European pressure on ICAO and third countries to come up with global proposals on emissions reductions
Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss Minister for Transport and Environment (left) and Raymond Cron, Director General of Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (right)
Mon 3 Nov 2008 – Delegates to last week’s conference in Geneva, Meeting the Environmental Challenge, organized by the European Commission and the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), heard calls for an international dialogue and a comprehensive approach in reducing aviation greenhouse gas emissions. If aviation is not ready to take the appropriate steps now, States will force the industry to act by probably demanding even tougher measures, said Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss Minister for Transport and Environment. Non-EU representatives, however, expressed their continuing concerns over Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Roberto Salvarani, speaking in a keynote address on behalf of EU Vice-President and Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani, said the Commission’s air transport policy allowed for growth but that it was crucial the growth was sustainable. It was unfortunate that the aviation industry appeared to be dragging its heels over environmental efforts, he commented, particularly in Europe but also in other parts of the world, when all the forecasts show that the sector will continue to expand despite the economic downturn.
“We must act fast to fight the adverse affects of climate change and airlines must speed up the renewal of their fleets and rationalize their networks,” he said. However, he accepted there were difficulties facing the industry in this task.
He acknowledged that market measures such as the ETS were the most controversial of Europe’s strategy but said it would be a mistake to think it was the only weapon in the fight to reduce emissions. Europe, he maintained, wanted to be in the vanguard of aeronautical research, pointing to multi-billion euro major projects initiated by the Commission. He said Europe was keen to cooperate with international partners on research initiatives.
However, he continued, Europe was convinced the ETS was an effective economic measure when compared to taxes and fees. He stated that many third countries would find themselves net beneficiaries of the scheme because they would gain from Kyoto Protocol credits. The de minimis clause in the scheme, he said, would exempt many airlines from developing countries. The scheme was also sufficiently flexible to blend with measures taken by third countries, for example Norway.
“We consider this initiative a first step. The final objective is to arrive at an international agreement to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. It is crucial to have solutions from ICAO’s Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) by next autumn in time to take to UNFCCC’s December COP 15 meeting in Copenhagen.”
He concluded by inviting operators and authorities from non-EU countries to send the Commission their comments so that their interests could be taken into account.
Raymond Cron, Director General of the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation and a European representative on GIACC, said there was public and political pressure in Europe not only to tackle local aviation environmental issues like noise and air quality but also concerns over greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, he said, was a global problem and aviation was obliged to find a solution to tackle it through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and contribute to the UNFCCC post-Kyoto process.
He said the urgency of the problem required a rapid response by the aviation sector and ICAO. Europe was supportive of the current efforts being undertaken by ICAO’s GIACC but, he said, a failure to achieve a global consensus would not stop ECAC states going ahead with its own measures in order to fulfil its international obligations.
“I am convinced that if ICAO does not provide solutions, there is the risk that the sector will be regulated through other processes. Goals have to be designed in such a way that they can be included in the decisions taken at COP 15 in Copenhagen.
“ICAO has to prove it is capable of leadership in tackling the climate change issue. GIACC must deliver results in summer 2009 to the ICAO council so that all the member states are ready and able to present initiatives at COP 15 in December 2009.”
He said ICAO had to come up with a global strategy based on the European comprehensive approach to achieving reductions in aviation emissions, which encompassed research, operational measures, infrastructure improvements and, importantly, economic and market-based measures like the ETS.
Endorsing the strategy of a Europe-wide approach to meeting the environmental challenge facing the aviation industry, ECAC President and Portugal’s Director General of Civil Aviation, Luis Fonseca de Almeida, told delegates: “No single measure will suffice. It is only by harnessing all potential tools that aviation will meet the legitimate expectations which society has of it in respect of its environmental footprint. Their identification and successful application will require imagination and commitment from all of us.”
Raymond Cron told GreenAir Online that he was “optimistic” that an international agreement would be reached by GIACC on a solution that would include economic measures such as a global emissions trading scheme. He was confident, despite current differences within GIACC, as well as the uncertainties caused by the impending change of the US Administration, that ICAO would be able to come up with a framework of proposals by next summer.
Nancy LoBue, the FAA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Aviation and Environment, and the US representative on GIACC, told GreenAir Online during the conference that she was no less optimistic than Raymond Cron that a GIACC agreement could be achieved in time, based on global “aspirational” goals of short-term fuel efficiency, medium-term carbon neutral growth and long-term reductions in carbon emissions. Differences remain though on the concept of a global emissions trading scheme.
“ICAO, and the US in that body, has endorsed the concept of market-based measures as a way to address aviation emissions on the basis of mutual agreement between states,” said LoBue. “However, the EU ETS does not comport with that type of system and we do not believe it is in accordance with the Chicago Convention. This is the fundamental problem. The issue of the auctioning revenues funding national treasuries and not going to address aviation’s contribution to climate change is an additional difficulty with the legislation.
“The important point I would make is that the fuel burn from our industry in the US has remained below 2000 levels even to today, so we have a very different context than the EU for aviation GHG emissions. We believe, especially with the spikes in fuel prices and issues facing our economy, that we will be able to achieve the performance without using an ETS.”
John Doherty, Executive Director from the government ministry responsible for transport in Australia, also expressed his country’s concern over the EU ETS. He said the issue of equivalent measures for non-EU states was very unclear and there was also a risk of competitive distortions on routes between Europe and Australia. He said an airline like Qantas would be at a disadvantage as it flew longer legs to and from Europe from south-east Asia or Hong Kong compared to a Middle East airline like Emirates or Etihad, which only had a shorter leg into and out of Europe to their Gulf hubs.
German MEP and rapporteur on the directive bringing aviation into the EU ETS, Peter Liese, said that in the 11 years since it was agreed that aviation greenhouse gas emissions should be left out of the Kyoto Protocol process and dealt with by ICAO, the UN body had “completely failed” to come up with concrete proposals.
“In the view of our voters as well as in the view of the European Parliament, this is a shame and it is even more of a shame that some members of ICAO try to block any kind of activity for states or groups of states to mitigate climate change. This, at least, is how we in the Parliament perceive the attempts to adopt a resolution that would impose the necessity of consent from third states before introducing emissions trading, for example in the EU.
“We didn’t include intercontinental flights that start and land in Europe to tease industries from third countries. We included them because two-thirds of the emissions from flights that start and land in Europe come from intercontinental flights. That’s why an ETS only for internal European flights would not be effective.
“Our decision was based on a very careful legal assessment. Independent lawyers, as well as the European Commission’s legal service, came to the conclusion that we are allowed to do so under ICAO rules.
“On the other hand, of course, I would be much happier if we could avoid legal conflicts at ICAO or any other level. However, I am very disappointed that the representatives from third countries who came to see me before we adopted the final text were very superficial and didn’t address the details of our proposals.”
He told delegates that a global solution still remained the best option, with bilateral agreements linking the EU ETS with other trading schemes to form a common scheme, or taking account of equivalent measures to avoid double regulation, constituting a step towards a global agreement.
“We are ready to amend our legislation if it is necessary to come to an agreement with third countries. But please don’t ask us to do nothing. Our voters would not accept this and, what is more important, future generations would blame us for not controlling the effects of climate change. It is high time to move from talking to action. If ICAO is ready for this, it is a very welcome partner of the European Parliament,” he concluded.