ICAO Council President Aliu addresses IATA AGM in Cancun (photo: IATA)
Thu 8 Jun 2017 – ICAO and the airline industry have moved to dampen fears that the Trump administration’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement could damage the global CORSIA CO2 scheme. During a keynote address on Monday to the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said the scheme was on track and any concerns over “recent developments” should be dispelled. IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac described the US withdrawal as “disappointing” but said it was not a setback for CORSIA as the the two agreements were “completely separate”. US airline trade body Airlines for America (A4A) said its members remained committed to both the CORSIA and ICAO aircraft CO2 standard agreements. The IATA AGM also passed a resolution calling for governments to adopt policies in support of sustainable aviation fuel deployment.
The then President, Barack Obama, announced the United States’ decision to participate in the first voluntary phase of CORSIA in a Leaders’ Statement signed with Canada and Mexico in June 2016. This was followed in December by another joint statement with China, in which the two countries supported the adoption of the global market-based measure “and expect to be early participants in such measure”.
To lose the United States from the start in 2021 of the CORSIA pilot and first voluntary phases would be a damaging but not necessarily fatal blow to the scheme, unless other major aviation countries like China followed suit. According to ICAO, the 70 countries – Nigeria is the latest to join – that have so far agreed to participate in the initial pilot and voluntary phases account for 87.7% of scheduled international aviation activity, as measured in revenue tonne-kilometres (RTKs), which is the current proxy for CO2 emissions from international aviation in the absence of complete country-by-country emissions data reporting. ICAO’s reported RTK country-by-country data for 2014 shows the United States accounted for 11.7% of global RTKs from international aviation, a share almost identically matched by China. The United States share of overall global CO2 emissions is 14.34%, according to Wikipedia.
Having lobbied for their inclusion in the global market-based measure that was adopted by the ICAO Assembly last October, as well as playing an active part in the design process of CORSIA, US airlines say they remain keen to participate in the scheme from the start. They also reiterate their support for US adoption of the global aircraft CO2 standard agreed by ICAO that requires formal Congress approval.
“US airlines, as part of the global aviation coalition that successfully advocated for the ICAO fuel and efficiency standard for future aircraft and the carbon offsetting mechanism for international aviation, remain committed to both agreements and to working with the administration and Congress towards a more environmentally-friendly future,” an A4A spokesman told GreenAir.
The US State Department told Reuters the CORSIA agreement was, like other previous administration policies, under review and that there was no deadline for action.
In his industry report to the IATA AGM, de Juniac said: “Let me reassure you that the disappointing decision of the US to back out of the Paris Agreement is not a setback for CORSIA. They are completely separate agreements. The alternative to CORSIA is a patchwork of measures that would be ineffective, costly and unmanageable. Our membership remains united behind CORSIA and our climate change goals.”
The 70 countries that were now on board with CORSIA represented at least 80% of anticipated growth in carbon emissions during the course of the scheme, he said, which is set to run until 2035. “And we encourage more States to join,” he added.
“Aviation stands at the forefront of industries combatting climate change. We can be proud. But we must not be complacent. Our 2050 goal is to cut net emissions to half of what they were in 2005.”
Without referring to the Trump decision directly, in his keynote Dr Aliu told the airline chiefs attending the AGM: “I wish to stress that CORSIA demonstrates not only concrete leadership and social responsibility on climate change, but also simple and sound economic sense for airlines all over the world. We should dispel any concerns that recent developments on the Paris Agreement will negatively impact our shared planning for effective and globally aligned aviation emissions mitigation, and I would urge you all to enthusiastically and promptly promote CORSIA’s full implementation.”
The sustainable alternative aviation fuels resolution approved at the AGM calls on governments to implement policies to accelerate the deployment of such fuels, including the creation of the appropriate regulatory framework to further the development of production facilities. Such policies could, says the resolution, provide easier access to finance, such as loan guarantees and capital grants; support demonstration plants and supply chain R&D; put these fuels on an equal footing with automotive fuels through equivalent public incentives; and provide legislative certainty over an extended period of time to give investors confidence to finance new production facilities.
“While offsetting is critical to managing emissions in the short term, in the long term we rely on clean technology improvements to achieve our goals,” commented de Juniac. “Sustainable aviation fuels are an integral part of our comprehensive strategy but at the moment they are not being produced in enough quantity at a competitive cost.”
IATA said the industry was committed to ensuring the fuels conformed to robust sustainability standards and was playing a leading role within an ICAO working group to define globally harmonised sustainability requirements for the fuels in the context of CORSIA.
“It is important people are reassured that CORSIA-compliant sustainable aviation fuels will be held to the highest environmental standards,” promised de Juniac. “Our resolution makes clear our determination that we will only use such fuels that conserve ecological balance, and avoid the depletion of natural resources.”
In other AGM news, Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong was appointed to succeed Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, as Chairman of the IATA Board of Governors, who was praised by de Juniac.
“It was great to see the historic CORSIA agreement being achieved during his tenure as Chairman,” said de Juniac. “Willie has been a long-time advocate for a market-based measure to help meet our climate change commitments.”
Goh said he would be paying “special attention” to progressing preparations for CORSIA. “CORSIA is something we arrived at after many years of discussion within the industry. It is a major step that personally I am very glad has taken place,” he said in an IATA AGM video interview. “Of course, as far as the environment is concerned, it is never enough – you have to do more. As an industry we must look at what else we can do together.”
IATA reported passenger demand is expected to grow by 7.4% in 2017, the same growth rate as 2016 and 2.3 percentage points higher than previously forecast. This translates into an additional 275 million passengers over 2016, bringing the anticipated number of passengers carried during 2017 to 4.1 billion. If achieved, said IATA, this would be the largest year-on-year growth in absolute passenger numbers ever recorded.
With jet kerosene prices expected to average $64/barrel this year, the total industry fuel bill is predicted to be $129 billion, slightly below the 2016 level of $133 billion, and accounting for 18.8% of the industry’s total costs.
Airlines are anticipated to take delivery of around 1,850 new aircraft in 2017, around half of which will replace older and less fuel-efficient aircraft, and will expand the global fleet by 3.8% to 28,645 commercial aircraft.
Qantas will host next year’s IATA AGM in Sydney.
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