GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 5 SEPTEMBER 2016
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ICAO carbon offsetting scheme moves a step closer to agreement as Council releases final draft resolution text
Sat 3 Sept 2016 – ICAO’s 36-State governing Council has released final draft text of a Resolution to be put before the UN agency’s triennial Assembly later this month on a global market-based measure (GMBM) aimed at keeping global net CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels. The new text moves away from a mandatory scheme from the beginning to a voluntary pilot and first phase covering the first six years (2021-2026). The second mandatory phase, which would run from 2027 to the proposed end of the carbon offsetting scheme in 2035, would exempt least developed countries and those with the lowest share of international aviation activity. However, all ICAO Member States are “strongly encouraged to voluntarily participate as early as possible.” Some countries have already announced their participation but attention will now be focused on the intentions of the major aviation carbon emitters.
If adopted by the 191 ICAO Member States, the scheme – to be known as CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) – would be the first-ever global agreement covering international emissions from an entire industry sector, said an ICAO spokesman. The phased approach is designed to accommodate and reflect the differentiation in the maturity of aviation markets between developed and developing countries.
The purpose of the pilot phase, which would apply from 2021 to 2023, is unclear, although it would allow participating States to determine themselves whether their aircraft operators’ offsetting requirements should be based on its emissions in a given year (2021, 2022 or 2023) or in 2020. The Council’s working paper for the Assembly that contains the draft Resolution notes that some States – known to be developing States, including China and India, along with Russia – wanted offset requirements during this phase to be calculated on the basis of Nationally Determined Contributions, as used under the Paris Agreement.
The first phase would run from 2024 to 2026 and could include new participants that can voluntarily join on January 1 of any given year, having provided six months’ notice, but conversely existing participants could opt out of the scheme on a similar basis. The ICAO Secretariat would be required to publicly announce information on States that have volunteered to participate in the pilot and first phases. A proposal to list volunteering States in an annex to the Resolution has not made it through to the final draft text.
The new text now stipulates that regarding the baseline emissions of operators to calculate the annual increase of emissions, and therefore to calculate offsetting requirements, the average of 2019 and 2020 emissions should be used, rather than 2020 emissions as in previous versions. The revised text also allows for the concept of a dynamic approach for the distribution of offsetting requirements starting with a 100% sectoral rate (based on the sector’s overall emissions growth) up until 2029 before an individual rate (based on the individual operator’s emissions growth) of at least 20% would be applied from 2030 to 2032 and at least 70% from 2033 to 2035. The sectoral approach advantages fast-growing airlines in emerging markets over mature, slower-growth airlines and does not reward individual airline environmental performance.
The Resolution text calls for a review of the scheme by the Council every three years, starting in 2022, to determine its impact on aviation growth, how the scheme is contributing to the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goals and whether design elements need changing. Environmental organisations will see the reviews as an opportunity to ratchet up the stringency of the scheme in line with global climate aspirations. A special review in 2032 would determine the scheme’s future after 2035.
The reviews would also assess progress towards the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (CNG2020). However, as the emissions from flights not covered by the scheme due to exemptions or non-voluntary participation would not be assigned as offsetting requirements to those aircraft operators participating in the scheme, CNG2020 is unlikely to be reached during the course of the scheme, say researchers at the International
Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), who have modelled a number of scenarios based on the new draft Resolution text.
Paradoxically, the new voluntary approach over the first six years of the scheme could provide a better coverage of international aviation emissions than the previous five-year mandatory first phase, which was based on the inclusion of States that either had an individual share of international activities, measured in revenue tonnes kilometres (RTKs), in 2018 above 1% of total RTKs, or whose cumulative share in the list of States from the highest to the lowest amount of RTKs reached 80% of total RTKs. Due to exemptions granted to States classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), as well as the ICAO definition of RTKs, which excludes non-commercial aircraft operators, coverage of total emissions could have been as low as 69%, according to IATA, with some analysts estimating it could have been even lower.
Early signs are that countries which could have been exempted under the previous RTK criteria may well take part in the pilot/first phase, with Indonesia, Mexico and Singapore already expressing a willingness to participate. News today on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou suggests China and the United States have agreed to join the ICAO scheme from the start.
