Washington meeting reaffirms opposition to EU ETS and commits to ICAO progress but a global MBM some way off
Thu 2 Aug 2012 – The 17 countries attending the meeting held in Washington that concluded yesterday have reaffirmed their opposition to the application of the EU ETS to non-EU carriers and say they remain committed to the actions to reduce international aviation emissions agreed in the ICAO Assembly Resolution A37-19 of 2010. They said significant steps have been taken since then in implementing the resolution and they intended to move forward, nationally and in ICAO, on elements such as the aspirational 2020 carbon-neutral growth goal and the “appropriate role” of market-based measures. However, in a briefing afterwards, a senior US Administration official present at the meeting said the 2010 resolution did not call for the production of such a measure, only to explore the feasibility, and he believed it would take “a substantial period of time” before a global measure could be agreed and there was no basis for expecting an agreement by the 2013 Assembly. No plans had been taken by the US to file an Article 84 complaint at ICAO over the EU scheme, he said.
The official said two types of market-based measures (MBMs) had come out of the 2010 Assembly resolution, one to deal with guidelines and parameters on national or regional systems, such as those under consideration in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and the other was a global system. He said there was considerable support in the meeting for further developing frameworks for the first type but options on a global measure were still being narrowed down at ICAO.
“It is my sense, but we don’t know for sure, that it is going to be a substantial period of time working on what might be a global measure,” he said. “And I don’t have any basis for projecting whether there will be any agreement to any of them [options] by the time of the 2013 Assembly. The call in the 2010 Assembly was not to produce such a measure, but simply to explore the feasibility, do studies, consider all the factors, see whether there’s any basis even for moving forward with respect to that global system.”
The meeting was attended, in addition to the United States, by representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Australia participated for the first time in this third meeting of the ‘coalition of the unwilling’, with those countries that had signed up to the Declarations issued at the end of the previous Delhi and Moscow meetings reaffirming their stance on the EU ETS.
The US official described the meeting as an “informal, small group conversation” between major aviation countries. “We wanted to bring the group together to discuss ongoing progress [at ICAO] and continue progress that can be made, and also to explore whether there seemed to be some basis for an overall global solution that would have the additional effect of causing the EU ETS to be set aside with regard to foreign carriers,” he said. “We were not expecting this initial and exploratory session to produce agreements or anything of that sort and, indeed, there were no deliverables.
“In a nutshell, the meeting confirmed, which is no surprise, the very solid and strong opposition to the ETS as applied to foreign carriers, but also indicated there was a lot of interest among countries in continuing to work on the ICAO suite of activities.”
The meeting discussed national actions they had taken and intend to take as a result of the ICAO 2010 resolution, such as air traffic management modernisation, accelerated use of fuel-efficient aircraft technologies, development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels and the use of MBMs “appropriate to their respective airlines”.
The official said the recent agreement by ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) on a metric for a CO2 efficiency standard for aircraft and engines was also an important development. He said many of the states represented at the meeting have already submitted to ICAO, or are planning to so, national action plans called for under the 2010 resolution. The meeting had also recognised other significant steps such as the implementation by ICAO member states of fuel reporting requirements, the promotion of air navigation improvements and assisting states in their development and deployment of alternative fuels.
Participants in the meeting said they intended to continue to move forward, nationally and in ICAO, on all these actions, including the aspirational 2020 carbon-neutral growth goal and the appropriate role of MBMs. On the latter, they said “work should continue to develop a framework for MBMs and to explore the feasibility of a global MBM scheme, while recognising the need to prioritise work on the framework.”
The official added: “Countries are quite willing to continue the conversation on MBMs, particularly, I think, to advance the so-called framework applying to those on the regional or national side, but also continue the exploration on a global MBM. The only thing they don’t want is to have the ETS imposed upon them.
“Remember, a trading system by itself doesn’t cause aviation emissions to get reduced – there are a whole lot of steps that airlines can take [such as] more efficient airplanes and engines, much better air traffic management operations and the development of alternative fuels. The US is, I think, really a leader in all of those areas. We have almost certainly gone way past what the EU has done in the decade 2000 to 2010, where our [aviation] emissions dropped by about 12% at the same time that our passenger and freight traffic went up by 15%.”
The countries have agreed that further discussions of a policy and technical nature to “facilitate a way forward within ICAO” would be useful but the US official said no follow-up meeting had been planned.
Earlier this week, the US airline trade organisation Airlines for America repeated its call, a move supported by some US politicians, for the United States government to file an Article 84 Chicago Convention complaint at ICAO against Europe over its emissions trading scheme. However, the official said no decision by the Administration had been taken. “An Article 84 is not off the table – we don’t have any immediate plans to do that, but it is always an option.”
He said he had briefed his EU counterpart in Brussels on what had taken place at the meeting.
Commenting on the outcome of Washington discussions, a European Commission spokesperson told GreenAir Online: “We welcome that they expressed their commitment for concrete action and progress at ICAO, and hope this will accelerate the process towards a global solution – we have always pushed for this, as you know.”
Update 2 Aug:
More reaction to the Washington meeting from a European Commission spokesman at a briefing today can be viewed here.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today welcomed the “positive outcome” of the meeting and the “constructive steps towards a global deal under ICAO to address international aviation emissions”.
IATA also welcomed the passing of the bill by the US Senate Commerce Committee to prohibit US carriers from participating in the EU ETS and the provision for US officials to conduct international negotiations to pursue a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions. (see article).
“The global aviation community is encouraged to see that in spite of the EU’s insistence on defending its divisive scheme, governments outside Europe recognise the tremendous socio-economic benefits from aviation and are making determined efforts to find common ground to deliver a global solution through ICAO that is acceptable to all,” it said.