Change of direction promised by US on international aviation inclusion in EU ETS
A group of 16 countries (so far un-named) are meeting in the US about the ETS, and how a global “solution” might be found to aviation emissions. The opponents of the ETS, even though it adds so very little to a trans-Atlantic flight ($3 or so one way) want ICAO to come up with some scheme that is global. However, if ICAO can ever agree a scheme, it will both take years to bring about, and is likely to be too weak to be effective. ICAO’s only target now is an “aspirational” one (meaning not binding at all) to keep global aviation emissions at 2020 levels, after 2020, by buying offsets for increases. Annie Petsonk of US NGO Environmental Defense Fund said yesterday the US airlines’ and their trade association’s motive was “to tie up ICAO so deeply in the ponderous process that it will never have time to work on a serious agreement on climate change.”
Change of direction promised by US as talks start in Washington of countries opposed to international aviation inclusion in EU ETS
31 July 2012 (Green Air online)
The third meeting of the ‘coalition of the unwilling’ – countries opposed to the inclusion of the airlines into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) – starts today in Washington DC with a pledge by a senior US Administration official that the tone will different on this occasion.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, he said the purpose would be to try to explore whether there might be a basis for a global solution on aviation greenhouse gas emissions. He said an aspirational goal had been agreed at ICAO in 2010 of limiting the growth of emissions from 2020 and should a global solution be found, the EU would have to set aside its scheme in the near term.
The two-day meeting is expected to be attended by 16 so far unnamed countries, down from the 26 that attended the first meeting in Delhi last September. The EU’s Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, challenged the countries to come up with concrete proposals for a substantial reduction in aviation emissions. Meanwhile, a US Senate hearing today will decide the next step in progress of a bill to prohibit US carriers from participating in the EU ETS.
The Administration official said all the countries participating in the meeting, to be held at the Department of Transportation, were opposed to the EU’s application of its ETS to foreign carriers on both policy and legal grounds, with the previous meetings in Moscow and Delhi asserting that opposition.
“The purpose of this meeting is different,” he said in a press conference call. “I would not regard this as a third in the line of the Moscow and Delhi meetings. The purpose of this meeting is really to try to explore whether there might be a basis for a global solution to addressing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and a global solution that would include the EU and would set aside the ETS as applied to foreign carriers.”
He said the discussions would be informal, adding: “We don’t anticipate any deliverable per se coming out of the meeting but we do anticipate having … an exploratory discussion to see if we can get on a path that could lead to a global solution that would then be considered in ICAO, which is the multilateral body that properly deals with international aviation, and go from there.”
Asked whether the United States would propose a cap on airline emissions from 2005 levels starting in 2020, the official responded: “I wouldn’t say exactly that. If you go back to the last ICAO Assembly resolution in 2010, there was an agreement to an aspirational goal of trying to limit emissions, I think starting in 2020, at 2020 levels. And I would expect goals of that sort will be part of the conversation we have in our meeting.
“That should not be taken to mean that we accept the ETS until 2020 and then it changes. That’s completely not on the cards.”
A global deal would be, by definition, include the EU, he said. “Such a solution would lead to the setting aside in the near term, not down the road, of the application of the ETS.”
He said potential market measures were under discussion at a technical expert level within ICAO but there was far from agreement on what type of measure and how countries or regions might use them. “It is not at all clear whether there will be buy-in by countries at a higher level.”
On the eve of the meeting, an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been sent from a coalition of 19 aviation, travel, commerce and trade union organisations. The letter asks the US government to restate its opposition to, and continuing plans for overturning, the application of the EU ETS to international aviation.
“It has been seven months since US airlines and aircraft operators became subject to the scheme’s emissions allowances purchase, trading and surrender obligations,” said the letter. “It has been eight months since you sent a firm letter to EU officials urging them to halt or suspend application of the ETS. As each day goes by without an EU act to halt or suspend the ETS, the harm to US airlines and aircraft operators and the threat to US sovereignty grow while the US government’s credibility is weakened.”
The organisations urged the Administration to file an Article 84 Chicago Convention action “and to take all other action necessary to overturn this wrongful scheme.” This included support for the bipartisan bills before Congress to prohibit US carriers from participating in the EU ETS.
Annie Petsonk of US NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said yesterday the US airlines’ and their trade association’s real reason for the Article 84 push was “to tie up ICAO so deeply in the ponderous process that it will never have time to work on a serious agreement on climate change.”
She added the EU ETS prohibition legislation that the airlines were lobbying Congress to pass, was almost unprecedented in US history. “Last time we saw legislation blocking American companies from obeying the laws of the countries in which they do business was when Congress barred American firms from suborning apartheid in South Africa. So the airlines are acting as if a $6 ticket surcharge [to cover EU ETS costs] is the equivalent of a massive human rights violation. Just keep in mind airlines charge several times that much for a checked bag.”
Petsonk said the aspirational goals of ICAO Assembly 2010 resolution were “a reasonable place to start” the Washington discussions but pointed out that the resolution itself pointed out they were not enough to stabilise and then reduce aviation’s climate impact and that more ambitious measures would be required.
“The yardstick we’ll be using to measure any progress in the meeting over the next two days is: are countries speaking in terms of reducing aviation’s total emissions, with binding targets?” she asked. “Or are the talks backtracking to the industry’s lowest common denominator?”