“Today’s leader-level commitment by the US and China to a strong deal in ICAO, along with China’s indication that it expects to participate as soon as the measure takes effect in 2021, is a good start toward closing the gap between the aviation industry’s future growth and what’s necessary to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate,” noted Nathaniel Keohane, VP Global Climate for the Environmental Defense Fund. “Participation by China as well as other countries with significant aviation footprints – such as Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Brazil – will be crucial to ensuring environmental integrity and avoiding market-distorting loopholes.
“As we enter the home stretch to the ICAO Assembly, concerted climate diplomacy by the US and China will be vital to secure broad participation from their key aviation partners.”
Judging by government comments, however, it is unlikely that India will join the initial phases and there are doubts over the participation of Russia, which has always opposed the concept of carbon offsetting.
According to the ICCT’s preliminary analysis, as long as China opts in, but assuming India, Russia and the 65 countries classified as LDCs/SIDS/LLDCs do not participate, then coverage of RTK growth between 2021 and 2026 could still be as high as 86%.
The Council’s working paper acknowledges the continuing different views of States over the phased implementation approach and distribution of offsetting requirements, as well as other issues, but there is optimism that after 15 years of failure, consensus will at last be reached at the Assembly on implementing a market-based measure to offset the continued fast growth of aviation emissions.
The working paper and draft resolution are due to be considered by the Assembly’s Executive Committee on Thursday, 29 September.
ICAO Working Paper (A39-WP/52) and Draft Assembly Resolution on GMBM , ICAO 39th Assembly
Update 3 September:
At a meeting of civil aviation director generals in Slovakia, the 44 Member States that make up the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) have agreed to commit to being part of the GMBM scheme from the start. Endorsing the ‘Bratislava Declaration’, they welcomed the commitment of other key aviation States and Regions to also join the first phase and called on other major aviation countries, and those having the capacity to do so, to do likewise and make their decision public before the end of the ICAO Assembly. They pledged technical assistance and help with capacity building to those States that needed it to implement the scheme and the relevant ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.
Heathrow to add 50 new noise monitors as part of latest 10-step noise reduction strategy
Fri 26 Aug 2016 – As a result of engagement with resident groups, London’s Heathrow Airport is installing 50 new noise monitors in the local area as well as upgrading its existing monitoring network. The airport says the new monitors will help the airport and residents gain a better understanding of local noise impacts and will complement the modelling of the existing fixed and mobile monitors, and plans to use the system to provide real-time measurements to residents. This is one of 10 steps set out by Heathrow in its second ‘Blueprint for Noise Reductions’ just released that include the launch of a web-based tool for residents to access flight data specific to their locations and establishing a voluntary Quiet Night Charter to reduce the impact of night operations.
The data gathered by the expanded monitoring system, pledges the airport operator, will be shared publicly through the Heathrow noise website and the Heathrow Community Noise Forum, which was set up last year in response to local concerns over future changes to airspace as a result of the UK government’s Future Airspace Strategy. The Forum is made up of representatives from 12 local authorities, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, UK air navigation provider NATS, British Airways, the Department for Transport and the airport itself.
The noise monitors are being supplied by global sound and vibration measurement specialist Brüel & Kjær and will be a mix of permanent and portable terminals to provide unattended sound level monitoring to measure, record, process, store and transmit noise data to Heathrow’s Airport Noise and Operations Management system. The portable terminals will be used to deliver continuous noise monitoring for shorter-term projects, with both types specifically designed for continuous outdoor use and will work in conjunction with the company’s existing systems in place at the airport.
The airport is also to reduce landing charges from January 2017 to incentivise airlines to use the quietest Chapter 14 aircraft on routes to Heathrow. The move, it says, will make it the first airport in the world to differentiate charges for aircraft like the Airbus A350, which has just started regular flights to and from Heathrow with Ethiopian Airlines.
In other actions designed to reduce noise, aircraft landing at Heathrow are being asked to deploy landing gear as late as is safely possible, adopt steeper approaches and increase the percentage of Continuous Descent Approaches. The airport is also undertaking this year an aircraft departure profile noise study in order to understand why some aircraft are lower than others and to monitor noise changes resulting from different procedures.
New data released as part of its latest quarterly Fly Quiet League table shows a 5.5% increase in the proportion of quieter new-generation aircraft serving the airport, says Heathrow, claiming it is now quieter than it has been at any time since the 1970s, despite the doubling of aircraft movements.
“Heathrow shares a common objective with local residents: we want to make the skies around us quieter,” commented Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye. “The arrival of new, quieter aircraft and the start of our programme to install the new noise monitors will help us accelerate the reduction in the noise impacts of Heathrow.”
He said the airport’s latest plan for expanding the airport and a new third runway would reduce the number of people affected by noise, “while increasing the social and economic benefits that Heathrow provides.” The airport says it has committed to meeting, and in most cases exceed, the environmental conditions set out in the Airport Commission’s recommendation published a year ago for the expansion of Heathrow, including on noise mitigation.
According to The Guardian newspaper, the new UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, whose own constituency is impacted by Heathrow, is to personally chair a cabinet committee of ministers to make a final decision on a third runway by October. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who previously backed a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, are known to favour expanding Gatwick Airport rather than Heathrow.
UK campaign group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has launched a social media campaign called ’50 reasons why Britain doesn’t need a new runway’ to highlight its opposition to expansion at either airport.
French authorities seize Polish charter carrier aircraft over non-payment of airport noise violation fines
Thu 25 Aug 2016 – The French airport nuisance authority ACNUSA has briefly seized an aircraft belonging to Enter Air, Poland’s biggest charter operator, over non-payment of noise disturbance fines totalling over €1.1 million ($1.24m). The B737-800 aircraft was held at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport for around five hours on August 10 before the fines were settled. According to ACNUSA, the airline committed over 80 violations of night-time restrictions at CDG between 2013 and 2014, which resulted in the fines. The authority, which has to date issued 5,642 fines totalling €45,354,120 ($51m) against nearly 1,000 aircraft operators, said this was the first time it had seized an aircraft and the precedent sent a strong warning to other airlines.
ACNUSA (Autorité de Contrôle Des Nuisances Sonores Aéroportuaires), which was created in 1999, said a further 159 aircraft operators, 10 of which each owed over €70,000 ($79,000), had yet to pay outstanding fines and it would not rule out similar action.
The authority has responsibility for all noise monitoring devices around airports and can make recommendations on any matter relating to environmental pollution, including air quality, generated by air transport around all French airports. It also must satisfy a duty to provide information to affected residents.
The French penalty system for violators of noise restrictions was unique in the world, according to ACNUSA President, Victor Haïm. Criminal penalties existed elsewhere but were rarely implemented, he said.
Warsaw-based Enter Air started operations in 2010 and its fleet of 19 older Boeing 737-400 and newer -800 aircraft fly to popular holiday destinations from Polish and other European airports. The seized aircraft was due to fly holiday-makers to and from Palma de Mallorca, who were transferred to another aircraft.
Time running out for ICAO States to agree on participation in global carbon scheme for international aviation
Mon 22 Aug 2016 – A two-day meeting of ICAO Member States gets underway today in Montreal that will attempt to bridge key differences on a global market-based measure (GMBM) scheme to cap international aviation emissions from 2020 before ICAO’s triennial Assembly starts later next month. The closed-door meeting will seek to agree compromise text on a draft Assembly resolution on which States should participate in the scheme from the beginning and how offsetting requirements should be distributed. There are fears that a proposed initial five-year implementation phase could be switched from a mandatory to a voluntary opt-in basis that could lead to a sharp fall in coverage of international aviation emissions. Meanwhile, analysis carried out by a carbon policy website suggests air transport could consume a quarter of the global 1.5C carbon budget by 2050.
The ICAO meeting of the Friends of the President Informal Group, will also be attended by representatives from industry and NGOs. It will hear feedback from bilateral and multilateral negotiations between States that have taken place since the ICAO High-level Meeting (HLM) in May on what progress has been made on resolving paragraphs 7 to 9 of the latest version of the draft resolution.
Under paragraph 7 of the current proposal, the first phase of the scheme – named CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) – would run from 2021 to 2025 and include States that either have an individual share of international activities, measured in Revenue Tonne Kilometres (RTKs), in the year 2018 above 1% of the global total, or whose cumulative share in the list of States from the highest to the lowest amount of RTKs reaches 80% of the total. A second implementation phase would apply from 2026 and bring in States with thresholds of 0.5% on an individual basis or 95% on an aggregate basis. An additional criterion based on gross national income per capita has been discarded since the HLM.
Unless they met the criteria, States classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) would be exempted from the scheme altogether. This would mean, for example, all flights to the Caribbean islands would be excluded from offsetting requirements.
