ICAO States reach agreement on roadmap towards a global MBM but Europe suffers defeat over EU ETS

ICAO States reach agreement on roadmap towards a global MBM but Europe suffers defeat over EU ETS | ICAO 38th Assembly

Fri 4 Oct 2013 – After two days of intense negotiations at the ICAO Assembly, States reached a consensus agreement to proceed with a roadmap towards a decision to be taken on a global market-based measure at the next Assembly in 2016. Unusually for ICAO, votes were taken yesterday on late amendments to the draft resolution proposed by a number of developing States led by Russia, China and India. Despite attempts by Europe to head off defeat, the developing States won a crucial vote to include a paragraph that, in essence, aims to kill off the inclusion of foreign aircraft operators in the EU ETS. The EU had believed a reduced airspace coverage framework in exchange for progress towards a decision on a global MBM in 2016 for implementation in 2020, would be acceptable to ICAO States. In the end they were outflanked and outnumbered.


Paragraph 16(a) of the adopted resolution requires States or regions seeking to implement, or which have already implemented, interim MBMs to “engage in constructive bilateral and/or multilateral consultations and negotiations with other States to reach an agreement.” As it is highly unlikely any State, including the United States, would voluntarily agree to the inclusion of their airlines in the EU ETS, Europe will be forced to limit the scope of the scheme to intra-EU flights only. Even such flights by foreign aircraft operators may have to be excluded if without the consent of the operator’s country of registration.


It is a big blow to Europe’s prestige, having already conceded ground in expectation of an agreement to adopt a global MBM in 2016 and accepted a reduced scope of the EU ETS to regulate carbon emissions that were emitted in European airspace rather than for the whole of the departing or arriving flight, as set down in the original legislation. The EU has always maintained that if a “meaningful” agreement – and it was willing to accept the draft resolution taken to Assembly – was not forthcoming it would ‘snap back’ to full coverage once the present stop-the-clock derogation ends. Unless the EU wishes to embark on further confrontation with China, India and the United States, it would appear to have to accept the new limitation on its powers. It could also face possible legal action from European low-cost carriers that maintain the intra-EU scope is against EU law.


In attempt to shoot down developing States’ proposal to insert “mutual agreement” into Paragraph 16, European representatives called for a vote on removing the whole paragraph and associated paragraphs from the original draft resolution text but this was heavily defeated and, in turn, the developing States won a convincing vote in the adoption of their proposal.


The developing States also retained their demand for de minimis exemptions from national and regional MBMs on routes to and from those developing States with an international share of RTKs below 1% of the total, despite opposition from countries such as the United States. The BRIC countries also succeeded in having references inserted taking into account de minimis and the Special Circumstances and Respective Capabilities (SCRC) and the UNFCCC principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) when designing and implementing a global MBM.


Also included in the new draft (WP/430) is a call for work to be done on finalising technical aspects, environmental and economic impacts, and the modalities of the possible options for a global MBM scheme, including their feasibility and practicability. It also requests the ICAO Council, with the support of Member States (another addition to the draft in order to ensure greater input from all States in the MBM process), to organise workshops and seminars on a global scheme, and to identify and address the major issues and problems that may affect States. The Council is required to report to the 39th Assembly for a decision on whether to adopt a global MBM.


A proposal by the BRICS countries and their allies that the resolution drop the reference to implementation of a global scheme by 2020 was withdrawn.


Despite the disappointment suffered by Europe yesterday, European Commissioners Connie Hedegaard and Siim Kallas, responsible for climate and transport respectively, were upbeat over the overall outcome. “EU hard work is paying off: with tabled deal, #ICAO agrees for first time a global way to reduce aviation emissions: a global market measure,” tweeted Hedegaard. After today’s plenary, Kallas followed with: “Tonight’s #ICAO deal shows #aviation means business when it comes to dealing with emissions.”


At today’s Plenary session, the resolution was approved by the Assembly although a number of reservations, or objections, were lodged by a number of States, principally by developed States over the de minimis references (Paragraph 16b and others) and also developing States’ concerns over ICAO’s aspirational goals (Paragraph 7).


Speaking on behalf of the EU States, the Lithuanian representative said the Assembly had been a success and the EU would be looking for a decision on a global MBM at the next Assembly. He regretted it had not been possible to reach consensus on regional MBMs, but the EU would continue to support ICAO and looked forward to further engagement with industry, he said. Some concerns over the resolution would be made in reservations during the next few weeks, he added.


US representative Todd Stern, the country’s Climate Envoy, said aviation was a priority in efforts to tackle climate change and the United States would work diligently in the continuing work on MBMs. The US, too, found certain elements of the resolution unacceptable, particularly the references to de minimis and CBDR.




ICAO 38th Assembly Climate Change resolution (in WP/430)



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