NGOs set out their vision of how a global carbon scheme for aviation can align with Paris ambitions
Wed 30 Mar 2016 – The International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), an umbrella group of six NGOs, has launched a campaign called FlightPath 1.5 to ensure emissions from international aviation are capped and then reduced in line with the climate ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Despite being left out of the Agreement, ICSA says the aviation sector must play a full part in the Paris pledge to pursue efforts in keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. It calls on ICAO to agree at its triennial Assembly this autumn a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap international aviation emissions at 2020 levels as an initial step, followed by regular reviews to ensure emissions are reduced over the long term. ICSA is also looking for stringency levels of the CO2 standard recently agreed by ICAO’s environmental technical committee CAEP to be similarly tightened over time.
The NGOs making up ICSA – Transport & Environment (T&E), Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), Carbon Market Watch, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) – have launched a website, FlightPath1point5.org, as government officials meet around the world to consider a draft ICAO Assembly resolution on a proposed GMBM scheme (see article). They note that there is just 200 days left until the Assembly and “the time window for action is tight”.
ICSA, the only civil society group accredited by ICAO, says the three-year reviews of the scheme provided for in the draft agreement should set a path to help industry ratchet down emissions to the industry’s goal of a 50% emissions cut based on 2005 levels and also strengthen the scheme in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In a disagreement with the current proposal that emissions not covered by the scheme due to a phased implementation and other exemptions are not assigned as offsetting requirements to those operators included in the scheme, ICSA says exempted emissions should be made up by those covered by the cap. It is also against another proposal that places “cap-busting price ceilings” on carbon offsets and says emissions reductions must not be double-counted towards other obligations.
On the challenging issue of differentiation and how responsibility for reducing and offsetting emissions should be shared by the developed and developing world, ICSA proposes offset responsibilities should be allocated to regional traffic groups based on each group’s historical share of emissions during a representative base year. Regional routes with already heavy carbon pollution should shoulder greater initial responsibility, it says, with the obligations of small, fast-growing routes increasing as their pollution grows. Responsibilities should then be allocated among airlines within each regional traffic group based on the airline’s actual share of emissions in that regional traffic group. The calculation should then be updated during the three-year review.
To find a global carrier’s total offset obligation for any year, it would be the sum of its offset obligations in each of the regional traffic groups in which it operates. “The result is an allocation that is simple, fair, provides differentiation, and does not discriminate,” believes ICSA.
The NGO coalition is in favour of the use of biofuels as a means of crediting against emissions beyond set thresholds, measured on a net lifecycle emissions basis, but only if the fuels meet environmental, social and economic sustainability criteria, and include low indirect land use change.
On the use of carbon offsets, ICSA says airlines should only be allowed to use emissions credits and allowances from other sectors that deliver real, additional, verifiable and permanent emissions reductions, and support sustainable development. It is against the use of credits from “environmentally questionable sources” but does not explicitly exclude the use of credits from forestry REDD+ projects that some see as controversial but are favoured by some airlines, particularly those in North America.
ICSA calls for capacity building for developing countries to implement and enforce the global scheme. It also supports “ambitious policies” to cut emissions from additional operational measures and the rapid deployment of low-emitting technologies. However, AEF Director Tim Johnson said curbing emissions will require more than currently available technology. “We can’t assume that biofuels and other radical technological breakthroughs will automatically materialise and put aviation on a flightpath in line with 1.5 degrees C,” he warned. “A well-designed MBM is the safety net the aviation industry needs.”
According to EDF’s Annie Petsonk, the aircraft CO2 standard agreed by ICAO CAEP will not be sufficient to drive down the industry’s fast-growing emissions. “US President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau just announced their commitment to get a deal at the ICAO Assembly this year,” she noted. “We call on them and other world leaders to agree a market-based measure that truly delivers.”
ICSA says it will spend the 200 days leading up to the 39th ICAO Assembly, which starts on September 27, urging those leaders “to confront the aviation emissions climate gap” and educating the public on the importance “of this unaddressed issue”.
Said WWF’s Brad Schallert: “Countries need to fulfill their Paris promises by ensuring the aviation industry does its fair share. ICAO’s draft global MBM is an important step in reaching agreement in October, but the text does not currently align with the environmental goals of the Paris Agreement. Governments should come together over the coming months to improve it.”
Bill Hemmings of Brussel-based T&E said an ICAO agreement had to be starting point for greater ambition in Europe with the EU having committed to a 40% emissions reduction by 2030 from all industrial sectors. “The agreement must recognise the need for developed countries to do more, and Europe must take up the baton with more effective measures to reduce the rapid growth in the emissions of its aviation sector.”