The draft Resolution as it stands says all States not included or exempted are “strongly encouraged” to voluntarily participate.
Under the RTK criteria, most developed countries would be expected to be included in the scheme, and those European countries such as Italy and Belgium that fall below the 1% threshold would be expected to voluntarily take part. Developing countries such as China, India, UAE, Thailand and Malaysia do, however, also meet the first phase criteria and this is where the conflict lies. China, India and some other major developing nations have been vocal in their opposition to the inclusion of their airlines in the scheme from the start, arguing that developed countries are required to take the lead under international climate agreements.
In a recent meeting with ICAO President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu in Delhi, India’s environment minister committed India to working to resolve a GMBM outcome “which adequately addresses the interests of all States”, but he stressed that as a developing nation, “the GMBM should not hinder the aspirations of the Indian people to continue maximising the significant economic benefits of global air transport connectivity.”
Although not a developing nation, the Russian Federation has expressed no enthusiasm for joining the scheme, objecting to the principle of carbon offsetting.
To break the impasse, it is now being suggested that participation in the first phase be on a purely opt-in voluntary basis by States. Some developing States, such as Singapore and Mexico, have already said they are prepared to commit to being included. In a submission to the Friends of the President (FoP) meeting, Indonesia has said it will also join the first phase “as a show of good will and cooperation”, even though it would be exempted under the RTK criteria.
Both industry and NGOs will be concerned by moves towards an opt-in approach. IATA has consistently pushed for a single mandatory carbon offsetting scheme that applied globally. In a working paper to be presented at the forthcoming Assembly, IATA warns that a voluntary rather than a mandatory scheme would run a significant risk that other unilateral economic measures could be implemented by States or groups of States, a clear reference to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Guided by the Assembly outcome, the EU will make a decision in early 2017 on the future inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS.
Even under the current phased implementation proposals contained in the draft resolution, NGOs are concerned that the level of exemptions under the approach risk excluding up to 50% of international aviation emissions in the first phase, “which means the MBM will fail abysmally to achieve the carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (CNG2020) goal,” says NGO umbrella group International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) in a submission to the FOP meeting.
It goes on to express “strong reservations” about the opt-in approach and urges ICAO and Member States to find a suitable formula for paragraph 7 that ensures at least a 90% coverage of international aviation emissions. ICSA also calls for all exempted emissions to be offset by the remaining participants in the GMBM scheme, which would require amending paragraph 12 of the draft resolution that states there should be no reassignment. However, this would be strongly opposed by industry, which considers it unfair to place an extra financial burden on airlines taking part in the scheme as a result of exemption decisions taken by States.
Analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) shows that even under the current mandatory proposal of 80% RTK coverage in Phase 1 and 95% in Phase 2, only 76% of growth, or about 17% of total international activity, would be covered, leaving around 8.6 trillion RTKs not subject to carbon offsetting in the period between 2020 and 2030. There are two reasons for this, say ICCT’s Naya Olmer and Dan Rutherford in a blog, both related to the ICAO definition of a country’s individual share of international aviation activities.
ICAO defines activity as the RTKs flown by air carriers registered to a given country via an air operator’s certificate (AOC). If a foreign registered carrier provides most of the international flights to and from a particular country, then a decent-sized market, for example Brazil or South Africa, can look small and therefore exempt. According to the ICAO definition, Uruguay has no international aviation activity at all as there is no local carrier with an AOC undertaking international flights. To ensure a level playing field, under the current proposal the GMBM would exclude flights from all carriers flying to and from an exempted country regardless of where they are registered. IATA has pointed out that using AOC as the basis for calculation also omits non-commercial aircraft operators, for whom no AOC requirement exists, from the scheme, and wants all international aviation activities to and from individual countries to be included in the phased implementation RTK criteria.
The second, and larger, effect occurs if the calculation of which countries would be exempted from the scheme and which flights would then be excluded are not properly aligned, says ICCT. The current approach to determine whether a country is exempt is based upon its percentage share of global RTKs by departures only. However, the GMBM resolution proposal exempts all flights to and from an exempt country, approximately doubling the coverage gap, argues ICCT.
“These two ways of defining aviation activity, combined, explain why what looks like 80% coverage on paper in fact leaves a 44% coverage gap through 2026,” say the two authors. “Unfortunately, the numbers look even worse for an opt-in system focused on richer countries.”
