Russia urges ICAO to reconsider 'unrealistic' carbon neutrality goal and market measures for international aviation

Russia urges ICAO to reconsider 'unrealistic' carbon neutrality goal and market measures for international aviation | Russia,ICAO 38th Assembly

(photo: Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport)

Mon 18 Nov 2013 – The Russian Federation, which played a leading role along with major emerging nations at the recent ICAO Assembly to dilute the scope of national and regional market-based measures (MBMs), says the goal of carbon neutrality from 2020 for international aviation is unrealistic. Such a goal predetermines the need for MBMs, which it argues reduces the potential of the sector to actually lower greenhouse gas emissions and would also have a negative impact on flight safety due to slower rates of technological development. To achieve real emissions reductions, the Russian Federation urges the ICAO Council to “revisit” the goals set out in the Assembly climate change resolution. The carbon-neutral goal (CNG2020) is also challenged by the other BRIC nations, whereas Europe argues the goal is insufficiently ambitious.


Reservations, or objections, to elements of the resolution (now formally known as A38-18) have been submitted by a total of 61 countries and are now posted on the ICAO website. They show a distinct division along developed/developing country lines.


Joining the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – in opposing paragraph 7 of the resolution, which deals with the CNG2020 goal, include Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.


“We have concerns with regard to the aspirational goals and carbon-neutral growth. These concerns are shared by other States,” says Saudi Arabia. “We would like to have ICAO resolutions that will dispel these concerns. We affirm our right to develop our civil aviation sector in accordance with our economic and social interests, without any burdensome cost impacts.”


In its reservation statement, China says it does not have a problem with the aspirational goals, only that reduction measures are the responsibility of developed countries, which should take the lead.


“The Chinese Delegation is of the view that since international aviation of developing countries is still at the stage of development, the adoption of the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 without differentiated responsibilities will impede the future development of international aviation of developing countries,” says China (see article).


An attempt by the resolution to deal with developing world concerns by acknowledging in the text the UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in the annexed list of guiding principles when devising and implementing MBMs has been met, in turn, with hostility from developed countries.


Australia says in its reservation that CBDR undermined the longstanding ICAO principles of non-discrimination and fair and equal treatment, and could lead to confusing and/or discriminatory outcomes. “ICAO has been able to accommodate any special arrangements needed for the less advanced countries or operators through the consideration of special circumstances and respective capabilities (SCRC),” it adds.


The CBDR principle was incompatible with the principles that govern international civil aviation activity, said Canada. In a reference to its own regional MBM scheme, the EU ETS, Europe’s 44 countries said CBDR applied to actions by States. Market distortions and discrimination would result among operators if there were to be differing treatment between operators on the basis of their nationality, it argued, adding: “Many carriers based in less developed countries are in fact among the largest, the most advanced and the most profitable in the world.”


Measures should be applied equally, fairly and indiscriminately on all relevant air operators, said Singapore, which has concerns with paragraph 16 of the resolution dealing with national and regional MBM schemes prior to a global measure being implemented. Apart from paragraph 7, this paragraph has drawn the most objections, principally over the de minimis exemptions on routes to and from developing countries with a share of international traffic less than 1% (paragraph 16b). Not only do developed countries point out the potential for market distortions this would cause, but also do Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and, curiously, Afghanistan.


Europe had gone into the Assembly expecting a resolution to emerge that would have given it the green light to apply its EU ETS on a unilateral basis to emissions within its airspace from flights to and from European airports. Russia and its developing nation allies succeeded in having the text changed so that implementation should only be done with the agreement of third States affected by the scope (paragraph 16a).


Unsurprisingly, the European States have submitted a reservation on this paragraph, saying the Chicago Convention recognised the right of contracting States to apply on a non-discriminatory basis its laws and regulations to the aircraft of all States, and Assembly resolutions did not diminish this right.


Europe also describes the CNG 2020 aspirational goal as insufficiently ambitious, given that global aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than 2005 levels, even with ICAO’s 2% per year fuel efficiency improvement target to 2020. Europe maintains it has consistently advocated a 10% global reduction target by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.


Two weeks ago, representatives from 46 countries gathered in Dubai for the first meeting since the Assembly of ICAO’s environment committee CAEP to discuss its work over the next three years following the two resolutions (A38-17 and A38-18) on environmental protection and climate change.


The first post-Assembly meeting of the ICAO Council gets underway this week and discussion is also expected on the future work programme concerning the global MBM.




ICAO 38th Assembly resolutions and reservations on A38-18



Reservations submitted by States on paragraphs within the A38-18 resolution:




* Jointly with Argentina, Cuba & Venezuela

** On behalf of 42 EU/ECAC States

*** Australia also does not accept aspects of SCRC or CBDR in Preambular paragraph 10 and Paragraphs 6, 7, 20 & 21


Paragraph 7:

Global aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020

Paragraph 16(a):

Mutual agreement on national/regional MBMs

Paragraph 16(b):

1% RTK de minimis on routes serving developing countries

Annex Principle (p):

MBMs should take account of CBDR/SCRC/Non-discrimination



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