Concerns over use of international aviation as a source of climate finance expressed in ICAO declaration
Fri 27 Nov 2015 – Ahead of the Paris climate change conference (COP21) that starts on Monday, ICAO’s 36-State Governing Council has again called on Member States to oppose the disproportionate use of international aviation as a potential source of revenue for climate finance for other sectors. At a session of the Council last week, representatives adopted a formal eight-point Declaration that will be circulated in Paris in which ICAO informs that it is on course to adopt a global CO2 standard for aircraft next year and is committed to finalising the key design elements of a global market-based measure (GMBM) for a decision by the next Assembly in autumn 2016. A delegation of ICAO officials, including Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu and Secretary General Dr Fang Liu, is expected to attend the two-week conference in Paris. Aviation-related side events organised by the industry and NGOs will take place during the COP.
Commenting on the Declaration and climate finance concerns, Dr Aliu said: “There have been a number of calls for global air transport revenues to be taxed by States for use in non-aviation-related climate change mitigation programmes.
“The ICAO Council, through this Declaration, wished to stress very clearly in advance of COP21 that this is an unfair approach and one which is ultimately counter-productive given the historic and exemplary environmental performance of our sector and the significant socio-economic benefits it brings to States and Regions all over the world.”
A reference to both international aviation and shipping as potential sources of climate finance through the application of a levy scheme was included in the first draft climate change agreement drawn up earlier in the year but has since been omitted from the current draft to be negotiated in Paris by the 190 countries that are expected to attend (see article).
The draft to be presented has a paragraph (19, page 12,International Transport Emissions) that reads: “Option 1: Parties [shall][should][other] pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively, with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies. Option 2: No text.”
The Declaration states the ICAO Council “will ensure continuous leadership of ICAO on environmental issues relating to international civil aviation, including greenhouse gas emissions.”
It also informs that as of November 2015, 83 Member States that collectively represent 80% of global international air traffic had prepared and submitted Action Plans to reduce international aviation CO2 emissions. That number is expected to pass the 100 mark, therefore over half the membership, by the time of the next Assembly.
The Declaration affirms the Council’s commitment to the basket of measures to improve the sector’s environmental performance, such as air traffic modernisation, acceleration of the use of fuel-efficient aircraft technologies and the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels, in addition to the aircraft CO2 standard and the GMBM.
“A successful COP21 will be a very important step for a positive outcome on international aviation and climate change at the ICAO Assembly in 2016,” stressed Dr Aliu.
The outcome of the Paris negotiations, although not directly impacting on the development of the GMBM, which aims to cap net international aviation emissions from 2020, will set the tone for the tough challenges that lie ahead before an agreement can be reached on the scheme by the Assembly. The ICAO Council has agreed an ambitious programme of meetings for the first half of 2016 to ensure a draft proposal has been agreed by the governing Council and in place for rubber-stamping by all Member States at the Assembly. ICAO will wish to avoid the discord that marked the previous two Assemblies in 2010 and 2013 over late attempts at finding collective agreement on the climate change action issue.
The next two meetings (15th and 16th) of the Council-appointed Environmental Advisory Group (EAG), which was formed after the last Assembly to oversee the development of the GMBM, are due to take place in January and February. The EAG is expected to consider a draft proposal and then put forward a recommendation to the next Session of the Council (207th) in the first half of March.
From March 21 to April 4, a second round of Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) will take place in ICAO regions around the world that will allow officials from Member States, along with other stakeholders, to provide feedback on the proposal. Dr Aliu reported the first round of GLADs held earlier this year had provided a “very positive response from government decision makers and wide-ranging stakeholders … and it is expected that this new second round will be very much appreciated.”
Following the second round of GLADs, a high-level meeting of all States is planned for May in Montreal that will consider a draft Assembly Resolution, with the draft expected to be finalised by the 208th Session of the Council in June. The 39th ICAO Assembly is scheduled to take place 27 September to 7 October.
During COP21 a number of aviation-related side events are being organised. On 2 December, ICAO and sister UN international shipping agency IMO are holding an international transport update event that will focus on achievements and joint initiatives with other UN bodies on technical, operational and market-based measures.
On 3 December, NGOs Transport & Environment and the Centre for Biological Diversity are holding a seminar on what action is needed to bring international aviation emissions in line with the 2-degree target. Speakers include representatives from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, IATA and the Paris School of Economics.
On 7 December, the industry coalition Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) is holding an event titled ‘Climate Action Takes Flight on International Aviation Day’ and another ATAG event is scheduled for the following day (8 December) in association with the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) that will discuss the ICAO GMBM. Panellists for the climate action event include representatives from ATAG, ACI Europe, NATS, Avinor, Boeing, United Airlines and ICAO, who will present case studies from across the sector. The ATAG/IETA event will include presentations and discussions with representatives from International Airlines Group, IETA and Environmental Defense Fund.
The International Transport Forum, part of the OECD, is organising an event on 9 December titled ‘Flying clean: limiting the CO2 emissions from international aviation’. Michael Gill, Executive Director of ATAG, will represent the industry.
Finally, on Friday 11 December, the French aeronautics research sector will join with French civil aviation administrators to discuss aviation research and innovation efforts.
The COP is due to finish on 11 December, although past experience has shown that an overrun into the following day in order to reach an agreement is likely.