Key differences must be bridged quickly to avoid failure by countries to agree a global aviation carbon scheme, say NGOs
Tim Johnson of AEF presented a working paper on behalf of ICSA at the ICAO HLM (photo: Jennifer Andreassen, EDF)
Wed 18 May 2016 – Following last week’s High-level Meeting in Montreal of ICAO member states to consider proposals on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to cap net carbon emissions from international aviation, environmental NGOs say unresolved differences risk “a high profile failure”. Six international organisations have come together to campaign that aviation makes a fair contribution to the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Although some progress was made during the negotiations, they say the current draft text on a resolution to be put to the ICAO Assembly in September falls short even of what is needed to reach ICAO’s own goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020.
The campaign also calls for the use of high-quality carbon offsets in the proposed scheme, and NGOs attending the ICAO High-level Meeting (HLM) welcomed progress on the issue, with states supporting a proposal that offset criteria should be reflected as an ICAO standard rather than just guidance. They were also satisfied with the greater detail in the new text of the review clause and wording of bringing the industry into line with contributing towards meeting the long-term temperature goals contained in the Paris Agreement.
However, they point out that those long-term goals are unlikely to be met under the current text, with a number of issues unresolved and a potential for delaying effective action on emissions.
“ICAO, the aviation industry and member states have all highlighted the importance of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but there is little common understanding on how these pieces of the puzzle fit together,” said James Beard, Climate & Energy Specialist, Aviation & Bioenergy, WWF. “For us it’s clear: the aviation emissions goal must align to the 1.5 degree goal, and the activities promoted by the MBM should support sustainable development benefits, such as poverty alleviation, food and water security, health and biodiversity.”
The FlightPath 1.5 campaign group also said HLM representatives “took a big step backwards” on the question of which states would be covered by the scheme, believing the criteria for inclusion in the first phase of the scheme (2021-2025) had been weakened so that even more states, and therefore emissions, would be exempted. States had also sidestepped the vital issue of how to divide up the responsibilities for capping emissions, they said, pointing to deep divisions between slower-growth states such as the United States and faster-growth states like China.
A proposal presented during the HLM for a pre-implementation or pilot phase to address the concerns of major developing nations like China also drew some criticism from the NGOs.
“Pre-implementation beginning in 2018 to help countries get acquainted so that full implementation begins on 1 January 2021 could improve the environmental integrity of the proposal,” said AEF Director Tim Johnson. “But a trial period beginning in 2020 with low airline participation would undermine credibility.”
Added Kelsey Perlman, a policy researcher with Carbon Market Watch: “Discussions around the duration and parameters of a pilot phase could either be a useful learning experience or a dangerous delay in climate action. The market needs clarity on rules and the level of participation, or ICAO will not meet its own goals. The current GMBM proposal is not in line with the high-level pledges that global leaders have made to confront climate pollution.”
Andrew Murphy, Aviation and Shipping Policy Officer with Brussels-based T&E, noted the insertion of a proposal to make the ICAO scheme the exclusive market-based measure for dealing with international aviation emissions, seen as an attempt by some states to weaken the scope of the Aviation EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
“Amid these sensitive discussions that leave open the question of whether ICAO will be able to deliver a credible deal in September, the question of the compatibility of regional measures with ICAO was raised. This was counterproductive and unhelpful, particularly as so much work remains to be done to bridge the yawning gap in Montreal.”
The FlightPath 1.5 members said having spent 19 years arguing over how to address aviation’s climate pollution, ICAO states must finalise the GMBM at the Assembly and unless they take action, emissions will triple over the coming decades.
“Back, forth and sideways is not a recipe for an on-time departure for the measure,” said Annie Petsonk, EDF’s International Counsel. “The credibility of ICAO and its leadership is on the line. If ICAO doesn’t repair the gaping holes in coverage, its credibility will be badly tarnished.”