Basing exemptions on the total traffic in and out of a country could improve coverage of the current mandatory approach to 88% of total emissions in the first phase of the scheme (2021-2025) and 95% in 2026-2035, says Parth Vaishnav, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, in an article published in Aviation Week.
Vaishnav suggests airlines could choose to allocate new, fuel-efficient aircraft to routes that fall under the GMBM and use older aircraft on exempted routes.
“Even in poor countries, it is the well-off who fly internationally and are likely to benefit from exemptions,” he argues. “Recognising this, and in light of the distortions they can introduce, perhaps the ICAO Council should do away with exemptions altogether. As the first mechanism that will address CO2 emissions from an entire sector of the global economy, ICAO’s MBM may serve as a template for other sectors, for example ocean shipping. It is important to get it right.”
Meanwhile, analysis by Carbon Brief of ICAO’s latest Environmental Report shows that even if the aviation sector meets all its climate targets, it will still have consumed 12% of the global carbon budget for 2050 in order to maintain the aspirational 1.5 degree C Paris goal. This is based on meeting forecasted technical improvements and a 100% shift from fossil fuels to the use of sustainable biofuels.
According to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering development in climate science and policy, the remaining global carbon budget for 1.5C is 205 billion tonnes of CO2 and the 12% share represents 24 billion tonnes. Under a business-as-usual projection where the aviation industry grows by 5% per year, as predicted by the sector, but there are no major changes to technology or infrastructure, total emissions over the 2015-2050 period reach around 56 billion tonnes of CO2, a 27% share of the global 1.5C budget. The share of the remaining budget for 2C is smaller, at 7%, “but still significant,” it says.
If there are “dramatic” improvements in aircraft technology, air traffic management and infrastructure, total emissions from aviation by 2050 could drop to around 41 billion tonnes, a 20% share of the global 1.5C budget.
“This means there would still be a shortfall of 1,039 million tonnes of CO2 in 2050 between what is technologically feasible and what is required for aviation to hit its goal of pinning emissions at 2020 levels,” says Carbon Brief. “Only the most optimistic end of the range of potential emissions reductions due to biofuels takes aviation into the realm of carbon neutral growth after 2020.” A 100% biofuel replacement would have significant implications for policy and other areas hoping to switch to biofuels, and would be highly expensive, it adds.
Dallas Fort Worth becomes the first North American airport to achieve carbon neutrality
Wed 17 Aug 2016 – Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) has become the first airport in North America to achieve carbon neutral status in the industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) certification programme. It joins 23 other, mainly European, airports to reach this highest level, which requires the airport to purchase internationally recognised carbon offsets for those direct and indirect emissions over which it has control, having already fulfilled the requirements of the three lower levels of the programme. Since 2010, points out DFW, it has achieved a 29% reduction in carbon emissions as well as an overall 38% reduction in energy costs. During the same period, total passengers increased by 15%. The airport says it is committed to using renewable sources for its electrical consumption and its vehicle fleet has been almost completely converted to compressed natural gas.
“This major achievement demonstrates DFW’s commitment to serving our community and our world with a comprehensive, holistic approach to sustainability,” said Sean Donohue, CEO. “Our team has made major strides in reducing DFW’s carbon footprint by how we manage precious resources such as energy and water, and how the airport manages vehicle fuels, emissions, waste, recycling and our land.
DFW says it has purchased and retired enough renewable energy credits to cover its full annual usage. It has adopted a process called continuous commissioning to fine-tune building heating and cooling systems, which has led to significantly lower energy consumption across the airport. In the summer, the airport takes its air conditioning systems offline during peak demand hours and cools 6 million square feet (557,000m2) of terminal space with super-cooled water pumped from its Energy Plaza thermal storage infrastructure.
Customer water usage in restrooms across the five terminals has been cut by 50% through installing water-conserving plumbing fixtures, saving over 5 million gallons of water each month. DFW has also partnered with neighbouring cities to create a reclaimed water delivery system to conserve potable water in the region, which is reducing consumption by over 100 million gallons per year.
The conversion of the airport’s vehicle fleet to cleaner burning compressed natural gas has led to carbon emission reductions of 25%, while saving millions of dollars in fuel costs. The airport reports that over 180,000 tons of materials pulled from terminal renovations under the Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program (TRIP) have been recycled or diverted from landfills.
