The clock has stopped but time is running out for ICAO – Comment by Bill Hemmings (T&E)

In a very interesting and detailed opinion by Bill Hemmings, of the Brussels-based European transport NGO, he explains what is happening – or rather not happening – at ICAO to deal with international aviation CO2 emissions. After the EU “stopped the clock” on the inclusion of emissions from flights into and out of Europe, ICAO was meant to be working diligently to find a global solution. If ICAO is to retain any credibility on this, some form of progress is needed so there is a realistic proposal by September, at its triennial general assembly. However, though the ICAO expert group had concluded that the favoured basis for a global market-based measure was either global carbon offsetting or emissions trading, it has spent little time moving these options forward. Instead, leading members are questioning the fundamental premise of why developing countries should participate at all in a global scheme. And as regards regional schemes like the EU’s, they are insisting that foreign carriers participate only by mutual agreement. It has opened a bottomless pit of national self-interest claims. Constructive progress looks unlikely any time soon.

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The clock has stopped but time is running out for ICAO

February 19, 2013 (Transport   & Environment, T&E)

Opinion by Bill Hemmings

The clock may have been stopped for a year, but time is still passing. ‘Stopping the clock’ was a big gesture from the EU.

With the world saying it was the EU’s decision to include aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that was preventing global action to tackle aircraft’s contribution to climate change, the EU said ‘OK, we’ll suspend our action for a year to create the chance for a global agreement.’

Yet so far, little progress has been made and the blame heaped on the EU’s ETS looks more and more like the empty excuse we always thought it was.

The EU ordered the clock to be stopped after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) set up a High-Level Aviation Climate Group to advise on key elements of a market-based global deal such as a global target, implementation date, whether the deal should be based on emissions trading or carbon offsetting, whether it should generate revenue or not and how emissions responsibilities would be allocated. The high-level group met in Montreal in early December and again in late January, but it seems as if its own clock has stuck.
Instead of progress, the various states represented on it seem mired in disagreement.An ICAO expert group spent 2012 studying options that would be fair to developing countries, given that any global scheme would have to include the developing world. The experts concluded that the favoured basis for a global market-based measure was either global carbon offsetting or emissions trading, yet the high-level group has spent little time moving these options forward.Instead, leading members are questioning the fundamental premise of why developing countries should participate at all in a global scheme. And as regards regional schemes like the EU’s, they are insisting that foreign carriers participate only by mutual agreement.
This effectively gives any country the right of veto, which kills off the idea of progressing at the regional level.In addition, the high-level group debate on allocating responsibility for emissions has opened a bottomless pit of national self-interest claims.This article is no place to explain the complexity of the negotiations, but in short, the US has led the way in proposing a scheme which would restrict the EU ETS and cover only 50% of global emissions. Countries like Singapore and the Gulf States, as well as Hong Kong, support this approach that shamelessly would see their carbon responsibility reduced by over 98%No-one should pretend finding a global solution is easy.There are complex issues to do with accounting for emissions above countries where flights neither start nor finish (so-called ‘overflights’), the question of whether you regulate emissions on the basis of airspace or flight information regions, and the issue of how it is all administered fairly and transparently.But it’s worth reminding ourselves of the background to this issue: ICAO was charged in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol with limiting or reducing international aviation emissions. It then proceeded to reject almost every possible approach except emissions trading, which the ICAO Assembly unanimously recommended in 2004 should be implemented regionally or locally but not globally. The EU then embraced a regional emissions trading scheme involving all foreign carriers flying to Europe.  But ICAO members and the world’s leading airlines cried foul claiming that they had to agree before they could be included.

In this context, many of us felt the EU did not need to make its grand gesture of ‘stopping the clock’ for a year, particularly as the European Court of Justice rejected a challenge to the EU law by American carriers in late 2011. But it has done so for the sake of brokering a global deal.

ICAO members, to retain any form of credibility, must act now to agree on a realistic proposal by September, at its triennial general assembly.

Time is slipping away for the high-level group to work out such a proposal. Unless quick progress is made in the next few months, accusations that the EU’s ‘illegal and unilateral ETS’ prevented ICAO action will be laid bare as nothing but yet another stalling mechanism.

And the shameless lobbying of Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, British Airways and Airbus, who were for the ETS before they turned against it, will become evident to all.

Last but not least, the role of the US needs to be singled out; no other government has so consistently said one thing – only a global approach is acceptable – and done the other – putting every imaginable roadblock in the way.

It’s time to become consistent – and agree on a global approach. The EU, airlines, and the world’s climate will be grateful.

http://www.transportenvironment.org/news/clock-has-stopped-time-running-out-icao

 

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And since Bill Hemming’s piece was written:

MEPs back the EU “Stop the Clock” proposal to delay inclusion of non-EU flights in ETS for one year

Date added: February 27, 2013

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in support of the EU Commission’s “Stop-the-Clock” proposal which delays the inclusion of flights to and from Europe from the EU ETS for just one year. This is conditional on progress being made by ICAO and the aim of the delay is to give ICAO time to negotiate a global agreement to address emissions from international aviation by autumn 2013, and they should have a realistic timetable through which to apply it. The one year suspension could only be extended if « clear and sufficient » progress is made within ICAO. Funds generated by the ETS would be used for a variety of measures to cut carbon emissions. The European Parliament Environment Committee also rejected a proposal on the offset limit for flights within the EU. This proposal would have allowed intra-European flights to offset nearly 100% of their reduction obligations, while adding about 20 million international credits into the EU ETS.  http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=506

 

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and

Airlines charging passengers for ‘costs’ (for the EU ETS) they don’t have to pay – so making windfall profits

Date added: February 18, 2013

Airlines are making so-called ‘windfall profits’ of up to €1.3bn by charging passengers for permits to pollute, through the EU Emissions Trading System. The airlines no longer need to hand the permits over to the EU as the ETS has has been suspended for one year (except for flights within Europe). Transport & Environment is calling for the airlines not to retain these windfall profits, as keeping them is a betrayal of passengers’ contributions to fight climate change. T&E aviation manager Bill Hemmings said: ‘Passengers have paid towards fighting climate change, so it is unjust for airlines to retain these revenues as windfall profits.” Instead, T&E is calling for any such profits to fund developing countries’ efforts to deal with the effects of climate change, through the UN’s Green Climate Fund. There is little doubt that airlines raised their fares at the start of 2012, citing aviation’s entry into the ETS. Delta, for example, publicly announced ‘environmental’ charges on each leg of transatlantic flights.  http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=558

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