Eyes of the world on airlines and ICAO to drive substantial progress on reducing emissions, says UN's Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon addresses ICAO Council (photo: ICAO)
Wed 17 Feb 2016 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has praised ICAO efforts in proposing a CO2 standard for aircraft and urged Member States to endorse it without delay. The eyes of the world were on the aviation sector to drive substantial, concrete progress on reducing emissions, he said in a speech to ICAO’s governing Council in Montreal. He added he was confident that governments would agree at the ICAO Assembly in the autumn a market-based approach to neutralising the growth of aviation CO2. Council members are currently studying new draft proposals for a global market-based measure (GMBM) put forward by the ICAO Council President, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, who is putting together a new High-level Group to oversee the process. Meanwhile, airline industry chief Willie Walsh told a conference this week the global scheme was “a once in a generation opportunity.”
The UN Secretary-General was in Montreal as the two-week triennial session of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP/10) drew to a close last week with an agreement on a proposed fuel efficiency standard for new aircraft type designs delivered after 2020 and in-production aircraft from 2023 (see article). The proposal is likely to go before the Council at its next session in June, followed by consultation with Member States before it is formerly adopted.
“After years of negotiations, these proposed rules will be the first time governments have set limits on carbon emissions for the aviation sector,” Ban told the 36-member Council meeting. “They build on the strong momentum coming from Paris. I urge all ICAO members to endorse them as soon as possible.”
He said if airlines were a country, they would be the seventh largest creator of emissions in the world. “And emissions from aviation are growing rapidly, with the number of flights worldwide expected to double in the next 15 years,” he added.
“We need more sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Airlines must increase their use of energy-efficient technology. Airport buildings and transport infrastructure all over the world must be sustainable and climate-friendly. Cohesive international action will be key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and limiting climate change. ICAO is showing the way.”
Responding, Dr Aliu said ICAO was “grateful to share updates with Mr Ban on our work to encourage commitments for aviation system modernisation, and for minimising the impact of aviation on the environment. These will be essential to how sustainably our sector manages future growth. Mr Ban’s visit, coming on the heels of a very successful COP21 in Paris, also adds further impetus to the important environmental progress now being forged through ICAO.”
The new High-level Group (HLG) of senior aviation and/or transport representatives from selected Council Member States in essence replaces the larger 17-member Environmental Advisory Group appointed in early 2014 to oversee and coordinate the work on developing proposals for a GMBM scheme.
The HLG is due to meet for the first time next week (Feb 24-25) to consider the latest proposals for the scheme that could see a phased-in, two-stage (years 2021 and 2026) implementation approach to accommodate the special circumstances of developing States.
It would also be limited to aircraft operators emitting more than 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year from international aviation and with aircraft above 5,700kg MTOM. It would exempt humanitarian, medical and firefighting operations and exemptions would also apply to new entrants for five years.
The scheme, which is described by both ICAO and industry as a temporary “gap filler” until advances in technology, operations and sustainable alternative fuels have proved sufficient in meeting the carbon-neutral growth goal, would apply until the end of 2035, although it would be reviewed every three years.
Speaking at a recent press briefing, IATA Vice President Paul Steele said the Paris Agreement had significant implications for the ICAO negotiations as all States, both developed and developing, had agreed to act in mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions, which he believed would translate into concerted action at ICAO on the GMBM. It had also provided clarity on the future of carbon markets that would help the carbon offset-based scheme, he said.
“There is also the moral persuasion in that those States who agreed to take action on climate change in Paris would find it difficult to do nothing in ICAO,” said Steele, who is confident an agreement will be reached at the Assembly. “There is no choice. It will still need a lot of political will but States will be coming to ICAO in September with the aim to make this happen.”
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of the International Airlines Group (IAG), told a conference in Singapore on Monday that a global deal on aviation emissions was the only way the industry could continue to grow sustainably to meet demand.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to develop an effective global scheme,” he said. “We must grasp the opportunity now.”
He said the GMBM would incentivise the industry to reduce its reliance on carbon fuels but called on governments to support sustainable jet fuel initiatives and R&D in the same way as they do for cars.
Walsh announced IAG would be the first airline group – which includes British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling – to set its own carbon emissions targets and pledged carbon efficiency would improve from 95.4g of CO2 per passenger km in 2015 to 87.3 by 2020.