries.
Fourthly, as applied in context of the UNFCCC, CBDR very clearly takes into account the historical responsibilities of developed States. Because of their large share of historical GHG emissions, developed countries have taken the lead with regard to mitigation obligations. At least as currently construed at ICAO, SCRC does not weigh these two key elements.
Why has SCRC not worked?
SCRC represents a laudable attempt to incorporate a workable principle into the ICAO domain that would recognise the different circumstances and level of development of States while minimising market distortions. It has certainly sought to bridge the political divide between die-hard CBDR adherents and non-discrimination fanatics. Having said this, judging from the unprecedented number of reservations filed against the last two ICAO Assembly resolutions on climate change, one could speculate that SCRC has not necessarily brought the divergent views of both developed and developing States any closer. A number of reasons may explain why this has been the case.
SCRC evolved from the premise that CBDR leads to market distortions. As such, CBDR conflicts with the Chicago Convention. This however holds if one follows CBDR’s conceptualization as applied in the UNFCCC context. CBDR is not implementable in international aviation. However, CBDR is not set in stone. Nothing prevents States from reformulating CBDR in a manner that allows them to take into account the particular characteristics of the aviation sector.
However, a number of actors did not attempt to adapt CBDR to the international aviation environment but rather, under the pretext that CBDR does not exist at ICAO, they opted to replace it completely with SCRC. In the end, this not only alienated major developing countries but also contributed to creating a sense of distrust. It is true though that to some extent, as Brazil has put it, while some States have “accepted the euphemism of SCRC in the name of consensus and to accommodate the concerns of certain States, it was not reasonable to distort the concept and essence of CBDR.”
The situation has been aggravated by the fact that SCRC has never been made operational. It still remains an abstract concept. In other words, almost 17 years after the Kyoto Protocol entrusted ICAO with the mandate to tackle GHG emissions from international aviation, it is not clear how the principle will be put in practice to accommodate developing countries or those States that may require special treatment. In light of the foregoing, it can be argued the approach should have been to reformulate CBDR in a manner compatible with ICAO’s practices, as opposed to rejecting it. It is evident that SCRC has not achieved the desired results.
Fair and equal opportunity
According to ICAO, “fair and equal opportunity” refers to a general principle that appears on bilateral air services agreements. In principle, it seeks to “ensure against discrimination or unfair competitive practices affecting” aircraft operators designated under such bilateral arrangements. In practice, however, States interpret it differently. For States desirous to gain market access and expand international routes for their aircraft operators, this principle seeks to ensure competition and prevent discriminatory treatment. On the other hand, for conservative States, the principle provides a justification to impose market restrictions in order to protect their designated aircraft operators.
In the last three ICAO resolutions dealing with climate change issues, fair and equal opportunity has been linked to the principle of non-discrimination, as if they were one sole concept. Although the preamble of the Chicago Convention recognises that “air transport services may be established on the basis of equality of opportunity”, it does not automatically follow that “equal and fair opportunities”, as incorporated in the ICAO climate change resolutions, forms an integral part of the non-discrimination principle. It is unquestionable, however, that both principles present some similarities.
For instance, both of them are part of ICAO’s objectives. In spite of this, the principles are essentially different. In the Chicago Convention, non-discrimination is constructed as a prohibitive rule against arbitrary treatment of both States and aircraft operators. On the other hand, “equality of opportunity” denotes an ideal that should be met to operate air transport services. In other words, it seeks to ensure access to these services by all States.
The sharp-eyed reader will note the use of the word “may”. Although in some cases such access may be denied as a result of discriminatory treatment, the scope of the principle is much broader. As mentioned above, the main problem with the principle relates to its disparate interpretation. I do not consider it to be part of the non-discrimination principle, but rather a serious drafting oversight.
Developing countries and differentiation
Although international civil aviation has been based on equal treatment of States and aircraft operators, the Chicago Convention and ICAO’s own practice illustrate a number of scenarios where special consideration, and in some cases special treatment, was given to the specific circumstances of developing countries. This will be key for developing ICAO’s global MBM.
For instance, without differentiating rights and obligations, composition of the ICAO Council – which is distributed along the lines of three groups of States – recognises different levels of contributions, namely “States of chief importance”, “States with the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation” and “States whose participation is necessary to ensure equitable geographical representation”. Most developing countries fall under the third category.
Similarly, the financial contributions, or ‘assessments’ in ICAO parlance, allocated to States to support ICAO's regular budget take into account the special circumstances of States. While a developed country such as the United States contributes roughly 22% of the organisation’s regular budget, the share contributed by the vast majority of developing countries is only 0.06%.
ICAO also runs a comparatively large technical cooperation programme that is primarily designed to assist developing countries “in remedying their deficiencies in the field of civil aviation”, including non-compliance with technical standards and recommended practices (SARPs), lack of appropriate aeronautical infrastructure, and insufficient regulatory oversight.
The special needs of developing countries have been expressly acknowledged in many ICAO Assembly resolutions. For instance, with regard to operational restrictions due to aircraft noise, ICAO recommends that States “consider the special circumstances of operators from developing countries, in order to avoid undue hardship for such operators, by granting exemptions.”
The Assembly has also noted the difficulties developing countries encounter in “[securing] the necessary resources required to optimise the opportunities and meet the challenges inherent in the development of air transport.” Therefore, the Assembly has instructed the Council “to attach particular importance to the problem of financing the development of the human and technical resources necessary to ensure the best possible contribution of air transport to the economic and social well-being of developing countries.”
With regard to air transport liberalisation initiatives, the Assembly has suggested that States should “[give] special consideration to the interests and needs of developing countries.” In the field of aviation security, ICAO notes that developing countries may “lack aviation security oversight capacity and still face difficulties in fully implementing preventive measures due to insufficient financial, technical and material resources.” Similarly, without establishing preferential treatment in favour of any group of States, the 2014-2016 ICAO Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) implicitly acknowledges that States present different levels of maturity with respect to their oversight capabilities.
On climate change, the ICAO Assembly has noted that “some States may take more ambitious actions prior to 2020, which may offset an increase in emissions from the growth of air transport in developing States.” It has underscored the need to provide support to developing countries, including financial assistance and technology transfer. It has also warned that “emphasis should be on those policy options that will reduce aircraft engine emissions without negatively impacting the growth of air transport especially in developing economies.”
Further, ICAO has recommended the revenues accruing from the implementation of MBMs be “applied in the first instance to mitigating the environmental impact of aircraft engine emissions, including mitigation and adaptation, as well as assistance to and support for developing States.”
In designing a scheme to address carbon emissions from international aviation, the international community will have to recognise the special circumstances of developing countries. Without such differentiation, the scheme will simply not gather enough traction and will not work. The challenge, of course, is to provide for such differentiation without altering the way in which international air transport functions. As detailed above, ICAO has substantial experience in this regard. The only thing missing is political will.
Alejandro Piera is a founding partner at the Asunción, Paraguay-based law firm of Guanes, Heisecke & Piera. He specialises in corporate, environmental and aviation law. For a number of years, he served as Permanent Advisor to the Diplomatic Mission of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the ICAO Council in Montreal, where he advised on legal, policy, regulatory and environmental issues. Alejandro also served as rapporteur and Vice-Chair of ICAO’s Legal Committee. Prior to joining the UAE Delegation, Alejandro served as Senior Legal Counsel of IATA. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Law and LLM from McGill University, a law degree from the National University of Asunción. Alejandro may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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