ICAO Council meeting on 9th November is perhaps the last chance to get meaningful global action on aviation CO2
The ICAO meeting on 9th November is their last chance to see meaningful action on controlling CO2 emissions from international aviation this decade. ICAO has been under particular pressure to act ever since its 2004 decision not to develop a global measure to curb aviation greenhouse gases opened the way for the EU to move regionally by including aviation in its ETS. Opponents of the ETS say a global solution through ICAO is needed, but the USA and others have repeatedly blocked all possible options. A year ago the ICAO Secretary General pushed publicly for ICAO to agree a proposal for global action by March 2013. That deadline won’t be met but there is still a chance over the next 3 months that ICAO’s Council can finalise a proposal in March 2013 to be approved at its triennial meeting in September 2013. However, to achieve this, ICAO’s Council needs to agree this week on a much accelerated work plan and resolve the many pending political questions which prevent substantive progress. President Obama’s re-election presents the US with a real opportunity to lead.
Last chance for aviation emissions
8.11.2012 (Transport & Environment (T& E)
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council meeting this Friday 9th November is the Organisation’s last chance to see meaningful action on controlling CO2 emissions from international aviation this decade.
ICAO has been under particular pressure to act ever since its 2004 decision not to develop a global measure to curb aviation greenhouse gases opened the way for the EU to move regionally by including aviation in its Emissions Trading System (ETS).
Opponents of Europe’s measure now cry foul and say that, after all, global action under ICAO is the way to go. If indeed this is correct, then it’s time for the naysayers to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and ensure ICAO delivers the goods. And that’s particularly true of the United States, which sees no reason for global action and has made a practice in the various UN climate change fora, most recently the IMO, of blocking even the smallest progress towards multilateral solutions.
A year ago the ICAO Secretary General pushed publicly for his Organisation to agree a proposal for global action by March 2013. That deadline won’t be met but there is still a chance over the next 3 months that ICAO’s Council can finalise a proposal next March to be approved at its triennial meeting in September 2013. However, to achieve this, ICAO’s Council needs to agree this week on a much accelerated work plan and resolve many pending political questions which prevent substantive progress.
At the same time, the Obama Administration and its “Coalition of the Unwilling” have been blaming Europe’s aviation ETS for their failure to get together in a room in Montreal and agree a global plan. Not such a tough mission you’d think, since they’ve supposedly been at it since 1997, when Kyoto tasked ICAO with taking action.
So let’s see on Friday whether Europe’s opponents really take the ICAO option seriously and get it moving or whether it all amounts to mere rhetoric.
Meanwhile undoubted beneficiaries of Europe’s union such as Airbus and Lufthansa blame the whole controversy on Europe and call on their state shareholders to dismantle the ETS as regards aviation – all in the name of profits, aircraft sales and relations with China. It must be hard for Europe to run a sensible foreign policy when some of its principal constituents are playing for the other side.
The airlines are also backing themselves into a corner. Aviation already accounts for nearly 5% of global warming and emissions will continue to grow 3-5% a year. So a green fix is absolutely needed, and preferably a cheap one.
Europe’s ETS actually does just that by abating emissions in other sectors where the costs are cheaper. And because the EU had already allocated some emissions allowances to other sectors like power and steel for free, aviation got the same deal allowing for full cost pass through on some routes and potentially windfall profits.
But now its trade association IATA, in a truly impressive volte face, turns on and condemns the EU scheme as an attack on sovereignty and a threat to the industry worldwide and dismisses windfall profits as out of the question. So this week’s Council meeting would seem to be pretty important for the airlines as well – at least in order to keep the pressure on the ETS. However if the ETS should crumble and ICAO doesn’t deliver, then the emperor will be left standing naked. But perhaps that was the plan all along?
The airline industry is the most carbon intensive form of transport by a factor of at least 10, yet it has been able to arrange over the past 50 years possibly the most egregious set of fossil fuel subsidies of any industry (worldwide exemption on fuel tax and, in Europe, exemption of VAT on tickets). Airlines are used to getting their way. No doubt their failure to address climate change impacts if all avenues fail is a mere detail to be left to the PR consultants.
As far as ICAO and the United States is concerned, President Obama’s re-election presents the US with a real opportunity to lead. After all, the US does have a problem; its international aviation emissions are growing 3-4% per annum like the rest of the world, while its annual aviation emissions per head of population are a staggering twice the level of Europe. Let’s hope for a sign from the Americans this week in Montreal that the US is finally taking the climate change challenge seriously.
