More ambitious carbon targets and further consideration of economic measures highlighted at ICAO Colloquium

More ambitious carbon targets and further consideration of economic measures highlighted at ICAO Colloquium | ICAO Colloquium

Delegates at the ICAO Colloquium on Aviation and Climate Change held in Montreal (photo: ICAO)
Thu 3 June 2010 – Early action, more ambitious goals on reducing international aviation CO2 emissions, help for developing countries and a global framework on market-based measures were called for at the recent ICAO Colloquium on Aviation and Climate Change held in Montreal. The triennial conference was held as ICAO prepares for its 37th Assembly at the end of September and is actively seeking consensus on key issues to put before Member States ahead of the COP-16 climate talks in December. A raft of presentations from States, industry, scientists and financial institutions covering mitigation and adaptation, aviation biofuels, financing and economic measures were heard over the three days. ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González said only through consensus building and global cooperation could international aviation be environmentally sustainable.
Opening the Colloquium, Canada’s Permanent Representative on the ICAO Council and Dean of Council Members, Lionel Alain Dupuis, said the global efficiency goals set out in ICAO’s Programme of Action for International Aviation and Climate Change – agreed at the ICAO High-level Meeting last October – were only expected to partially offset the future growth of international aviation emissions.
“This illustrates a paradox of our modern society,” he said. “Aviation is a driver of economic, social and cultural development around the world. It supports the world’s largest industry – travel and tourism – and helps to raise the standard of living of millions of people worldwide. Yet, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately to global climate change, and has an impact on noise and local air quality in the vicinity of airports.
“As with other sectors of the economy, this is a societal question. As individuals, we increasingly want to travel by air. At the same time, we want cleaner air and a reduction of the impact of our lifestyle on the environment. Our only choice is to foster greater compatibility between aviation and the environment. Ensuring sustainability of aviation is the key.”
The Programme of Action agreed that Member States and ‘relevant organizations’ are to work through ICAO to achieve a global annual efficiency improvement of 2% over the medium term until 2020 and an aspirational 2% fuel efficiency goal in the long term from 2021 to 2050.
Jane Hupe, ICAO’s Chief, Environment, said the same stakeholders are to also carry out further work on medium- and long-term goals, and “exploring the feasibility of goals of more ambition, including carbon-neutral growth and emissions reductions.”
These, she said, should take into account the collective commitments announced by the international air transport industry, the special circumstances and respective capabilities of developing countries and the sustainable growth of the industry.
“We want to explore more ambitious goals – this is something very important. We have at the next Assembly in September the opportunity to go one step further.”
She said ICAO would continue working to develop a global CO2 standard for aircraft, facilitate the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation, and facilitate the implementation of operational changes and the improvement of air traffic management and airport systems.
Market-based measures was another important area that would be looked at before the Assembly.
“There are two big issues that we will be trying to deal with before the Assembly: the first is goals, the second is a global framework for market-based measures,” she said. ICAO also intends to elaborate on measures to assist developing States as well as facilitate access to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building.
“We have an informal group – the Directors General Informal Climate Group (DGCIG) – that is working with the ICAO President so that we can come to the Assembly with ways of moving forward to address these three key areas.”
Hupe said major political challenges included finding an appropriate balance between aviation’s future growth and its climate impacts and also applying both ICAO’s non-discrimination principle and UNFCCC’s CBDR principle.
States are to be encouraged to submit their own action plans on dealing with aviation emissions reductions and to submit to ICAO annual reporting of their aviation CO2 emissions. In turn, ICAO will report international aviation emissions to the UNFCCC as part of its contribution to assessing progress made.
With the Assembly taking place in September and COP-16 in December, she said it was necessary for States and industry to support the process through cooperation, coordination and communication.
Collective effort
In the opening panel session, Raymundo Santos Rocha Magno, Brazil’s Representative on the ICAO Council, predicted that aviation and environmental protection could be one of the key themes discussed at the Assembly.
“Controlling global warming requires a collective effort. The commitments made under the UNFCCC must be fully implemented on an urgent basis. To that end, financial and technological assistance have to reach developing countries. Likewise, longer timeframes should be applied, enabling them to take their share in light of the CBDR principle,” he told delegates.
 “In our opinion, the most important action from each country should be the creation of its own national aviation policy in consideration of environmental issues. Only coordination through one party will it be possible to reach a national main objective and to achieve a commitment to a global development. In that sense, both public and private sectors must work together for a better future.”
Brazil has a successful commercial aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, and has recently announced plans to develop an aviation biofuels industry. Ambassador Magno called for more R&D investment in more energy efficient aircraft technologies and sustainable aviation fuels, with information exchange through ICAO of best practices and sustainability requirements.
Carl Burleson, Director of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy, predicted alternative fuels will be in operational use within three to five years, “a lot faster than the rest of the world anticipated.”
He said the US NextGen Air Traffic Management upgrade offered an integrated approach of technology, operational and policy innovation that would address environmental constraints.
On the wider issue of reducing global aviation emissions, Burleson said: “We think international collaboration is essential and we applaud ICAO’s progress so far. The GIACC process was terrific but we think there has to be more ambition than just the fuel efficiency goal set out.
“We don’t consider the developing/non-developing country paradigm works very well. The key is to set up fair goals using a variety of measures to reach them – there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for each country.”
There was a strong call during the panel session for stronger targets than those agreed in the Programme of Action.
“We need to work towards net reductions of emissions, not just carbon-neutral growth and certainly not just efficiency improvements that don’t keep pace with industry growth,” stated Scott Stone, General Manager, Aviation Environment Policy in Australia’s Department of Transport. He said market-based measures (MBMs) were a key part of the solution and an ICAO MBM framework was needed, with arrangements for linking different schemes. He also called for a greater role for voluntary carbon offsetting and believed a carbon price would stimulate further innovation.
