Airlines’ call for global emissions deal not convincing – too slow and relying on out-of-sector offsets
IATA, the trade body comprising 240 airlines worldwide, has finally acknowledged the need for a global market–based measure (MBM) to reduce aviation’s contribution to climate change. IATA called on their airline members to encourage their governments to agree at this year’s ICAO Assembly on a global carbon offsetting measure to take effect in 2020. However, IATA only endorses such a global scheme ‘as opposed to a patchwork of unilateral national and/or regional policy measures’. Environmental groups working on aviation emissions said though the IATA statement is welcome, rather than their usual position that better air traffic control, better planes and biofuels alone can solve the problem. However, it kicks the ball in the long grass, until after 2020, and sets out a string of unworkable conditions. It rules out the EU ETS as a stepping stone, as well as the raising of revenues, and impacts on traffic volume, which are inherent to any market-based measure. It also relies solely on out-of-sector offsets rather than real emissions reductions within the aviation sector itself. It merely compensates these emissions through investment in reduction projects in other sectors.
Airlines’ call for global emissions deal not convincing
3.6.2013 (T&E and AEF. Transport & Environment and Aviation Environment Federation)
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body comprising 240 airlines worldwide, today finally acknowledged the need for a global market–based measure to reduce aviation’s contribution to climate change. Link IATA called on their airline members to encourage their governments to agree at this year’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly on a global carbon offsetting measure to take effect in 2020.
However, the aviation trade body only endorses such a global scheme ‘as opposed to a patchwork of unilateral national and/or regional policy measures’, presumably continuing industry’s opposition to the only international market-based measure actually in place, the sector’s inclusion in Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, commented: “Today’s IATA resolution represents a welcome departure from their historical position that better air traffic control, better planes and biofuels alone can solve the problem. However, it kicks the ball in the long grass, until after 2020, and sets out a string of unworkable conditions. It rules out the EU ETS as a stepping stone, as well as the raising of revenues, and impacts on traffic volume, which are inherent to any market-based measure. Finally it relies solely on out-of-sector offsets rather than real emissions reductions within aviation.”
Tim Johnson, Director at Aviation Environment Federation, said: “ICAO members should see it as an encouragement to come up with an effective scheme at the Assembly, not as a blueprint for such a scheme.”
US environmental groups echo aviation industry’s call for ICAO to adopt global emissions cap this year
Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council today echoed the new call by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body comprising 240 airlines worldwide, for governments to agree this September on a single global cap on emissions of international flights to take effect in 2020.
NGOs today echoed IATA’s call for an agreement this year on a global cap on aviation emissions. Photo credit: Flickr user Mike Miley
The NGOs issued their call in response to a resolution, adopted today at IATA’s annual general meeting in Cape Town, that urges its member airlines to “strongly encourage governments” to adopt such a single global measure at this year’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly.
The resolution gives governments a set of principles on how governments could 1) establish procedures for a single market-based measure, and 2) integrate a single market-based measure as part of an overall package of measures to achieve the industry’s goal of having “carbon-neutral growth by 2020.”
IATA has opened the door, now it is time for governments to walk through it this September. This is the signal that governments have been seeking.
Not all the elements offered in IATA’s resolution will fully address aviation’s contribution to climate change, the NGOs cautioned. Our colleagues at Transport & Environment and Aviation Environment Federation have issued their own comments on the resolution, as has NRDC’s Jake Schmidt.
In advance of IATA’s general meeting in Cape Town, 11 global NGOs sent a letter to IATA Director General Tony Tyler calling on IATA to act on market-based measures. The environment, development, community and science groups said in the letter:
To be credible, such measures must include targets compatible with climate science, strong provisions to ensure the environmental credibility of the traded units, limited access to offsets and strict provisions to ensure compliance.
Aviation is already the world’s seventh largest polluter, and if emissions from the industry are left unregulated, they’re expected to double by 2030.
Carbon Market Watch
Scrutinising carbon markets & advocating fair, effective climate protection
Press Statement: Airlines favour wrong choice to reduce emissions
3 June 2013, Brussels – Today, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) acknowledged the need for market-based measures to reduce the aviation sector’s contribution to climate change. This should be considered as part of a broader package of measures, including improvements in technology, operations and infrastructure. 