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EU CO2 small print could delay airline conflict:
(The author is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own.)
By Gerard Wynn
Some limited flexibility over how member states apply a European Union airlines emissions law might buy time to resolve opposition while the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) tries to forge a compromise deal.
The emissions trading directive requires operators of aircraft arriving in or departing Europe to surrender permits equal to their whole-flight emissions.
Newly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama will probably sign a bill opposing the EU scheme which the Senate unanimously approved in September after a similar bill passed the House of Representatives.
The Senate bill gives the U.S. Secretary of Transportation power to prevent airlines from complying with the EU law.
China and India have already told their national airlines not to comply.
The climate arm of the European Commission is in a difficult position: it is facing pressure both from European airline industry and internationally to find a compromise.
But to soften the law’s impact on airlines would invite speculative litigation from other energy-intensive industries which have repeatedly tried to unravel the scheme and notably steel.
European member states have authority over implementing the EU law and have some leeway in imposing fines and ratcheting penalties which could buy some very limited time as countries try and forge an unlikely compromise, through a global deal on aviation emissions, at a major ICAO meeting next year.
Until now there has been high compliance in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS): last year, fewer than 1 percent of factories and power plants failed to surrender allowances to cover their 2011 emissions, according to the European Commission.
However, that is about to change as airlines join the scheme and some non-EU countries baulk at the idea of paying for emissions outside European airspace.
Chinese and Indian carriers have already missed an interim deadline to submit emissions data.
The first major deadline falls next April when operators must surrender enough carbon permits called EU allowances (EUAs) to account for their 2012 emissions from European flights.
It is the responsibility of EU member states to force operators to comply or to impose penalties.
As the EU law (the emissions trading directive) states, in Article 16:
“Member States shall ensure that any operator or aircraft operator who does not surrender sufficient allowances by 30 April of each year to cover its emissions during the preceding year shall be held liable for the payment of an excess emissions penalty.”
That leaves no doubt that member states which fail to punish non-compliance will be in breach of EU law.
However, the directive does allow some discretion in other areas, opening the door – just a crack – to a delay while countries seek bi-lateral or global deals.
First, the directive states that the penalty is 100 euros ($130) for every tonne of CO2 emitted without a corresponding permit, but does not say when the penalty should be paid.
Regarding timing, it is only explicit that operators must add the missing allowances to their following year’s emissions, in a cumulative process which a determined transgressor might be content to continue indefinitely.
It seems likely that member states will require penalties to be paid in three to six months, but such timing could slip.
Second, the Commission leaves it to the member state to determine how hard to chase the operator for non-payment.
The directive’s ultimate sanction is to ground the offender’s European flights.
But it is up to the member state to seek that.
“In the event that an aircraft operator fails to comply with the requirements of this Directive and where other enforcement measures have failed to ensure compliance, its administering Member State may request the Commission to decide on the imposition of an operating ban on the aircraft operator concerned,” the directive says.
Each operator is assigned to a Member State according to where the airline is based or operates from most.
Commission data show that Britain and France will administer by far the most operators, making their approach most relevant.
The watchdog in Britain is the Environment Agency which leaves no doubt that it will pursue offenders, but makes no mention of timing or of higher sanctions.
“The penalty is mandatory and is set in the EU ETS Directive, which has been implemented in every Member State in the European Union. There is therefore no discretion whatsoever given to the regulator as to whether or not to impose the penalty,” it says in its “Guidance to Operators on the application of Civil Penalties”.
“Civil penalties will be imposed … even if the failure to surrender sufficient allowances has arisen because of an inadvertent error by the operator or a mistake by the verifier over which the operator had no control or influence.”
Opportunities for discretion on timing and escalation are minor and only delay the moment when the EU would have to choose either to pursue penalties or write these off, requiring a change in the directive which member states have shown no appetite for.
The most optimistic scenario is that a ticking clock against penalties focuses diplomacy from next April towards bilateral deals or else a global, U.N.-brokered compromise at a congress in November next year, after 15 years of ICAO inaction.
But the alternative is even more improbable – a tit-for-tat impounding of planes at major airports around the world. ($1 = 0.7812 euros)
ICAO’s conference is on 19th to 30th November, in Montreal