Major airlines say a global approach to aviation emissions must be included in a post-Kyoto climate deal
Steve Howard, CEO, The Climate Group
Thu 12 Feb 2009 – Four leading international airlines – Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic – plus UK airport operator BAA, have called for CO2 emissions from international aviation to be included in a new global climate deal to be negotiated at the UNFCCC summit in Copenhagen in December. They have formed an industry coalition called the Aviation Global Deal (AGD) Group that aims to work alongside the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as industry stakeholders, governments and NGOs, to develop an appropriate policy solution at a sectoral level.
Tony Tyler, Chief Executive of Cathay Pacific Airways, speaking on behalf of the AGD Group, said: “Aviation has a key part to play in reducing global emissions and for too long has been seen as part of the climate problem rather than part of the solution. We hope the work of our group will offer a practical industry-led solution that creates a level playing field and appeal to policy makers, environmental groups and businesses alike.”
Following its first Asia-Pacific meeting in Hong Kong, the AGD Group issued a communiqué setting out its key principles for a global climate deal for aviation, which must, it says:
·offer genuine environmental benefits;
·be operationally and economically sound;
·maintain competitiveness between airlines and avoid market distortions;
·reflect the UN climate change principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” between countries with different levels of development;
·balance the social and economic benefits of flying with the industry’s responsibility to cut global emissions and play its part in meeting tough climate change targets; and
·reflect the work of ICAO’s Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) and IATA’s strategy for reducing emissions.
The AGD Group says aviation must reduce net CO2 emissions in line with scientifically determined targets through continued investments in technology, sustainable biofuels, improvements in infrastructure, operational efficiency and cost-effective economic measures, especially carbon trading. “Any regime for aviation must be consistent with, and in proportion to, aviation’s contribution to the overall level of emissions in the broader international framework,” states the communiqué.
In order to avoid market distortions like ‘carbon leakage’ (where aviation emissions are shifted elsewhere to avoid, for instance, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme), and ensure equal treatment in accordance with the Chicago Convention, a global sectoral approach is the best solution, believes the Group. It says aviation must be integrated within the overall climate framework “with open access to cost-effective market-based instruments including carbon trading, CDM credits and, potentially, deforestation avoidance credits.”
In order to achieve equity between countries and their airlines, the Group says “it will require progressive political leadership and a willingness to consider innovative solutions.”
Above all, it concludes, “the system arrived at must be simple, universally applicable and straightforward to implement, with compliance enforceable at state and carrier level. The eventual solution needs to balance the contribution made by a sustainable, competitive and healthy aviation sector to the global economy with the urgent challenge of combating climate change.”
Jonathon Counsell, British Airways’ Head of Environment, told GreenAir Online: “The overall objective is that by Copenhagen we will have an aligned position for the global airline industry, in conjunction with IATA, ICAO and the UNFCCC process.”
Counsell is expecting other airlines, both from developed and developing countries, to join the AGD Group, which is working with the support of The Climate Group, the international non-profit organization whose stated goal is “to help government and business set the world economy on the path to a low-carbon, prosperous future”. Counsell said The Climate Group can help the aviation industry through its considerable experience and understanding of the whole UNFCCC process.
He was keen to stress that the Aviation Global Deal Group does not cut across the workings of GIACC, which is tasked with coming up with recommendations by mid-year on an agreed binding strategy to reduce global aviation emissions that ICAO can put forward at the Copenhagen conference. “We’re not trying to bypass the GIACC process; we are an interested party trying to come up with options we think might work and then feed them to GIACC. As international airlines, we understand the issues better than most.”
ICAO has not yet been able to achieve an industry consensus on global measures to reduce aviation CO2 emissions but Counsell understands that GIACC has made a good deal of progress in recent months. “There are clearly some very differing positions and it won’t be easy,” he said. “We are trying to work out some key principles on what a global mechanism might look like. It mustn’t just be a roll-out of the EU ETS – we want to avoid taking a European solution and then try to apply it to the rest of the world. There has to be acceptability by developing countries.”
A third meeting of GIACC takes place next week in Montreal.
According to Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group, the AGD Group is the outcome of discussions over the past year with Virgin and Cathay Pacific – whose parent groups are both clients of The Climate Group.
“Aviation and its impact on climate change may not be the lead issue in many parts of the world but here in Western Europe it is,” he said. “We at The Climate Group were keen to see a rational, practical and fair solution that works for society, for the aviation sector and for reducing its climate change impact.
“Over the next year, we are about to do some of the most important international policy making of this century and there is value in having discussions within a small group that is very keen to come up with a solution. We can think differently, come up with different options and then feed back into other channels such as IATA, ICAO and UNFCCC.”
Under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, Howard is conscious of the need to reach out to other airlines outside the developed world and is hopeful of widening the membership of the Group.
Describing The Climate Group’s role in the initiative, Howard said: “We’re an international climate change organization with climate experts from China to Washington, DC. The mission of an airline is to be successful and make profits for its shareholders but our mission is to see climate change solved. With our pragmatic approach, we hope to reconcile the two.”
He believes that reaching an agreement within the Group would not be an insurmountable task. “The challenge is then to take that through all the different routes in order to get a wide adoption. To be effective and workable, policy making must be simple enough to be widely adopted and implemented, and doesn’t put an economic shock into the system. You also don’t want policy developed in a hurry without input from the sector.”
Current thinking within the Group is that linking a patchwork of national and international cap-and-trade schemes would lead to increased costs and administration for the aviation industry and a global sectoral approach is necessary.
Pierre Albano, Vice President Environment for Air France, said his airline had supported the introduction of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and was in favour of economic measures that were in addition to investment in new fuel-efficient aircraft, the introduction of alternative fuels and operational efficiency measures. “However, we think this will not be sufficient with what will be expected of the aviation sector in the UNFCCC Copenhagen negotiations at the end of this year,” he said. “This is the reason why we joined the Group. We wish to contribute to the designing of a global mechanism that is applicable to aviation on a worldwide basis.”
Asked why this could not be undertaken through airline industry representative bodies like IATA, Albano said it was difficult to come up with such a mechanism “with so many airlines around the table” and it would be a quicker process with a smaller group of industry partners. “Of course, any proposal that came out of the Group would be presented firstly at the IATA level and shared with members.”
He expects there to be an input into an IATA environment meeting taking place at the end of February and said the formation of the Group is an important signal to the current GIACC deliberations that there are airlines who want aviation to be a part of the climate change negotiations process.
Albano believes a global scheme with a sectoral approach that is applicable to aviation could be easily implemented and is optimistic that a sound mechanism can be found that takes into account both economic and environmental concerns.
The AGD Group is keen to build support within the wider aviation sector and its first non-airline member is airport operator BAA. Its CEO, Colin Matthews, commented: “Like every other industry, aviation should pay for its climate impacts. BAA has long argued that emissions trading represents the most environmentally and economically effective way for aviation to manage its climate impacts. Evidently a global approach is needed, but the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a positive interim measure. We are proud to be a founding member of the Aviation Global Deal Group.”
A spokesman for The Climate Group said that he was hopeful the AGD Group would be able to present an outline of informal proposals at the UNFCCC session in Bonn in early April and a final version at another session in June.