Despite disagreements on key elements of global aviation CO2 scheme, ICAO chief confident of success
Sun 15 May 2016 – After three days of complex negotiations, ICAO member states are moving towards the likelihood of an agreement at ICAO’s triennial Assembly starting in late September on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap net carbon emissions from international aviation. However, differences still remain on key aspects of the proposals contained in the draft Assembly resolution text that was discussed during the High-level Meeting (HLM) convened by ICAO and are unlikely to be resolved until during the Assembly. But ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu (right) expects further ICAO initiatives and bilateral talks to continue over the summer and he remains highly optimistic the UN agency will pass an Assembly resolution to launch the proposed global carbon offsetting scheme.
Around 200 officials from 65 ICAO member states, plus observers from industry and civil society, progressed through all 20 paragraphs of the text with new drafts of the Assembly resolution text published during the meeting as a result of interventions by states. States were still considering additional amendments and proposals by the end of the meeting and the latest draft, along with recommendations, will be forwarded for consideration by the ICAO Council during its next session next month – the last before the Assembly.
“We had very productive discussions during the High-level Meeting,” Dr Aliu told GreenAir in an interview after its conclusion on Friday. “Thanks to the efforts made before the meeting, including the Global Aviation Dialogues, all states that participated here came prepared to have informed deliberations on all aspects of the resolution text.
“There is now a better understanding of each other’s position, interests and opinions, which is in itself a huge movement forward. Once you have achieved this and understood where other sides are coming from, it is much easier to meet in the middle. We are in a better place now than we were three days ago. There is still some work to do, there is no doubt, but we have a number of proposals that we can work on that can lead to compromise and an even better consensus.
“What I am most appreciative of all is that the text on the table was to a large extent found acceptable by a significant number of the delegates. Having said that, ICAO consists of 191 member states and it is important that we get everybody on board. That is the way we do our business. Maybe this is a much more difficult subject than the technical issues our members are used to but at the end of the day we need consensus in order to have a workable scheme.”
Dr Aliu said significant progress was made in identifying a number of areas of common agreement and understanding, including the need to establish a global scheme to ensure ICAO could deliver on its aspirational goals and a route-based approach to ensure a level playing field. There was also a recognition by all states of a need to recognise the special circumstances and respective capabilities of states while minimising market distortions, he said. There was also consensus, he stated, that the scheme had to be administratively simple and cost-effective, yet promoted environmental integrity, and to use aviation-related metrics regarding the participation of states.
Other common areas, he said, included the treatment of new entrants, technical exemptions to avoid an undue administrative burden and the important need for robust monitoring, reporting and verification procedures along with clear emissions unit criteria. In recognition of ICAO’s ‘No Country Left Behind’ pledge, there was also general consensus of a need to ensure assistance and capacity building, especially in developing countries, reported Dr Aliu.
However, he conceded not everything in the draft resolution text had been agreed, especially regarding the key provisions of paragraphs 7 and 9, which he described as the centrepiece of the proposals. “There is still work to be done in relation to the use of other phase-in criteria, economic development metrics, and on the use of an approach that takes into account both sectoral growth and individual state growth of emissions,” he said.
Unable to find consensus on these key elements of the scheme, the chairperson of the meeting, Transport Canada’s Ellen Burack, presented a document during the HLM that highlighted the different positions of states and alternative proposals put forward during the meeting on the two paragraphs.
“The recommendations from the meeting will now be considered by the Council, which will suitably decide on the next steps,” said Dr Aliu. “In all the areas on which we have general agreement – for example on the need for a global offsetting scheme with the characteristics I have just mentioned and on the provision of assistance, including capacity building – there will be no changes to the current draft.
“For the remaining contentious issues, I expect that both through ICAO initiatives and discussions among states, efforts will be made to bridge the gap between the positions of states.”
Addressing concerns that under current proposals the scheme would fall short of ensuring the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 would be met, Dr Aliu said it would cover a minimum of 80% of international revenue tonne kilometres (RTKs) flown in the initial phase (2021-2025), rising to an expected 95% in the second phase applying from 2026.
“In addition, the draft Resolution text contains a clause permitting the voluntary participation of states not covered by the phase-in criterion, and we expect several to take advantage of this opportunity to be more proactive.”
The remaining shortfall, he believed, would be made up from other efficiency improvements. “The MBM is just one of a basket of measures that includes innovative aircraft technologies, more efficient operational procedures and sustainable alternative fuels,” he said. “We are already exceeding our 2% per year fuel efficiency improvement goal on this basis and the MBM is meant to complement this progress and address any remaining gaps.”
Work on the resolution text is expected to continue between now and the Assembly, said Dr Aliu, along with possible wider consultations. Despite the differences that emerged during the meeting, he is upbeat on prospects for an eventual consensus on the design elements of the GMBM scheme.
“What I have witnessed these last three days was a common desire among states to better understand the concerns and problems of others, and together with industry and NGOs, to address those concerns in a constructive manner,” he said.
He added member states had recognised the international climate agreement reached in Paris meant an agreement needed to be found at ICAO since the decision to leave aviation out of Paris was a recognition that ICAO would address the issue.
“We are all moving in the right direction and I am confident that by continuing to work through the Council, and during the Assembly, the remaining outstanding issues of the resolution text will be resolved and the resolution that will be adopted at the forthcoming 39th Assembly will find agreement among all 191 ICAO states,” he concluded.