A European Commission spokesperson said there would be no official comment on the meeting before it took place beyond Connie Hedegaard’s tweet yesterday that said: “The EU is eagerly waiting for countries meeting in DC to come up with CONCRETE proposals for SUBSTANTIAL aviation emissions reductions.”
By coincidence, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is due to hold a markup hearing later today to debate possible amendments of the proposed EU ETS Prohibition legislation and then decide whether to pass it out of the committee. This is seen as an important next step in the process before the Senate takes a full vote.
Last month, the committee held a full hearing on the proposed EU ETS prohibition legislation to hear testimony from witnesses that included Ray LaHood, Annie Petsonk, Nancy Young of A4A and Jose Delbeke, Director-General of the European Commission’s climate directorate (see article).
US State Department – transcript of press briefing on EU ETS meeting
US industry coalition open letter
EDF blog by Annie Petsonk Annie’s biog at http://www.edf.org/people/annie-petsonk
US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Markup Hearing 31 July
See Annie Petsonk’s (an EDF lawyer) blog
Will Washington meeting on aviation pollution be undermined by U.S. airlines?
The U.S. State Department has released a transcript of a news conference held today during which a senior administration official says the starting point for this week’s talks will be the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 2010 resolution. In that resolution, countries set an “aspirational goal” of improving efficiency 2 percent per year through 2020, and then offsetting emissions above 2020 levels starting in 2021 (that’s what their phrase “carbon neutral growth” from 2020 means).
We think that’s a reasonable place to start, as long as the talks move forward, not backtrack. The 2010 ICAO resolution itself recognizes the proposal is not enough. It says:
the aspirational goal of 2 per cent annual fuel efficiency improvement is 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.
The industry’s proposal – the green line to the right – is weaker than the ICAO resolution, and allows emissions to continue to grow.
The yardstick we’ll be using to measure any progress in the meeting over the next two days is: are countries speaking in terms of reducing aviation’s total emissions, with binding targets?
Or are the talks backtracking to the industry’s lowest common denominator?
U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern will be in the hot seat tomorrow — in more ways than one.
Everyone from the aviation industry to governments to environmental groups says that the best way to deal with pollution from airplanes is through the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO. (It’s pronounced “eye-kay-oh” or “ih-cow” … you say tomayto, I say tomahto…)
ICAO was tasked by world governments way back in 1997 to come up with a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, they’ve been dithering about it since your teenager was a toddler.
Meanwhile, in 2003, Europe suffered a climate catastrophe — a massive heat wave that killed more than 40,000 people.
Europe got serious about climate security after the 2003 heat wave. It enacted a law putting most of its industry under emissions caps.
Aviation basically got a ten-year grace period from that cap. But this year, for the first time, all planes landing or taking off from European airports will have to reduce their climate pollution. Those that don’t comply will face tough sanctions.
The law is causing a lot of complaining from the U.S.-based airlines, including United, American, and Delta.
To hear them squawk, you’d think Europe’s aviation law meant “The End Is Nigh.”
But let’s take a deep breath here.
The EU law only requires airlines to cut their pollution by 5 percent.
Economists commissioned by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to assess the impact on U.S. airlines found that the EU law might … I repeat, might … cost as much as $6 on a roundtrip ticket from the U.S. to Europe.
That’s the same as the cost of a beer on a Delta or United flight.
Oh, and the economists said “might” because they found that — if the airlines met the EU law by flying more efficiently — they could actually make money from it.
So why is this so controversial?
Because … while Stern’s meeting is aimed at coming up with new ideas for how ICAO can move forward, and while the EU’s law is actually nudging ICAO in that direction … the U.S. airlines have other ideas.
Aviation is the world’s seventh largest polluter , but U.S. airlines are still trying to get out of complying with Europe’s anti-pollution law. (Sources: International Civil Aviation Organization, International Energy Agency, United Nations Environment Programme)
United, American, Delta and their trade association are pressing to have the meeting focus on how to bring legal action against the EU, rather than focus on ways to make progress in ICAO. Specifically, they’re pushing for agreement to bring legal action under Article 84 of ICAO’s governing treaty.
Never mind that the airlines don’t have much of a wing to fly on for legal action. (They already brought and lost such a case in European courts.)
Never mind that Article 84 cases are cumbersome, time-consuming procedures that drag on for years and almost never reach a conclusion.
The airlines’ real game is to tie ICAO up so deeply in the ponderous Article 84 process that it will never have time to work on a serious agreement on climate change.
The airlines are also lobbying hard for Congress to pass legislation barring U.S. airlines from obeying the EU’s law.
Legislation like that is almost unprecedented in U.S. history. Last time we saw legislation blocking American companies from obeying the laws of the countries in which they do business was when Congress barred American firms from suborning apartheid in South Africa.
So the airlines are acting as if a $6 ticket surcharge is the equivalent of a massive human rights violation. (Just keep in mind airlines generally charge several times that much for a checked bag.)
That’s what makes Stern’s meeting this week so hot.
Washington didn’t even invite any European countries to the table. Maybe it’s because the airlines fear that with Europeans in the room, countries might actually start talking seriously about how to reach an agreement in ICAO that’s as effective in cutting pollution as the EU law. (The EU has already said it will waive its law when — or if — ICAO does reach such an agreement.)
We’re hoping the talks will illuminate some new paths forward. But against the backdrop of all the wacky weather Washington’s had lately, the last thing we need here right now is “more heat than light.”