- The airspace coverage approach can only be accepted as an interim measure pending real progress at ICAO.
- Otherwise the ETS must automatically snap back to cover emissions from 50% of all arriving and departing flights from 2017 (the 50/50 option).
- Reduced scope means the emissions cap must also be reduced to restore environmental integrity.
- 100% of aviation allowances must be auctioned; there is no argument for allowing industry to earn windfall profits from this much-reduced scheme.
- All carriers on all routes must continue with the monitoring (MRV) requirements.
Environment: Agreement on emissions hard to reach
15.11.2013 (Financial Times)
By Jane Wild
A global agreement on limiting airline carbon emissions has been 16 years in the making but, even after a definitive step forward last month, the goal still seems far off.
After the assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal in October, the UN agency responsible for standards in aviation hailed a breakthrough: its 191 member countries had endorsed the creation of a global measure to tackle airline emissions from 2020.
Yet that commitment – to work out a deal over the next three years – was not enough for those who said it merely deferred real action.
“We have to temper enthusiasm with a heavy dose of scepticism,” says Bill Hemmings, programme manager for aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, a lobby group.
“All the hard questions – which mechanism, when (and indeed whether) to implement, who to exempt, how to measure and, last but not least, who pays and who receives – are still to be addressed.”
The other key resolution to come out of Montreal was controversial, in that it limited the EU’s own aviation emissions scheme, creating uncertainty over that.
Observers present at the meeting said the mood had been tense and there had been much resentment towards the scheme.
Developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, and some developed countries, including the US, argued that flights landing within the EU should not be caught by its scheme.
They say that the European plan to make airlines pay for their carbon pollution, even if the international flight originated far away, is a unilateral breach of their sovereignty.
Some have raised fears of a trade war. Last year, Airbus said that it was unable to complete orders with Chinese airlines because of Beijing’s opposition to the EU scheme.
However, despite the weakening of its scheme, the EU painted the decision positively.
Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, said that the agreement avoided “a damaging conflict among trading partners”.
But, in revised proposals for its scheme a few weeks later, the European Commission again caught foreign airlines within its net, prompting them to hit back.
The International Air Transport Association, the global aviation industry body that represents 240 airlines, said that it was concerned the commission was pursuing action that had the potential to undermine the goodwill that achieved a consensus in Montreal.
It has pushed for a global response to aviation emissions, to avoid distortions created by a patchwork of policies.
Achieving a global system to regulate emissions is possible, agrees WWF, the conservation group. Nevertheless, the Montreal deal was “the smallest of tiny steps forward”, says Jean Leston, WWF transport policy manager, and the progress would be problematic.
“It could be quite a difficult few years ahead, and it will depend on the goodwill of aviation industry, if we’re going to see anything emerge in a few years’ time,” she says.
The ICAO’s governing council is now working to formulate plans for a global market-based mechanism by 2016. That could take shape as an offset scheme, whereby airlines can buy permits for carbon that is offset elsewhere.
Steven Truxal, lecturer in aviation law at City University in London, says: “It’s been a long time, but there is now a global consensus, which is that something needs to be done.” The variety of backgrounds and legal frameworks of the countries coming together at the ICAO table highlighted how complex a process reaching an agreement will be, he says.
The EU had moved faster and its emissions trading scheme had “effectively given the US and others a green ultimatum, by saying ‘the global aviation sector, anyone who uses our airports, will have to play by our rules’”.
After Montreal, the EU scheme could be viewed as an interim measure before global action was achieved, he says.
But Mr Hemmings, of Transport & Environment, says the “rush to crush” Europe, supported by the US, has serious implications. “The G77 [group of developing countries], with American support, has clearly shown it has the votes in ICAO,” he says.
He warns that the balance of power could tip further towards countries that wanted to constrain the EU scheme with forthcoming changes of leadership – a new council president will take over from January and the next secretary-general will come in 2015.
“With a new Nigerian council president and the next secretary-general potentially coming from China, the chances of any ICAO outcome having a meaningful impact on aviation emissions would seem to be receding,” Mr Hemmings says.
“The whole of the ICAO negotiations remain very difficult and I think it’s going to take a complete rethink of established positions if we’re going to see anything constructive come out of it,” says Ms Leston.