ICAO's CORSIA scheme still requires strong support from countries, Aliu tells Assembly
Wed 25 Sept 2019 – Opening ICAO’s 40th Assembly in Montreal yesterday, Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu called on States to affirm their support for the global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme and warned countries against imposing further measures such as taxes on international aviation emissions. Over the next fortnight, EU countries will be seeking to block or amend wording in a proposed Assembly resolution that attempts to make CORSIA the exclusive market-based measure at the expense of the EU’s own Emissions Trading System. At the Assembly, industry and environmental groups are calling on ICAO to speed up an agreement on setting a long-term target to reduce aviation emissions. The Assembly takes place following UN calls for greater climate action and a large climate march on Friday (27th) is due to pass the ICAO building, with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg expected to participate.
In his opening speech to the Assembly, which is being attended by over 2,600 government officials from ICAO’s 193 Member States, Dr Aliu said the CORSIA scheme adopted at the last 39th Assembly in 2016 needed “resilient support”.
In a thinly-veiled message to EU representatives, he told delegates: “It is important for us to remember that CORSIA was adopted after very difficult negotiations and to avoid a cumbersome patchwork of national measures for operators such as taxes which can impede global connectivity. It would therefore be counterproductive to aviation and climate change progress if we fail at this Assembly to assure CORSIA’s continuing launch as a truly global offsetting scheme for international flight emissions.”
On the eve of the Assembly, the airline industry too warned Europe and other countries against taking additional market-based measures. “Today, CORSIA is a reality with airlines tracking their emissions. Unfortunately, there is a real risk that CORSIA will be undermined by governments piling on additional carbon pricing instruments,” said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac. “They are branded ‘green taxes’ but we have yet to see any funds allocated to actually reducing carbon.
“CORSIA was agreed as the single global economic measure to achieve carbon-neutral growth by generating $40 billion in climate funding and offsetting around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2021 and 2035. Governments need to focus on making that commitment a success.”
Despite pressure from the European Parliament and Commission for EU States to defend the application of the EU ETS on intra-EU flights after CORSIA starts in 2021, three countries – France, Italy and Ireland – declined to agree a common EU position in advance of the Assembly. This would have resulted in a formal reservation being filed by all 28 EU States – an effective notification of non-compliance – against a clause contained in a Resolution (A40-WP/59) on CORSIA expected to be adopted at the Assembly. Instead, EU State delegations will attempt to have the exclusivity clause amended or excluded from the final text, before deciding on whether to file a reservation at the end of the Assembly.
If the EU believes CORSIA does not go far enough to address fast-growing emissions from international aviation, other ICAO States, in particular the BRIC nations, accuse the scheme and its carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (CNG) goal of going too far. In a statement at the Assembly’s opening plenary yesterday, India’s representative said CORSIA discriminated against developing countries with fast-growing aviation markets. In a working paper submitted to the Assembly (A40-WP/306), China and the Russian Federation described CORSIA and CNG as “morally unfair”. These countries have consistently filed reservations at previous assemblies against the CNG goal and have yet to commit to joining CORSIA’s initial voluntary phases, despite calls from ICAO and industry.
Both industry and environmental groups are stressing the urgency of ICAO delivering on a long-term goal and plan to reduce international aviation emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The issue was expected to be discussed at this Assembly but has been delayed until 2022.
“Our existing industry long-term goal to halve net total CO2 emissions by 2050 remains a robust and ambitious focus for industry action in line with Paris,” said Michael Gill, Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group, during the UN Climate Action Summit in New York earlier this week. “We urge governments also to adopt a pathway towards a UN-backed long-term goal for aviation and set in place the right policy environments to meet the needs of that goal. Importantly, those policies must be implemented by governments in the short-term to help build a foundation for meaningful long-term reductions in CO2 – we can’t wait until 2049 to take action.”
During the UN Summit, airport industry group ACI Europe reaffirmed its goal, which is backed by 203 airports across 42 European countries, to deliver net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 without the use of carbon offsets. Based on current traffic volumes and an estimated carbon footprint, the commitment is expected to eliminate 3.46 million tons of annual CO2 emissions as of 2050.
“Crucially, it means the European airport industry is aligning with the latest scientific evidence, the need to secure a +1.5 degree future and the Paris Agreement,” said ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec.
The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, which represents six environmental NGOs at ICAO, says it is “critically urgent” that governments and the aviation industry align with the Paris objective through adjusting short-term actions and developing a long-term decarbonisation vision for the sector. In an information paper submitted to the Assembly (A40-WP/561), ICSA says the current CNG goal should be broadened to cover aviation’s non-CO2 climate effects, extended to cover all emissions rather than just growth and ratcheted downwards to comply with a 1.5 degree pathway. The paper lays out five ‘enhanced climate mitigation targets and levers’ to help meet long-term emissions goals through policies and measures.
The Assembly runs until Friday, October 4. During the Assembly, ICAO is running a series of 30-minute presentations on YouTube called SkyTalks. So far, environmental issues have been covered in two presentations: ‘Global Coalition for Sustainable Aviation’ and ‘CORSIA’.