Industry and NGOs urge ICAO to adopt a long-term emissions reduction goal for international aviation by 2022

Industry and NGOs urge ICAO to adopt a long-term emissions reduction goal for international aviation by 2022 | ICAO A40

Mon 9 Sept 2019 – The aviation industry and environmental organisations have urged ICAO to agree on a long-term goal to reduce emissions from international aviation for adoption by its 41st Assembly in 2022. Industry and NGOs believe ICAO must act in light of the recent UN IPCC special report calling for a net zero emissions world by the middle of the century. In a working paper for consideration by States attending the Assembly, industry has also expressed concern that the implementation and effectiveness of the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme could be undermined by States or groups of States applying carbon pricing instruments or taxes to international flights additional to CORSIA. Meanwhile, a paper from China and Russia describes CORSIA and its carbon-neutral growth goal as “morally unfair”.


The climate change resolution A39-2 adopted at the last ICAO Assembly in 2016 requested the governing Council to continue to explore through studies the feasibility of a long-term aspirational goal for international aviation and to present progress of the work at this year’s Assembly. However, a working paper (A40-WP/55) to be presented by the Council at the upcoming 40th Assembly merely says the work is continuing for presentation at the following 41st Assembly in 2022.


The aviation industry committed a decade ago to a long-term goal of halving its net aviation CO2 emissions by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. In a working paper submitted for this year’s Assembly (A40-WP/194) by IATA and trade associations representing airports, aerospace, business aviation and air navigation service providers, they request the Council, “with the full support and collaboration of industry”, a long-term climate goal for international aviation for adoption – rather than presentation – at the 41st Assembly.


The paper notes that recent Assemblies of airport association ACI World and ACI Europe have adopted resolutions calling for ICAO to become more ambitious and to show leadership in setting long-term sectoral emissions reduction goals. “They do so in light of the obligations many member airports have to their States under the Paris Agreement, with respect to national commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and cognisant of the additional call to action from the IPCC Special Report ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’,” says the paper.


It also reveals the industry itself is currently undertaking “a thorough analysis” of potential pathways to its long-term goal, “in line with the necessary action from across the broader economy noted in the Paris Agreement and IPCC analysis.” It adds: “This will identify how the aviation sector can achieve significant CO2 emissions reductions by deployment of new technology, operational elements, infrastructure improvements and sustainable aviation fuels up to and beyond 2050.”


An information paper (A40-WP/277) submitted by the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), which represents six environmental NGOs at ICAO, says there is an urgent need for a long-term target for international aviation in light of the Paris Agreement and IPCC report.


“ICSA calls on the 40th Assembly to formally commit to a process and timetable for the analysis and development of a proposal for a long-term goal, to be presented for adoption as soon as possible at an extraordinary meeting of the Assembly, but certainly no later than the scheduled date for the 41st Assembly in 2022,” says the paper.


“Delaying this decision beyond the 41st Assembly would be unacceptable to civil society organisations, and would fail to send the necessary signals to the industry on the scale of improvement required to guide the development of sustainable alternative fuels and new technologies. This would be a missed opportunity.”


ICSA proposes the ICAO Council should instruct its technical environmental committee CAEP to complete its long-term goal analysis in 2020 and initiate a high-level meeting in early 2021 to share the analysis with all Member States, and discuss recommendations for an agreement as soon as possible thereafter but no later than 2022.


Despite the calls for a long-term goal, conflict still remains over ICAO’s medium-term carbon-neutral growth (CNG) goal of maintaining global net CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels from 2021, which led to the adoption of the CORSIA scheme at the 39th Assembly in 2016.


In a strongly-worded joint paper (A40-WP/306), China and the Russian Federation describe the CNG goal and CORSIA standards as lacking “moral fairness”, arguing the burden will fall on fast-growing developing countries rather than mature developed economies.


They say: “Given the difference among countries in development stage, historical responsibility and coping capability, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for CORSIA implementation orchestrated by developed countries is a de facto reversion to the law of the jungle, which will make it more difficult for developing countries and emerging economies to participate in international aviation competition and bring additional cost to these countries.


“The vast majority of OECD countries have a mature international aviation industry which will see a limited incremental emissions growth in the future; meanwhile they possess a substantial amount of financial, technological and personnel resources to deal with aviation emissions. On the other hand, non-OECD countries, which have a huge demand and potential for international aviation development in the next 20 years, will see a rapid growth in emissions from international aviation.”


The paper accuses ICAO of not providing sufficient opportunities for consultation and negotiation on major issues, such as sovereignty and governance relating to international aviation and climate change, before decisions were taken in the Council.


