Glimmers of hope emerge from Copenhagen on progress towards a climate deal on international aviation
Mon 14 Dec 2009 – As the first week drew to a close of the UNFCCC COP 15 climate change conference in Copenhagen, negotiators dealing with bunker fuel emissions (international aviation and shipping emissions) are inching slowly and painfully towards an agreed text to take forward to the next stage of the process. In a briefing, it was suggested that a deal can be done in Copenhagen that would give a clear signal and direction to both ICAO and the IMO, the UN maritime agency, on the emissions reductions required by the sectors and a timeline by which to develop a framework. However, other COP-watchers are not so optimistic, citing continued problems with the major developing nations over the CBDR principle and the lower ambitions of some developed countries.
The authors of a COP 15 blog from international law firm Norton Rose on Friday said they had been lead to understand that developed countries (Annex I) were coming together on the ambition and numbers for the two sectors globally, whilst non-Annex I countries were showing great interest in the idea of financing from a bunker levy or auction revenues from a global emissions trading scheme that could be imposed.
According to the blog, the vice chairs of the relevant contact group were reportedly given a mandate to develop a clear text but as they could not agree, two texts were compiled. The two texts were later merged but little progress has since been made, although a further drafting session was due to take place on Saturday and again today.
Bill Hemmings of Transport & Environment, a leading European NGO covering the event, said Friday had been a “bad” day with Saudi Arabia, China and India blocking on the common but differentiated (CBDR) issue, and the current text was “not worth the bother of sending up to Heads of Government”. He disagreed with the view that the developed countries were reaching a common position.
“On the one hand you have the EU calling for an adoption of targets in Copenhagen and agreement for ICAO and IMO to sort out global mitigation measures within two years. On the other, you have Norway, which has lined up with the US, Canada and Japan to achieve as low a level of ambition as possible and preferably everything to be referred back to ICAO and IMO to deal with the issues at a pace largely of their own choosing,” he said.
“Australia used to want targets and measures sorted by the UNFCCC but the domestic political turmoil has left them bereft of power or influence and they are choosing a vague middle ground between these two positions.
“The latest text does mention finance to go to developing countries but we won’t get anywhere near achieving a flow of revenues if the principle issue of the need for a target and a global application of measures are not accepted. It is hard to understand why more developing countries are not speaking up against the blocking tactics as they – especially the SIDS [Small Island Developing States] and LDCs [Least Developed Countries] – have everything to gain from a measure where the financials flow to them.”
Accusing the aviation sector of a lack of ambition, Hemmings adds: “The shipping industry repeated tonight [Friday] they want a target set so they can know what they have to achieve regarding reductions. Aviation is the opposite. ICAO and IATA claim that the 1.5 or 2.0% fleet fuel efficiency annual metric is a reduction target in itself, which is rubbish. IATA, in the absence of consensus on the issue in ICAO, is still pushing carbon neutral growth in 2020 – in other words a free ride for 11 years and after that only an aspirational commitment to pay for emissions above the 2020 level.”
Hemmings is hoping for “clearer heads” as the text negotiations continue this week. “The clear signal ICAO and IMO require is the endorsement of the need for global measures, what targets to go for and the magic key that will enable CBDR to be respected. We can only see that key being differentiation of revenues to flow to developing countries.”
Damian Ryan of The Climate Group believes an aviation deal is possible this week, but will require all the other pieces of the jigsaw to be put in place as well.
“You won’t see a deal in isolation,” he said. “The latest draft bunkers text appears to have been whittled down to two options. One looks similar to the EU’s proposal, including with targets of a 10% cut by 2020 for aviation and 20% for shipping, based on 2005 levels. The other option is more general, without numbers, and with language that deals with a lot of the concerns of developing countries.
“Importantly, both texts cover all parties and also request ICAO and IMO to develop the necessary policy solutions. The Kyoto Protocol language which clearly splits Annex I and non-Annex I states isn’t there.
“This doesn’t mean there is an agreement yet, but hopefully it indicates that the gap between countries is closing – but it’s hard to tell at this stage. I think this is an issue that will go to the wire before a final decision is agreed.”
On an optimistic note at the finish of the first week in Copenhagen, one negotiator is reported to have said: “We’ve made more progress in the last 10 days on bunkers than in the last 12 years.”
Bill Hemmings of T&E reports from Copenhagen that Connie Hedegaard, outgoing Danish climate and energy minister and President of COP 15, has proposed today that seven major issues should be handled at the conference through a new mechanism under which a minister from an Annex I state plus one from a Non-Annex I state agree a text on each issue. Bunker fuel emissions is first on the list, showing a growing momentum for its importance, although an agreement on the approach has yet to be reached, with deadlock still on major decisions. The Bunkers Drafting Group, meanwhile, is reported to be in suspension.