“While this recognition shows that DFW has made considerable progress towards a more sustainable community, we remain committed to future advancement on environmental issues,” said Donohue. “We have a lot of work left to do and a lot of knowledge to gain and share, so our vision for a more sustainable enterprise will require commitment, innovation and collaboration for many years to come.”
Donohue is to join Jos Nijhuis, CEO of Amsterdam Schiphol, another ACA carbon neutral level airport, in becoming the first signees of a new initiative called the International Sustainable Airport Declaration during the Airports Going Green annual conference taking place in Amsterdam in late October.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport – Sustainability
A market-based measure for CO2 emissions from international aviation: need, design and legal form
Tue 30 Aug 2016 – In the global effort to cut carbon pollution, international aviation has managed to escape emissions limits – at least so far. Government negotiators met in Montreal last week to seek agreement on a global cap on carbon pollution from international aviation. Text of a draft resolution is expected to be considered by the upcoming ICAO Assembly for approval in early October. Anticipating these events, Carbon and Climate Law Review (CCLR) has released a special issue that includes a broad spectrum of voices – from industry, former government officials, and the research and environmental communities – calling for a cap on carbon pollution from international aviation, writes Pamela Campos. Other voices from the scientific and regulatory communities lay out the full impact of aviation emissions, and call attention to the risks the aviation industry itself faces from climate change.
If aviation were a country, it would be a top ten emitter. Without change, carbon pollution from airplanes is expected to triple by 2050. International aviation is projected to grow so quickly that without policy intervention, this sector alone could compromise efforts, set forth in the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5-2°C. Even these estimates understate the true climate impact of aviation pollution: as Dr David Fahey of NOAA and Dr David Lee of MMU CATE note in their CCLR paper, NOx-related warming effects add approximately 50% to the impacts of CO2 emissions, while the warming effects of aviation’s impacts on clouds, though short-lived and less certain, are approximately double that of CO2.
The aviation industry itself is vulnerable to climate change – an issue that is often overlooked. Dr Terence Thompson of LMI provides an overview of these risks, including airport vulnerability to storm surge and sea level rise, reduced payload capacity, and increased passenger and crew exposure to turbulence. Dr Herbert Pümpel, Chair of the Expert Team on Aviation, Science and Climate, Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology, World Meteorological Organization, shows how air navigation service providers must manage greater unpredictability of severe weather events. Dr Pümpel notes the industry’s approach to risk management and communication about risk with passengers and crew may need to change in fundamental ways.
Reducing aviation’s impact on climate change is necessarily a multi-pronged effort. Michael Gill of the industry’s Air Transport Action Group reviews the key ‘pillars’ of the current strategy, which includes increasing fuel efficiency, operational improvements such as modernisation of air traffic control systems, the development and use of sustainable, advanced biofuels, and a market-based measure (MBM) to cap total net emissions at 2020 levels.
Work is ongoing in each of these areas. For instance, in February 2016, ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection approved the first-ever CO2 emissions standard for aircraft. Unfortunately, these standards are not anticipated to deliver emissions reductions beyond those expected under a business-as-usual scenario. Full modernisation of air traffic control systems has been challenging in both the United States and Europe, and market development of advanced biofuels remains slow. In this context, it is even more critical to secure a cap on net carbon pollution from international aviation, and to ratchet that cap downward in light of climate protection goals.
Progress on limiting aviation’s contribution to climate change has been difficult – States have been grappling with the climate challenge at ICAO since the late 1990s. Historically, efforts to establish an MBM have faltered in part over efforts to reconcile the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, rooted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the principle of non-discrimination established in international aviation’s governing instrument, the Chicago Convention.
Fundamentally, ICAO’s success or failure is driven by its member States, and in particular by the efforts of the 36-member ICAO Council. Major global aviation States that comprise the majority of the current aviation market – the United States, United Kingdom, China, Germany, France, Singapore, Russia, Brazil and India – have and must continue to play a leading role in forging the political agreement necessary to achieve the MBM. To date, a number of States have made public statements in support of the MBM, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and China. Converting those statements into substantive policy agreement is the urgent and critical job of government negotiators.