Philip Good of the European Commission’s Climate Action Directorate said any action plan to reduce international aviation emissions had to be comprehensive, robust and credible, with clear environmental ambition, and should include all stakeholders.
“We must start now as the scale of the problem is large,” he said. “MBMs are clearly an important tool in making aviation more sustainable. They provide a framework to enable aviation to develop in an increasingly carbon reduced world.”
Early action was also called for by Tim Johnson of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, representing environmental NGOs. A long-term vision was needed as well, he said, that would provide “a binding, unambiguous strategy” and a timetable for reducing aviation greenhouse gas emissions.
“This would leave no doubt,” he said, “about ICAO’s leadership and would help to explain to the general public and other UN institutions what aviation’s role is in a low-carbon society.
“When setting long-term targets, it is important that aviation commits to what is necessary to demonstrate a fair contribution to reducing emissions and does not rely solely on forecast efficiency improvements. Targets should not be either convenient or arbitrary.”
To inform the target process, he said ICAO needed to work closely with IPCC and UNFCCC to understand what is necessary from a scientific perspective to keep overall temperature increases at below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
Johnson called for a global trading scheme with auctioning of permits so that funds were available towards tackling climate change in areas where its impacts were most keenly felt.
“I think it is imperative that this sector starts to generate some revenues, which are a dominant issue in the wider climate change discussions,” he said.
Ma Xiangshan, Senior Climate Change Officer with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said developed countries should assume their responsibility and take the lead in reducing emissions due to their own background of historic emissions growth.
Developed countries, he argued, should provide developing countries with financial and technological support, without asking them to take on obligations that go beyond their level of development, their respective responsibilities and actual capabilities.
“In view of this, the fuel efficiency goal agreed at the ICAO High-level Meeting will be the most appropriate measure since it focuses on both development and emissions control,” said Dr Ma. “And some other goals are neither practical nor reasonable if they pose a hindrance to development in a one-sided pursuit of emissions reductions.
“Of all the measures, technology and operations will provide the best and most effective options to cut emissions. Innovation and advances in engine technology, biofuels and air traffic management are in fact the best choices in making substantial reductions whilst still guaranteeing the development of the industry.
“China does not object to market-based measures. Our thinking is that technological measures are better options and should be the mainstream.”
Industry CO2 savings
Speaking on behalf of the aviation industry, ATAG’s Paul Steele said it had saved over 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 as a result of efficiency improvements since 1990. “But that is not enough,” he conceded. “We have to look ahead, and that is why the aviation industry came forward – as it had never done before – with three very clear targets: to improve our fuel efficiency by 1.5% between now and 2020; to essentially cap our emissions growth from 2020; and then, even more ambitiously, by 2050 to reduce our net emissions by 50% compared to where they were in 2005.”
ATAG had estimated that the 1.5% fuel efficiency improvement would require additional airline industry cuts of 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2020. To achieve this, Steele said the industry would need to buy 12,000 new aircraft at a cost of $1.3 trillion.
“It’s a major challenge,” he said. “We can’t do it on our own. Governments have to step up to the plate. Investment in Air Traffic Management measures such as SESAR and NextGen is absolutely imperative in helping to reach the targets, as is increased R&D in new technology. Governments should also do their part in promoting aviation biofuels through R&D funding, incentives and policy.”
Steele said aviation needed a global solution that required a “global facilitating network” made up of a range of measures that included “positive” market-based measures, investment incentives, access to global carbon markets, as well as access to CDM mechanisms that would aid biofuel development and fleet replacement in developing countries.
“One of the key challenges is that the level of aviation development around the world is not uniform and we recognize there needs to be a way to address this, and ICAO has a strong record on this,” he stated. “However, we must ensure there is a level playing field for operators between the same markets.
“This year, ICAO has a huge opportunity to take ambitious action at its 37th Assembly but we have to remember that ICAO is made up of 190 member states. It is important those states work diligently and build bridges across their different positions, exploring every possible measure – for example de minimis threshold rules, technology transfer, technical and financial support, and implementation frameworks at national, regional and global level.
“Our nightmare as an industry is that failure at ICAO will lead to governments taking fragmented decisions that lead to a ‘patchwork quilt’ of duplicative measures that will be a financial and administrative burden on the airline industry, so we must come up with global solutions. If we don’t, then it puts into question the orderly growth of civil aviation, one of the fundamental principles of the Chicago Convention.
“Governments and industry must work together through ICAO to craft a comprehensive package of measures that has firm targets – our industry needs firm targets to know what we have to deliver on, a clear strategy for implementation and a global facilitating framework to enable us to carry this out. I think we are on the right path – many of the elements are in place. If we can move forward together then we can assure the sound, sustainable future of aviation.”
Concluding the Colloquium, ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González told delegates: “At the next Assembly, we need to agree on an ICAO policy on aviation and climate change that sets out immediate, concrete steps that can be used in the short term but that will also be far reaching, forward looking, tangible and sustainable in the future.
“As we look towards the future, it is clear that only through consensus building and global cooperation can we continue to work towards the achievement of environmentally sustainable international aviation.”
ICAO intends to publish its second triennial Environmental Report in time for the Assembly in September, which will provide a comprehensive overview of the work of ICAO, including key developments from CAEP/8 (Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection) and other recent activities.
Presentations can be downloaded from the ICAO Colloquium website
A PDF version of this article can be downloaded here

Below is a promotional video made during the Colloquium by aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace and presented by Hélène Gagnon, Vice President, Public Affairs, Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility



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