“This will undermine the leadership sought by ICAO and the confidence and willingness of all parties to work together to address international aviation emissions through ICAO,” it argues, calling on ICAO to reform its decision-making mechanism.


“ICAO insists on granting itself the power to certify carbon credits and the sustainability of aviation fuel, which is not related to air navigation and international air transport at all. Therefore, Annex 16 Volume IV [CORSIA SARPS] is not legitimate or justifiable enough to guarantee the achievement of the objectives to ensure a level playing field to all countries.”


It concludes: “Lack of procedural justice in decision-making and moral fairness in the design of the implementation mechanism are the major issues in the current CORSIA implementation pathway developed by ICAO. Failing to address these issues appropriately would undermine the effective implementation of CORSIA.


“Whether CORSIA can be effectively implemented depends on whether ICAO can face squarely and respect the differences among Member States and redesign the implementation pathway following the idea of integrating the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) approach with international dialogue and consultation.”


Both China and Russia have yet to announce whether they will join CORSIA from the start in 2021 and participate in the voluntary phases.


Another area of potential conflict likely to arise at the Assembly is over the European Union’s intentions regarding the future of its Emissions Trading System (ETS) once CORSIA starts in 2021 and moves by some EU countries to impose extra flight taxes to address growing emissions from the sector. The ETS currently regulates on emissions from flights within the European Economic Area, so technically international flights.


“CORSIA was adopted with a recognition it should be the only market-based measure (MBM) applied to international flights and on the basis that emissions should not be accounted for more than once,” says a working paper (A40-WP/193) submitted by industry, which does not name the EU specifically. “Unfortunately, the implementation and effectiveness of CORSIA may be jeopardised by policies of individual States and group of States.


“Of particular concern is the fact that some States are applying or considering the application of a carbon pricing instrument or ticket tax to address emissions from international aviation that will be covered by CORSIA. Such policies are not only at odds with the international commitments of these States, they also undermine multilateral efforts to deal with climate change and reduce the availability of resources to drive research and implementation of new technologies.”


In a Council paper (A40-WP/59) with proposals for revisions and updates to the A39-3 CORSIA Resolution adopted at the last Assembly, the MBM exclusivity paragraph has been changed to read that CORSIA “is the only global market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation so as to avoid a possible patchwork of duplicative State or regional MBMs, thus ensuring that international aviation CO2 emissions should be accounted for only once.”


In a debate by the European Parliament’s environmental committee (ENVI) last Wednesday (Sept 4), the European Commission’s Director-General for transport, Henrik Holohei, said the EU was considering whether to enter a reservation on the paragraph if adopted at the Assembly. Reservations are filed by countries after an Assembly to notify ICAO they object to elements of an adopted resolution. European States filed a reservation after the Assembly in 2010 that objected to a paragraph in a climate resolution that said States could only impose MBMs on flights to third countries with the mutual consent of other States (see article).


Holohei revealed that a “challenging” discussion had taken place during an ICAO Council meeting in June on the exclusivity issue and conceded a majority of States on the Council wanted the wording included in the Assembly A40 resolution. “European States spoke against it but were outnumbered by those who wanted to keep the reference to exclusivity,” he told MEPs, who are concerned about limits being imposed on more action in Europe to address aviation emissions and oppose the exclusivity provision.


He said Europe expected the resolution to be adopted at the Assembly. “It is essential we are adequately prepared for this in Montreal,” he said. However, he added, MEPs could be assured “that the Commission is determined to act fully in accordance with the provisions set out in the ETS Directive.”


He said the Commission would shortly start an in-depth assessment of CORSIA and by the end of next year present a report to European co-legislators in line with the reporting requirements of the Directive. On the basis of that report, EU States and Parliament can then decide how to implement CORSIA in the context of the ETS, he informed the MEPs.


Holohei said Europe would be reassuring other States at the Assembly that it was fully determined to implement CORSIA but in line with the Directive, EU environmental policies and Europe’s integrated aviation market.


“In preparation for the Assembly, the Commission will adopt today a proposed Union position on the exclusivity language in the Assembly resolution. This proposal will call upon European States to take the necessary measures to ensure that Europe honours all its political and legal commitments,” said Holohei, promising to submit the proposed text to the Parliament shortly.


“We must ensure the autonomy of the EU decision-making process. The Chicago Convention recognises expressly the right of each Contracting State to apply on a non-discriminatory basis its laws and regulations to the aircraft of all States. It has always been the EU position in international negotiations to maintain its prerogative to strive for a more ambitious approach when it comes to setting global environmental standards.”


The Assembly runs from September 24 to October 4. Reports have circulated that Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg will take part in a climate march in Montreal on September 27 that could pass the ICAO building.






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