EU politicians still to be convinced by ICAO efforts on measures to limit international aviation emissions growth
Thu 3 Mar 2016 – European parliamentarians have given their support to international efforts at ICAO to find a global agreement on limiting the growth of aviation emissions but are concerned that the level of ambition may not be enough in a post-2020 climate change world. Four MEPs from different political alliances, including the leader of a controversial parliamentary delegation to ICAO last month, Ivo Belet, took part in a meeting held in the European Parliament last week to discuss the issue following the recent Paris Agreement. Along with the European Commission and EU member states, MEPs will be required later this year to review and decide the scope of the Aviation EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) from 2017 that is dependent on the outcome at ICAO’s autumn Assembly on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap the growth of international aviation emissions. Meanwhile, the first meeting of a new high-level group to take the GMBM process forward took place last week at ICAO.
Reporting on the parliamentary delegation’s visit to Montreal during the two-week session of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which resulted in an agreement to recommend a CO2 standard for aircraft, Belet said the MEPs had “intense, interesting and useful” discussions with ICAO’s Council President and Secretary General. He expected a delegation would also visit ICAO in May, when a High-level Meeting (HLM) is due to take place on the GMBM issue, and in September/October when the Assembly convenes.
The Belgian centre-right MEP said the CO2 standard “was a step in the right direction” but “was not overly ambitious”. He said Parliament’s position on the ICAO Assembly outcome, even if a deal was reached on the GMBM, would depend on its level of ambition and the criteria agreed. The GMBM only made sense, he argued, if it had a robust and independent monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) mechanism, the quality of carbon offsets to be used was guaranteed and it contained a clause to periodically review the scheme.
The Parliament’s Aviation EU ETS rapporteur, German centre-right MEP Peter Liese, said as it is a global industry, Parliament would prefer a global deal for aviation but it was difficult to justify that even under a perfect agreement, other industrial sectors had to reduce their emissions even further than that required by aviation under the EU ETS. Liese noted that aviation was responsible for more emissions than 100 states that attended the Paris COP put together and there was a need to act.
He said the EU had decided to pull back and ‘stop the clock’ twice on the Aviation EU ETS to allow ICAO negotiations to progress but it would be hard to do so a third time if the process failed to deliver this year.
Both Belet and Liese accepted that as part of the GMBM agreement it would be necessary to deal with the concerns of developing nations under the UNFCCC climate principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) but they agreed it was important that the scheme redistributed exempted emissions to ensure 100% global coverage.
French MEP Karima Delli, the Greens coordinator on the Parliament’s Transport Committee, said aviation was a big contributor in the steep rise of transport emissions and the sector’s global share was expected to increase significantly. The CO2 standard had been applauded by industry and the European Commission, she said, “but along with carbon-neutral growth, it is not enough and we must talk about other solutions.” Backed by social democrat UK MEP Lucy Anderson, Delli said serious consideration should be given to introducing an aviation kerosene tax, as it was the only transport sector that did not pay tax on its fuel.
European Commission advisor on the decarbonisation of the transport sector, Peter Vis, responded the agreement on the CO2 standard had been a positive move in steps to agree a GMBM and the EU ETS ‘stop the clock’ decision had been very helpful in the ICAO GMBM negotiating process. He said the standard and the GMBM were just two of ICAO’s ‘basket of measures’ and should not be seen as the only action ICAO was taking to address international aviation emissions. The GMBM was referred to by some delegations at ICAO as a ‘gap filler’, he said, “and that I think is how it should be seen.”
Vis said that with so many nations involved, and requiring the agreement of all of them, the GMBM process was not easy and even the mechanism’s main objective of global carbon-neutral growth from 2020 was challenged by countries such as Brazil, China and India. “The goal itself is controversial – it’s not a given,” he told the meeting. “However, I’m sure we all want to achieve it as Paris has shown how much we need a contribution from the aviation sector.”
He said it was accepted there was a need for an equitable solution to the problem and there was an acknowledgement by the ICAO Council President that CBDR was necessary to get an agreement, “otherwise the developing countries won't play ball.”
The way the President had proposed to deal with this was to have a phased-in GMBM with some developing countries joining after a five-year delay, and small island states (SIDs) and least developed countries (LDCs) perhaps never joining the scheme, reported Vis. Another method, he added, to deal with CBDR was to have the liability to offset the global growth of international emissions from 2020 be fixed by each operator’s share of emissions in 2020 for the duration of the scheme until 2035. Each operator’s emissions liability would be calculated by multiplying its 2020 emissions with the annual growth rate of the international aviation sector’s total emissions from 2021 compared to 2020 levels.
“The share of the bill that an operator is going to get is fixed but the amount they will be asked to pay will increase to reflect growth, and that is a redistributive mechanism,” he explained. “We are used to this kind of mechanism in the EU, which is made up of member states with different circumstances but making this work at ICAO on a global level is complicated.”
Representing the airline sector, Andreas Hardeman, Assistant Director of Environmental Policy at IATA, cautioned it was important to keep a global, rather than European, perspective when talking about aviation and climate change. The industry was still relatively immature, particularly in developing and emerging countries, he said, and future growth will be driven by an increase in living standards in countries like China, India and Indonesia.
Hardeman said the CO2 standard agreement would provide a positive momentum on the GMBM discussions and IATA was increasingly confident that a deal would be reached later in the year, although he conceded that IATA was considering alternative options on how it would achieve its own long-standing goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 should ICAO not decide on a scheme.
He added: “However, we are optimistic there will be an agreement of some kind at the Assembly. It may not be a perfect outcome and there will have to be concessions made, as with the CO2 standard, but we are working hard to support the process.”
IATA had been among the first to call for a CO2 standard back in 2009, said Hardeman, and the ICAO CAEP meeting had demonstrated the “art of the possible” with a political compromise reached that balanced needs and would result in a change of behaviour by aircraft manufacturers. The CAEP recommendation included a technical review of the standard after three years and a possible revision of the standard, he added.
The meeting was organised by Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment, whose Aviation Director, Bill Hemmings, criticised the CO2 standard recommendation by ICAO CAEP members. He said the standard would have no impact on improving the emissions performance of new aircraft designs beyond what the market would require in 2024, when new types certified in 2020 are expected to first fly.
“In order to sell,” he said, “these new aircraft will need to achieve an emissions performance of at least level 10 – on ICAO’s increasing scale of stringency – whereas the standard only requires level 8.5.
“New in-production derivative aircraft will not now be regulated until 2028 and only at level 7. However, new in-production models such as the A320neo or the B737 MAX 8 are already flying and achieve level 8 or 9 – 12 years before the standard commences. So it will effectively act as a brake rather than an incentive.”
Hemmings calculates the environmental cost of delaying the in-production standard at over $6 billion.
Coinciding with the Brussels meeting, the new High-level Group (HLG) that has taken over GMBM policy responsibilities from the Environmental Advisory Group (EAG), which was set up after the 2013 ICAO Assembly, held its first two-day meeting last week and was chaired by former ICAO Council President, Roberto Kobeh González. The composition of the HLG has so far been kept secret although a European Commission official told GreenAir that officials from Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were among 18 state representatives in the group.
The first task of the HLG meeting was to discuss the contents of a draft resolution proposal on a GMBM scheme, which is due to be presented to all ICAO member states for deliberation during the second round of Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) that will take place in five international locations over a three-week period starting on March 20.
European Parliament meeting on aviation emissions, chaired by Ivo Belet MEP: