ICAO states convene to reach consensus on a global measure to cap international aviation emissions
Wed 11 May 2016 - Officials from ICAO member states have gathered in Montreal for a three-day high-level meeting (HLM) to forge a consensus on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap net carbon emissions from international aviation. Under discussion is a draft resolution text proposed by the ICAO Council President to be put before the next ICAO Assembly in late September that would pave the way for the introduction of a Carbon Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (COSIA) from 2020. Despite sharp differences between major nations on key elements of the scheme, largely based around the issue of differentiation, ICAO officials are quietly confident that a deal can be struck but is likely to be taken to the wire at the Assembly.
Opening the HLM, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said the scheme would be an essential tool in bridging the gap between the growth in emissions and the technological gains and efficiencies that had already resulted in meeting ICAO’s 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement goal.
The HLM is the culmination of global outreach efforts by ICAO to inform and consult with all 191 member states and seek agreement on key elements of the scheme. Since the last Assembly in 2013, the governing ICAO Council has formed an Environment Advisory Group (EAG) to come up with the scheme’s framework design and a Global MBM Task Force (GMTF) to consider and recommend rules on emissions monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) and carbon offset eligibility criteria. The ICAO Secretariat has also held two annual rounds of regional Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) to consult with officials from member states on the scheme. More recently, a High-level Group (HLG) of states chaired by former ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González was formed to support the Council on formulating the draft proposal.
“The objective of this HLM is therefore to focus our deliberations on bridging any remaining points of contention in the draft MBM Assembly Resolution text,” Dr Aliu told representatives from states, industry and civil society at the opening ceremony. “I am optimistic, with your support, that the 39th ICAO Assembly will adopt a Resolution.
“Thereafter, a lot of work will still need to be done by ICAO and member states for the scheme to become fully operational by 2020. However, the critical impetus for moving forward starts firstly with agreeing on a draft Resolution at this meeting.”
In a keynote address, Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, said reaching a consensus on a global measure to address international aviation emissions was an important step in following the example of the Paris climate agreement.
“It is the first time ever that the international community has come together to agree on a specific measure to reduce emissions from across an entire global industry sector,” he said. “Emissions from international aviation have increased at a rapid rate. And they are projected to continue increasing by as much as 80% between 2020 and 2035. This makes it all the more important for us to work towards sustainable and responsible growth within the sector.
The HLM is being chaired by Ellen Burack, Director General of Environmental Policy at Transport Canada. The format over the three days is for states to air their views on the 20 paragraphs of the draft Resolution text in batches, with the contentious paragraphs - 7, 8 and 9 - being discussed today. By later tomorrow (Thursday) the meeting is expected to consider the draft Resolution in its entirety and reach recommendations to be put forward for consideration by the next session of the ICAO Council starting next month, the final session before the Assembly.
Although a consensus has started to form around the draft, key issues need to be resolved around which states are to be included in the scheme from the start and how the offsetting responsibilities are distributed.
“To include an ambitious and pragmatic outcome, any approach we agree upon must include all the major emitters,” said Garneau. “It must prevent a proliferation of regional measures that would create undue burden and could lead to distortions in global aviation markets.
“We need to work towards an outcome that will accommodate our differences sufficiently without being discriminatory. And we need to work towards an outcome that will demonstrate real emission reductions, including thorough robust data monitoring, verification and reporting.
“Accomplishing this would be an enormous step forward and is essential for a successful Assembly. Achieving global consensus is challenging, and we all know it requires significant compromise by all involved.”
In a keynote address yesterday at the Global Sustainable Aviation Forum held by industry coalition group Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu said the GMBM was the most complex and challenging effort facing the UN agency but environmental protection was key to achieving a sustainable future for air transport.
“As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed during his visit to ICAO earlier this year, the peoples of the world are now looking to our Organization and its states for concrete environmental action post-COP21, and we intend to deliver just that,” she promised.