Count us out of carbon-neutral growth measures, China and other major emerging countries tell ICAO
Mon 4 Nov 2013 – In its formal reservation letter to the ICAO Secretary General sent after the conclusion of the recent ICAO Assembly, China says the adoption of a carbon-neutral growth goal from 2020 without differentiated responsibilities will impede development of its international aviation activities. Although it supports the establishment of goals for reducing international aviation emissions, China says it is the responsibility of developed countries to take the lead in reduction measures, which includes offsetting the growth of emissions by developing countries. Another emerging power, Brazil, has similarly written to the Secretary General to say there should be a reassessment of common global aspirational goals agreed by ICAO. By contrast, the United States has written to object to the de minimis provisions in the Assembly climate resolution and the inclusion of the differentiated responsibilities principle.
The 38th ICAO Assembly earlier last month was heralded as a great success since Member States took a step forward by agreeing to develop a global market-based measure (MBM) to limit the growth of international aviation emissions. States are expected to make a decision at the next Assembly in 2016 on whether to adopt a global MBM with a start date of 2020.
However, proceedings during the Assembly did not hide the deep divisions that exist between the developed and developing world on which countries should take part, not only in interim national and regional schemes such as the EU ETS, but also in the global scheme. Negotiations in the Executive Committee on the issue came close to collapsing on the penultimate day.
It is apparent from the first batch – more are expected – of reservation letters sent by Member States, just posted on the ICAO Assembly website, that given present positions, the scheme could be ‘global’ in name only.
In its letter dated October 8, the Chinese delegation to ICAO makes clear that although all parties must be accommodated, the developing countries have key concerns that must be addressed. It points out that China and 11 other States presented papers to the Assembly proposing amendments to paragraphs on MBMs, the global MBM scheme, the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and guiding MBM principles.
As such, it has placed a reservation objecting to Paragraph 7 of the resolution, which states “that without any attribution of specific obligations to individual States, ICAO and its member States with relevant organizations will work together to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net carbon emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level ...”.
Although the paragraph goes on to recognise the goal should take account of the special circumstances and respective capabilities of States, in particular developing countries, as well as the maturity of aviation markets, China believes this does not go far enough. “It must be specified that the developed countries should take the lead in taking reduction measures in order to offset the growth of emissions from international aviation of developing countries,” says the letter.
Brazil, also on behalf of Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, too has placed a reservation on Paragraph 7. “Brazil engaged the discussions [at the Assembly] on this topic in a constructive manner, which we intend to keep in the future rounds of talks related to the issue, as ICAO now has the task of working towards a global MBM mechanism,” writes the country’s ICAO Permanent Representative to the Secretary General of ICAO. “Brazil understands, on the other hand, that our common global aspirational goals still need reassessment and further analysis, as to reflect the different stages of development of ICAO’s Member States. This is a matter of utmost importance, when faced with the current and future growth perspectives of the international civil aviation sector.”
A late change to the climate change resolution passed at the Assembly was the addition to the list of guiding principles when designing and implementing MBMs for international aviation, of a new principle which states MBMs should take into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR), the special circumstances and respective capabilities (SCRC), and the principle of non-discrimination and equal and fair opportunities.
In a Statement of Reservation, the United States says it objects to this inclusion. “For reasons that are well known, the United States does not consider that the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the principle of CBDR, apply to ICAO, which is governed by its own legal regime.”
The US also reserves on paragraph 16(b) of the resolution, which states that when States or groups of States design and implement national or regional MBM schemes, exemptions should be granted on routes to and from developing States whose share of international aviation revenue ton kilometres (RTKs) is less than 1%. The US says that although it supports the de minimis concept, it does not believe that 1% is an appropriate threshold, that the threshold should be based on the aviation activities of states as opposed to operators or that accommodations should depend on whether routes are to or from developing states.
“These criteria amount to an inappropriate means of addressing the de minimis concept, particularly in light of ICAO’s principle of non-discrimination and commitment to the avoidance of market distortion,” says the Statement. “If applied, this de minimis threshold would have the effect of excluding the vast majority of the world’s countries from participation in an MBM. Further, and consistent with the language of the provision, the United States sees such a threshold as having no bearing on the development of a global MBM.”
The United Arab Emirates, which is defined as a developing country under the UNFCCC but as a developed country by the EU in new proposals for the continuation of its emissions trading scheme, has also submitted a letter reserving on paragraph 16(b). It argues that the de minimis provision may lead to significant market distortions and put some aircraft operators at a considerable disadvantage.
“This is in direct conflict with Article 11 of the Chicago Convention,” says the letter. “The provision’s language is extremely imprecise. This will inevitably create confusion.”
As ICAO embarks on its three-year work programme to develop and design the practicalities of a global MBM, attention will also have to focus on how the conflicting ICAO/UNFCCC principles can be satisfactorily resolved. The almost unprecedented roll-call voting that took place on the MBM issue towards the end of the Assembly demonstrated the power of the emerging nations in getting support for their demands from other developing countries, which form the majority of ICAO States.