A key challenge these negotiators face is how to allocate responsibilities for offsetting the sector’s carbon pollution above 2020 levels. Growth in international traffic, and thus pollution, above 2020 levels is expected to vary by region and airline. For example, the US-EU market for aviation services is well developed and while a significant portion of global emissions, is unlikely to grow dramatically in the future. By contrast, air traffic within and to other regions is forecasted to grow significantly. Even within any given region, expectations of growth vary widely from carrier to carrier. Carnegie Mellon University’s Dr Parth Vaishnav suggests that allocation responsibilities be shared on the basis of individual carrier emissions. Annie Petsonk and Pedro Piris-Cabezas of the Environmental Defense Fund offer a proposal for encouraging in-sector reductions while bridging differences between and among states on the allocation question. Discussions on enabling each state to decide voluntarily on whether to participate in the first five years of the MBM, with subsequent mandatory participation, have offered another possible means of reaching agreement.
If agreement is forged on the allocation issue, ICAO and its member States face another significant challenge – what is the legal form of the MBM and, in particular, what measures can be taken to ensure that it is effectively enforced? Analysis by Alejandro Piera of law firm Guanes, Heisecke & Piera shows convincingly that creating an MBM via an ICAO standard established under the Chicago Convention is the most compelling, if imperfect, option.
On the one hand, ICAO, with the support of the United States and European countries, has played a central role in establishing standards that have enabled the aviation sector to deliver a level of safety that surpasses other modes of transport. On the other, ICAO’s own data shows many States have not fully implemented all safety standards. In particular, Piera provides an instructive tale of how competitive considerations have led to less than comprehensive security standards at Tocumen Airport in Panama. The story is a cautionary one, given that climate figures less prominently in the public’s eye than do security risks, and that an MBM’s effectiveness is tightly linked to a high level of compliance.
To mitigate the risks of lax enforcement by one State, this author suggests ICAO and its member States ensure the standards implementing an MBM include clear provisions for overlapping, distributed enforcement. States issuing operating certificates or authorising the provision of air traffic services by foreign carriers, together with private actors such as trade associations and leasing and financing companies, can all require demonstration of MBM compliance as a condition of access to services.
In a best case scenario, where disputes over allocation of responsibilities are resolved and legal form and enforcement requirements are addressed, will the aviation sector actually be able to reduce its emissions as required? No one expects the industry to be able to maintain its direct CO2 emissions at 2020 levels while satisfying growing demand for international air services. One purpose of an MBM is to afford each airline the flexibility to meet its climate protection responsibilities by acquiring real emission reductions undertaken outside that airline’s individual carbon footprint. Rafael Grillo Avila and colleagues present analyses demonstrating that sufficient high-quality, forest-based offsets are likely to be available to the aviation sector, even after accounting for countries’ needs to first use these offsets to meet domestic emissions and Paris Agreement commitments.
In a worst case scenario, where ICAO fails to reach agreement on the MBM, the aviation industry will find itself in a reprise of prior debates over the ability of regional actors such as the European Union to regulate international aviation emissions. Without further action, the EU’s emissions trading system for international aviation will automatically restart. Failure to reach agreement on the MBM would increase already-existing pressures to tighten the international CO2 emissions standard and to adopt initiatives at State and regional levels for even tighter standards.
Success at ICAO could provide an important precedent for global climate governance. The aviation industry and leading aviation states have the opportunity to demonstrate that international industries can work with governments to set meaningful limits on carbon pollution. Aviation could provide a model for other cross-border sectors such as the shipping industry, and potentially other global actors. Precedents made in establishing oversight of emissions reduction units and transparent access to data could form the foundation for future efforts to establish cross-border market tools under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. To fully realise these benefits, ICAO must complete the work of developing MBM standards in a timely way, while cooperating with States, industry and civil society stakeholders to ensure the MBM is ready for robust implementation beginning in 2021.
ICAO’s success in adopting and implementing a global market-based measure and other climate initiatives, such as emissions and biofuels standards, will also hinge on the extent to which stakeholders and the public can observe these policies under development and at work. Historically, policy development at ICAO has been opaque – access to major meetings can be difficult and many ICAO working papers and publications are restricted. To its credit, ICAO has taken steps in recent years to make some processes more transparent. For instance, nearly a dozen Global Aviation Dialogue Sessions (GLADS) were held around the world in an effort to provide greater transparency on the development of the MBM.
Public and industry confidence in ICAO’s efforts to address the climate impacts of international aviation will depend on continued and deepened transparency. Key stakeholders, including those from civil society such as the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), a network of non-profit organisations working to reduce pollution from air travel, must be involved. Full implementation of the MBM must include ready access to monitoring, reporting and verification of both emissions and emissions unit development and transactions. As ICAO continues to assess and take actions to reduce the climate impacts of international aviation, future emissions and biofuels standards development efforts must be broadly transparent to key stakeholders.