However, the airlines highlighted their preferences over a global carbon offsetting scheme compared to alternative schemes, such as cap-and-trade schemes.
Carbon Market Watch Director Eva Filzmoser commented “Today’s IATA Resolution is a welcome step towards regulating airlines’ contribution to climate change. However, a global carbon offsetting scheme is the wrong choice, because it does not lead to emissions reductions in the aviation sector itself. It merely compensates these emissions through investment in reduction projects elsewhere. Only a cap-and-trade scheme with a stringent cap and a limit on the use of offsets will create sufficient incentives for essential emission reductions in the aviation sector itself.”
The Resolution adopted today calls on the world’s governments to agree at this year’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly to a global carbon offsetting scheme to take effect in 2020.
Notes to Editors:
 IATA announcement: http://ht.ly/lEbhp
Green groups demand aviation leaders agree carbon-cutting measures
A coalition of 11 NGOs write to IATA chief warning ‘there is no room for delay’ in advancing a global agreement ahead of key summit
By Will Nichols
3 Jun 2013
Aviation industry leaders meeting this week have been urged to endorse measures to cut emissions from airlines and take a step towards agreeing a binding global deal to tackle the industry’s carbon footprint.
A coalition of 11 environmental groups, including WWF, the Environment Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Union of Concerned Scientists, have written to Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of trade body the International Air Transport Association (IATA), warning “there can be no room for further delay”.
The industry’s efforts to reduce emissions through technical and operational measures are laudable, but insufficient, the groups say in the letter, which was also signed by the Sierra Club, Transport & Environment, the Aviation Environment Federation, and Carbon Market Watch.
The groups are calling on IATA members meeting this week in South Africa to support proposals for a market-based mechanism for reducing emissions, such as plans to introduce a global cap-and-trade system.
They say the development of some form of carbon pricing mechanism for airlines would not only tackle the three per cent of global climate pollution aviation is thought to contribute, but would also tackle concerns over fragmented, regional emissions policies springing up, which carriers fear will push up compliance costs and ticket prices.
The letter says that by endorsing a market-based measure, IATA can send a strong signal to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN-body that is due to meet later this year to resume talks on a global emissions deal.
“International efforts to address aviation’s contribution to climate change are at a cross-road,” the letter reads. “Airlines can help countries secure agreement this year to implement a global market-based measure to significantly cut aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution or they can choose to let others act domestically to control aviation’s pollution.
“We urge IATA to use its annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa to send a resounding signal that it wants an agreement this year to implement a global market-based measure that significantly addresses aviation’s pollution.”
Signs are emerging that IATA is close to doing just that. Last week, Jos Delbeke, director general for climate at the European Commission, told news agency Bloomberg he expected to see progress at the meeting.
“I’m going to be in Cape Town next week where IATA will make a number of important decisions on carbon reductions,” Delbeke said. “We don’t know the detail of it, but the industry may be more forthcoming compared to what we anticipated two years ago.”
The pressure is building on ICAO to approve one of the four proposals for managing emissions that it is currently considering: offsetting, offsetting with a revenue generating mechanism, a cap-and-trade scheme, and a fuel levy with offsetting.
After an ICAO meeting towards the end of last year, the EU suspended its regulations charging foreign airlines for carbon emitted during flights in and out of its airports in a move designed to head off the risk of a trade war with other jurisdictions and help expedite a global agreement at this year’s conference that can then be implemented at its next summit in three years’ time.
In theory, the charges will snap back into place if progress is not made at ICAO’s conference this year, but Brussels will inevitably face calls to postpone the re-introduction of emissions charging indefinitely given the frenzied lobbying and threats of retaliatory action seen prior to the regulation’s introduction last year.
The US and China in particular expressed anger at the EU’s standalone policy, with Congress approving a bill expressly forbidding its airlines from participating in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. Beijing, meanwhile, allegedly froze a multi-billion euro Airbus order in protest, only completing the deal once the rules were suspended.
