ICAO GMBM must address key environmental integrity concerns and broaden participation, say NGOs
Thu 29 Sept 2016 – Environmental NGO umbrella group the International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) has identified a number of key concerns in the GMBM proposal it wants addressed during the ICAO Assembly negotiations that start in earnest today. With the Paris climate agreement shortly to reach the necessary level of ratification by countries to come into force, ICSA fears ambition in the current ICAO text is insufficient to confront fast-growing emissions from international aviation and places in jeopardy the goals set in Paris. The group says more States need to commit to joining the initial six-year voluntary phase of the CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme in order to reach the sector’s carbon-neutral growth from 2020 target. Although ICAO calculates over 80 per cent of international activity is already covered by the 60-plus countries that have so far indicated their participation in the scheme from the start, ICSA argues these commitments will only offset three-quarters of emissions growth after 2020 due to exemptions and exclusions.
As the Paris Agreement transitions from aspiration to implementation, says ICSA, the outcome of the Assembly “is a defining litmus test of international willingness to truly confront greenhouse gas emissions from the fast-growing aviation sector.” A failure to act could result in its emissions soaring from a current 2% share of the global total to 22% by 2050, it forecasts.
With environmental integrity as well as broad participation as the defining characteristics by which any agreement will be judged, says ICSA, there remains a great deal of work to be done during the Assembly. “ICSA stands ready to work with ICAO Member States over the next two weeks and beyond to help close the gap,” it offers.
In addition to a call for greater level of participation, particularly from industrialised and major aviation countries, ICSA has identified a number of other elements of the draft scheme that it believes reduces its effectiveness.
The recent adoption into the text, for example, of an opt-out provision that allows States to leave the voluntary phases of the scheme after joining runs counter to the need to increase participation and emissions reductions in line with Paris temperature goals. With just six months’ notice, the provision also sows uncertainty for airlines, adds ICSA, and suggests text modifications or firm commitments by States could address the issue.
ICSA would also like to see stronger text to address the possibility of double counting, whereby offsets bought by airlines under CORSIA are also credited by States to meet their national emissions reduction pledges. The text should also allow – and encourage – other more ambitious states and regions to go further in reducing their emissions through efforts such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for aviation.
Finally, suggests ICSA, the text should demonstrate a recognition of the need for strict and enforceable quality and sustainability rules on emissions credits and the use of alternative fuels under the scheme. Stressing the importance of emissions credits and alternative fuels in the text would help guide future discussions in the ICAO technical committees, it believes.
All eyes are turning to Montreal for an inclusive outcome with meaningful integrity, suggests ICSA. “Just one month before COP22 takes place in Morocco to focus on Paris Agreement implementation, an ICAO deal on a GMBM can send a critical signal to countries and industry alike that aviation emissions will not be allowed to balloon to consume a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget.”
ICSA, the official civil society observer to ICAO, is running a global campaign, FlightPath 1.5, to ensure the aviation sector contributes its fair share to the Paris goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels.
Update Fri Sept 30:
ICSA member WWF issued a statement following yesterday’s Executive Committee meeting (see article) calling on more countries to opt in to the voluntary phases of the scheme and strengthen the proposal. It said the new discussions on whether to open up the draft agreement for further changes put it at risk.
“In Paris, world leaders put great faith into ICAO to deliver emissions reductions from international aviation. Global aviation needs to step up and agree to a plan that matches the demands of science,” said Lou Leonard, WWF’s SVP Climate and Energy. “But without broad participation, the proposed deal represents a low bar for an international climate agreement.”
WWF said the current participation of countries – 63 so far – that have opted in to the voluntary phases will lead to a shortfall in reaching the CNG 2020 target. There must be a greater participation from countries representing all countries of the world, including Latin America, said Roberto Troya, WWF’s Latin America Regional Director.
“Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica have already demonstrated climate leadership by opting in to the early phase. Now we are looking at major regional players like Argentina and Brazil. Opting in would be consistent with their commitment to limit warming to 1.5⁰. We encourage these and all countries to opt in.”