Thu 6 Oct 2016 - Countries are poised to overwhelmingly adopt an ICAO Assembly resolution today that paves the way for the introduction of the global CORSIA offsetting scheme to address CO2 emissions from international aviation. After a six-day hiatus to allow bilateral behind-the-scenes talks on resolving areas of contention in the draft text of the resolution, a meeting of the Assembly’s Executive Committee took place yesterday afternoon. States were invited to respond to small changes to the text first presented, which were endorsed by nearly all those present. However, Russia, India, Brazil and, to an extent, China still have concerns over the proposed scheme and also its climate neutrality goal but States from elsewhere in the world lined up to call for no further changes. The Committee meeting resumes this morning and the resolution is then expected to be adopted at a full plenary session by the end of the morning.
ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu said yesterday that since the previous meeting last Thursday, the time had been used to address the concerns of some States but without losing the general support for the text that had already been endorsed. He said there would still be outstanding issues but it would become the responsibility of the Council to address them and warned States that still wanted changes about upsetting the “fine balance of the text” and losing the majority of the support now in place. “We want as many States as possible to join the consensus but remember the views of the majority,” he told delegations.
While China is still expected to join the CORSIA scheme from the start, the other reluctant BRIC nations have indicated elsewhere they will not join the pilot and voluntary phases, which run from 2021 to 2026. India and Russia have asked for substantive changes to the text but it appears there has been no move to satisfy their demands since last week and have been left out in the cold. Brazil’s objections may be addressed following a late offer from the United States to see if they could be overcome before today’s meeting.
Over 50 countries made interventions during the three-hour meeting and barring the BRICs, all strongly supported the text as it now stands and urged adoption of the Resolution without further delay. As many States remarked, the text was a fair compromise and it was important not to upset a fragile balance by reopening it to further change at this late stage. The support came from all regions of the world, both developed and developing, with emotional pleas from some delegates - the African state of Burkina Faso in particular drawing wide applause from the Assembly hall - whose countries stood to be badly affected by climate change.
“States have shown a great deal of solidarity concerning environmental action by ICAO and 63 States representing over 80% of international aviation activity have volunteered to participate in the pilot and first phase the scheme. This voluntary approach has proved more successful than if we had decided on a compulsory approach,” said the representative for Mexico, the former ICAO Council President, Roberto Kobeh González. “There has been overwhelming support for this resolution. I make an appeal to all delegations here to adopt it by consensus at the plenary while observing the sovereign right of States to express their disagreement.”
China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia also intervened to object to the sector’s carbon-neutral growth goal, although again found no support for this from other countries.
China’s main concern with the text is that did not adequately reflect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and has been working principally with the United States to accommodate this since the Committee meeting last Thursday. Text has now been inserted, with the approval of all other States, to the effect that developed States have taken the lead in action on climate change by already volunteering to join the pilot and first phases of the CORSIA scheme.
“Our view is the text was fine the way it was but we were happy to work with China on their concern,” a senior US State Department official close to the negotiations told GreenAir on the sidelines of the Assembly yesterday.
She acknowledged that although the issue had been debated for nearly three years since the last Assembly, there were still a number of countries with uncertainties over the scheme “and need to feel comfortable with the package.” However, there was still plenty of time to address this before the scheme started in 2021, she said, and developing countries had the in-built facility to opt out “if it’s not what they expected.”
While the United States had been very encouraged by the large number of developing states that had indicated they would opt in to the voluntary phases, she did expect the major aviation countries, including China, to participate from the beginning and not to use the opt out facility.
“For this scheme to work, it needs to be global, which means it should include countries with major aviation activities and we and China are the two biggest.”
She said there was broad support for the agreement from governments as well as industry and NGOs. “What has struck me at this Assembly, compared with what I heard three years ago at the last, is that countries have come here seeking a resolution and letting ICAO play its part for sustainable aviation and putting this issue behind us after 10 years. There is a lot of goodwill here.
“Assembly resolutions are there to set broad direction and the technical committees can work afterwards on the details. We have reviews built into the scheme every three years, so we can tweak it if concerns arise. But to get there, we have to get started.”
For the industry, she believed the scheme addressed its concerns over an international patchwork of approaches. “It also sends a strong signal that the sector will do its part to address climate change and enable the sustainable growth of aviation,” she added.
With the threshold for the entering into force of the Paris Agreement having been crossed, an upcoming amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs and now an anticipated climate deal at ICAO, this would be “an incredible month” she said.
“ICAO reaching an agreement this week will send one of the strongest signals possible to say the momentum of Paris is alive and well.”
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