As such both IATA and ICAO are aware that significant progress towards some sort of international agreement will have to be made in the coming months or else the risk of a full-blown trade war is likely to rematerialise.
Historic Agreement on Carbon-Neutral Growth
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Cape Town – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 69th Annual General Meeting (AGM) overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution on “Implementation of the Aviation Carbon-Neutral Growth (CNG2020) Strategy” (pdf).
The resolution provides governments with a set of principles on how governments could:
- Establish procedures for a single market-based measure (MBM)
- Integrate a single MBM as part of an overall package of measures to achieve CNG2020
“Airlines are committed to working with governments to build a solid platform for the future sustainable development of aviation. Today, they have come together to recommend to governments the adoption of a single MBM for aviation and provide suggestions on how it might be applied to individual carriers. Now the ball is in the court of governments. We will be strongly supporting their leadership as they seek a global agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at its Assembly later this year,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Environment will be at the top of the agenda for the 38th ICAO Assembly in September. The aviation industry urgently needs governments to agree, through ICAO, a global approach to managing aviation’s carbon emissions, including a single global MBM. IATA member airlines agreed that a single mandatory carbon offsetting scheme would be the simplest and most effective option for an MBM.
“For governments, finding agreement on MBMs will not be easy. It was difficult enough for the airlines, given the potential financial implications. Bridging the very different circumstances of fast growing airlines in emerging markets and those in more mature markets required a flexible approach and mutual understanding. But sustainability is aviation’s license to grow. With that understanding and a firm focus on the future, airlines found an historic agreement. This industry agreement should help to relieve the political gridlock on this important issue and give governments momentum and a set of tools as they continue their difficult deliberations,” said Tyler.
Aviation is the first industry to suggest a global approach to the application of a single MBM to manage its climate change impact. This keeps aviation in the forefront of industries on managing carbon emissions. It was also the first to agree global targets. These are: improving fuel efficiency by 1.5% annually to 2020, capping net emissions with CNG2020, and cutting emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005. And it was also the first to agree on a global strategy to achieve them.
An MBM is one of the four pillars of the aviation industry’s united strategy on climate change. Improvements in technology, operations and infrastructure will deliver the long-term solution for aviation’s sustainability. “Today’s agreement focuses on a single global MBM as part of a basket of measures. A single MBM will be critical in the short-term as a gap-filler until technology, operations and infrastructure solutions mature. So we cannot take our eye off the ball on developing sustainable low-carbon alternative fuels, achieving the Single European Sky or the host of other programs that will improve aviation’s environmental performance,” said Tyler.
An MBM should be designed to deliver real emissions reductions, not revenue generation for governments. The principles agreed apply to emissions growth post-2020. “Airlines are delivering results against their climate change commitments. For example, we are on track to achieve our 1.5% average annual fuel efficiency target. We need governments to be serious partners as well. Developing an MBM must not become an excuse for revenue generation by cash-strapped governments, or for avoiding incentivizing investments in new technologies and sustainable low-carbon alternative fuels,” said Tyler.
A summary of the principles of the resolution includes the following:
- Setting the industry and individual carrier baselines using the average annual total emissions over the period 2018–2020;
- Agreeing to provisions/adjustments for- Recognizing early movers, benchmarked for 2005–2020 with a sunset by 2025
– Accommodating new market entrants for their initial years of operation
– Fast growing carriers
- Adopting an equitable balance for determining individual carrier responsibilities that includes consideration of:- An ‘emissions share’ element (reflecting the carrier’s share of total industry emissions) and
– A post-2020 ‘growth’ element (reflecting the carrier’s growth above baseline emissions)
- Reporting and verification of carbon emissions that is:- Based on a global standard to be developed by ICAO
– Simple and scalable based on the size and complexity of the operator
- Instituting a periodic CNG2020 performance review cycle that revises individual elements and parameters as appropriate.#
Notes for Editors:
- IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 240 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic.
- Resolution on Implementation of the Aviation Carbon-Neutral Growth (CNG2020) Strategy (pdf)