ICAO’s work at the intersection of aviation and climate is an opportunity to demonstrate the institution can deliver the transparency on which durable climate policy will depend, while honouring the spirit of the global climate agreement made in Paris.
Pamela Campos is a senior attorney with Environmental Defense Fund, which is a member of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, the official civil society observer to ICAO. The views presented here are her own. This article is a slight revision of an introduction published in Carbon & Climate Law Review.
ICAO Environmental Report 2016 – On Board a Sustainable Future
August 2016 – ICAO has announced the publication of the 2016 edition of its Environmental Report, which shares information on progress made over the last three years across key areas of the UN agency’s civil aviation environmental protection activities. This fourth edition is a compendium of technical and scientific articles intended to inform of the work of the ICAO Secretariat, ICAO Member States and the many stakeholders involved. It also serves as a reference document in matters concerning international aviation and the environment, as well as presenting the work of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which has more than 600 international experts, in areas such as noise, air quality, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and aircraft end-of-life recycling.
“In this edition, concrete case studies have been added to illustrate the quantified benefits of the mitigation actions developed and supported by ICAO,” writes Jane Hupe, the head of ICAO’s environmental branch, in the Report’s introduction. “Major steps have been taken since the 38th Session of the ICAO Assembly in 2013 to equip States with the tools needed to pave the way for an environmentally sustainable future, and some initiatives are already bearing fruit.”
All of ICAO’s work is data-driven, she points out, “and an important pillar of ICAO’s decision-making on environment are the ICAO trends we develop for traffic, noise and emissions.”
Each of the chapters of the Report identifies how the work being described in them contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015 and the relevance of ICAO’s environmental strategy and actions to the fulfilment of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“ICAO is committed to leading international aviation efforts towards the attainment of the UN SDGs, and this Report is a clear reflection of our dedication to delivering tangible results,” adds Dr Fang Liu, ICAO Secretary General. “It sets a strong foundation for more forward-looking policies and better preparedness on our environmental challenges, while helping to increase awareness globally of how aviation’s benefits are essential to the realisation of truly sustainable civil societies.”
The final chapter of the Report carries contributions from senior figures and representatives from the United Nations and other UN agencies, the aviation industry and civil society.
“This edition of the ICAO Environmental Report shows how air transport is well on its way to carrying out forward-looking solutions – and sets out the strategic path for even greater progress,” says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
“The Report is a crucial step that allows aviation to produce policies that leads to peaking emissions in the industry, says Christina Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “It allows for informed policy decisions based on sound science.”
On behalf of airlines, IATA Director General Tony Tyler says: “We need to continue the spirit of cooperation that has brought us to where we are today.”
Adds airports representative Angela Gittens, Director General of Airports Council International: “As a global sector, aviation stakeholders necessarily have to combine efforts to address environmental impacts for the long-term sustainability of the industry. ACI is looking forward to identifying new areas of collaboration with ICAO to strengthen our already strong cooperation on common environmental objectives.”
On behalf of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, Tim Johnson, Director of Aviation Environment Federation, says: “Bringing experience of environmental policy and carbon markets, and offering a network of non-governmental organisations operating both internationally and nationally that is in touch with different regional perspectives, ICSA has always sought to engage with CAEP members and observers to identify effective measures.”
McGill University’s Occasional Paper Series on the environmental sustainability of international civil aviation
August 2016 – The Centre for Research in Air and Space Law at McGill University in Canada has published an Occasional Paper Series on the environmental sustainability of international civil aviation. The 13 research papers address various policy, legal and technical means and issues relating to the regulation of the impact of international aviation on the environment. The papers are intended to be of relevance to discussions at the upcoming ICAO Assembly starting next month and the authors hope they will contribute to the work of the Assembly and understanding of attending delegates. The papers are a collaborative effort between the Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) at McGill and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), and will form the core of a book that is due to be published at a later date by Cambridge University Press.
The papers were edited by Prof Armand de Mestral (CISDL/IASL, McGill University), Prof Dr P Paul Fitzgerald (McGill University) and Prof Dr Md Tanveer Ahmad (North South University, Bangladesh), with research support from Michael Jourdan J Navarro (CISDL).
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