ICAO states fail to agree on more ambitious goals and measures to reduce aviation emissions ahead of Assembly
Mon 27 Sept 2010 – Protracted negotiations amongst ICAO Council member states ahead of the triennial ICAO Assembly starting tomorrow have failed to find consensus on key issues aimed at reducing international aviation carbon emissions. States have been unable to agree on the text of a draft resolution to be considered by the 37th Assembly and a fractious debate is inevitable during the two-week session. At the centre of the arguments are a medium-term goal to reach a carbon-neutral growth in net emissions from 2020 – as proposed by the aviation industry – and the application of market-based measures.
According to Working Paper A37-WP/262, “Substantial discussions took place in the Council for the preparation of a draft Resolution on international aviation and climate change, however, it was not able to agree on the draft Resolution to be forwarded to the Assembly for its consideration.” Reflecting the stalemate, the paper has been submitted by the ICAO Secretary General rather than the Council, a highly unusual move and reflecting the level of disagreement.
Following the work of the Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) that was set up in 2008 following a request by the ICAO Council at the previous 36th Assembly, an ICAO High-level Meeting (HLM) last October agreed to set a target of an annual improvement in fuel efficiency of 2% until 2020 and a similar aspirational goal to 2050. However, it was recognized at the ICAO HLM that this was “unlikely to deliver the level of reduction necessary to stabilize and then reduce aviation’s absolute emissions contribution to climate change, and that goals of more ambition will need to be considered to deliver a sustainable path for aviation.”
An informal group was then created by the ICAO Council President to assist in the preparation of the draft Assembly resolution, with particular consideration to three key issues:
Exploration of the feasibility of more ambitious medium and long term goals, including carbon-neutral growth and emissions reductions, moving beyond the global goal of 2% annual improvement in fuel efficiency until 2050;
Development of a framework for market-based measures in international aviation; and
Elaboration on measures to assist developing states and to facilitate access to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building.
ICAO Council members have been meeting over the past two weeks to discuss the draft resolution but have failed to agree on the wording covering the first two issues. In relation to the medium-term goal, a large number of members expressed their support for the text, while some members indicated that they were not able to agree on it in its current form, says the working paper.
Regarding market-based measures (MBMs), the paper reports the Council was unable to come up with a compromise text on the majority of a guiding set of principles that states should observe when designing and implementing MBMs. The principles are contained in an annex to the paper.
Given that global air traffic, and therefore aviation emissions, is growing over the long term at a much faster rate than improvements in fuel efficiency, carbon-neutral growth of net emissions from 2020 can only be achieved by offsetting the additional emissions through market-based measures such as carbon cap-and-trade systems.
Europe had already grown frustrated with the ICAO process following the 35th Assembly and in the intervening three years it has brought aviation into its EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012, despite the opposition from many of the airlines affected, which desire a global approach, and an influential number of ICAO developing states. Europe, in turn, is unlikely to accept the apparent restrictions placed on MBMs in the guiding principles as it could undermine the legal status of the Aviation EU ETS. Paragraph 15 of the draft resolution “urges” states “to engage in constructive negotiations with other states with a view to reaching an agreeable way forward, and to implement MBMs for international aviation following bilateral and/or multilateral consultations and agreements among states concerned.”
The industry believes the need for MBMs will reduce, or even disappear, in time with the future contribution of new technology, infrastructure improvements and biofuels, but accepts their necessity from 2020.
Essentially, the draft resolution as it stands, puts off for another three years the issues of more ambitious medium and long term goals and MBMs by requesting the Council to undertake further work for consideration at the 38th Assembly.
As things stand, the aviation industry’s call for an agreement at ICAO on a global approach to reducing aviation emissions remains as elusive as ever.
However, airlines remain convinced that ICAO still holds the key to a solution.
“Previous efforts to achieve consensus within ICAO had faltered on the concerns of developing countries,” announced Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines (AEA), on the eve of the Assembly. “AEA and its members have proposed solutions to address these concerns and firmly believe that they need not be an insurmountable obstacle to agreement.
“It is technically possible to reconcile the principles of the UNFCCC with those of ICAO; required is a political will to integrate aviation into a global scheme to impact the environmental footprint without distorting competition.
“We have a unique opportunity for governments to agree on a global industry carbon reduction plan prior to the Cancun UNFCCC Conference.”
The ICAO 37th Assembly runs from 28 September to 8 October.