Transport ministers call for urgent ICAO action on international aviation emissions in lead-up to Copenhagen
Mon 19 Jan 2009 – Transport ministers and representatives from 21 developed and developing countries have called for “expeditious discussions” to take place within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) before the end of the year to address emissions from international aviation. Convening at the Ministerial Conference on Global Environment and Energy in Transport held in Tokyo late last week, ministers adopted a declaration that emphasized future actions in the transport sector to tackle climate change and air pollution.
“Transport is an important foundation of our society, supporting a wide range of human activities, and contributing to economic and social development,” says the document. “It is, at the same time, responsible for considerable emissions of carbon dioxide, which impacts global climate, and air pollutants, which impact public health and the environment of many urban areas. We recognize that urgent actions are required to address these issues while ensuring sustainable development.”
With respect to international aviation, transport ministers agreed to:
·Support ICAO to develop preferably by the end of 2009 an implementation framework that involves a comprehensive approach, consisting of work on technology and standards, and on appropriate operational and market-based measures to reduce GHG emissions from international aviation, as was resolved at the 36thSession of the Assembly of ICAO;
·Support the efforts by ICAO to identify possible global aspirational goals, including in the form of fuel efficiency, for GHG emission reduction; encourage manufacturers to produce aircraft with further improved fuel efficiency; and call on ICAO to consider effective measures to facilitate the introduction of more fuel efficient aircraft;
·Promote the introduction by ICAO Contracting States of improved navigation systems to shorten flight routes, and of air traffic management that enables more efficient air traffic flows and air space management;
·Encourage research, development and deployment (RD&D) by ICAO Contracting States of improved environmental aircraft technology and sustainable alternative fuels to reduce aviation emissions; and welcome ICAO’s initiatives to promote discussion of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation on a global scale;
·Support the efforts of reporting, estimation and prediction by ICAO on GHG emissions from international aviation as well as its evaluation of the technological feasibility, environmental benefits, economic reasonableness, and environmental trade-offs of policies and measures; and
·Encourage ICAO Contracting States to collect information on progress of their industries with regard to fuel efficiency improvement and provide it to ICAO so it can communicate the performance of the international aviation sector.
To limit or reduce air pollutant emissions from international aviation, the ministers:
·Welcomed ICAO’s consideration of the feasibility and potential benefit of more stringent standards, in particular for NOx emissions from aircraft engines; and
·Encouraged ICAO to continue the development of emissions certification standards for other emissions which contribute to aviation’s negative environmental impact.
Ministers said hard-thinking was required about the extent to which transport could be included in an emissions trading system established as part of an agreement at the UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting in December. Linking the transport sector to an existing emissions trading scheme would allow for cost-effective reductions of GHG emissions across sectoral borders, they suggested.
They warned that under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, the transport sector will remain a prime tax target for finance ministries, instead of a beneficiary of incentives. “Does transport really want to end up as the cash cow of a Copenhagen agreement?” asks the declaration.
ICAO chief Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, in a keynote address to delegates at the conference, said: “ICAO is concerned over the proliferation of charges and taxes on air traffic, with aviation being too often used as an easy target to raise revenue in various fields. It is important to remember that whenever levies are applied to address the protection of the environment, the principles of non-discrimination, transparency and cost-relatedness enshrined in the UNFCCC and the ICAO policies on charges and taxes should be taken into consideration , as well as the impact on all parties concerned, in particular the developing countries.”
Kobeh Gonzalez welcomed the involvement of a UNFCCC representative at the second meeting of the ICAO Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) last year. “His participation underscored the fact that both our organizations are generally moving in the same direction, debating similar issues and likewise setting their sights on similar outcomes.”
He outlined various ICAO initiatives undertaken over the past year, including the launch of its carbon calculator and the holding of a carbon markets workshop last June. The results, he said, of next month’s workshop on alternative aviation fuels would form the basis of a world conference on the subject planned for the end of this year, “with the objective to produce a roadmap for the implementation of alternative fuels for aviation”.
Under the leadership of ICAO, he said, the aviation community “is totally committed to continue its progress employing the full range of technological, operational and market-based options. These include newer, more efficient aircraft, improved air traffic management, better maintenance practices, more efficient airports, alternative fuels and possibly other emerging and innovative solutions such as emissions trading and carbon offsets. As important, they must be developed on a global scale and in a manner that does not discriminate and that takes into account the specific realities of States and regions.”
He reminded delegates that ICAO, like all United Nations agencies, was an agent of its Contracting States. “We can only move as far and as fast as the collective political will of its Contracting States. Therefore, the value and importance of this Ministerial Conference is that it can embolden the political will of States to move forward with concrete plans.”
Kobeh Gonzalez concluded: “The world aviation community is entirely committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and ICAO stands ready to continue providing the leadership that is essential to transform this commitment into a global reality. Our challenge is great, yet our will to succeed is greater, for it reflects the collective will of all parties.”
According to International Energy Agency (IEA) figures presented at the conference, total world CO2 emissions in 2006 amounted to 28 billion tons (gigatons, or Gt) in 2006, with transport responsible for 23%, or 6.45Gt. In turn, international aviation was responsible for 6.2% of the transport sector’s emissions.
By 2030, worldwide transport emissions are predicted by the IEA to rise from 6.45Gt to 8.9Gt. While the growth in emissions from the developed countries will remain flat, emissions from the developing countries are forecast to double.