Concern at ICAO talks that Britain, France and Germany are prepared to water down EU’s position on aviation emissions

As the climate talks in Montreal drag on, with a draft text expected this Friday or Saturday, it appears there could be an impact of some of the US negotiators having to fly home – as being government employees, their offices have been closed down due to lack of funding. The US has been one of the biggest obstacles to finding an agreement, so the absence of some may have a positive impact.  A very weak draft deal presented this week has been described as a “dream come true” for airlines. It will not allow the EU to cover overflights – flights that do not land or take off from somewhere in the EU – without mutual agreement. This would mean the ETS could only cover sovereign airspace and not regional airspace as previously announced. It appears that the UK, France and Germany are prepared to water down the EU’s position as a way to strike a global deal, afraid of a trade war. There is concern that this would damage the whole ETS and not be agreed by the European Parliament.


US govt shutdown could accelerate aviation emission agreement

 2 October 2013 (RTCC)
US delegation head home, but analysts warn current deal on table is not ambitious enough and will be a ‘hollow’ agreement
By Nilima Choudhury
The absence of key US negotiators due to the government shutdown may ensure a more ambitious aviation emissions deal is agreed in Montreal this week say analysts.
The Obama administration closed down all non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree a new budget deal.
“The US shutdown is actually good because half of the US has had to fly home apparently and the weaker the US aviation the better for the climate so that’s kind of a nice benefit,” said Aoife O’Leary from NGO Transport & Environment, who is in Montreal.
“The US has been leading all the negative charge on this and they’re getting exactly what they want at the moment and even the countries that have been quite moderate in ICAO [have] joined in line behind the US. So it’s looking pretty bleak.”
It’s currently unclear how many of the US delegation have departed. RTCC has asked the State Department to confirm how many (if any) have left.
The UN-sponsored talks at ICAO involve envoys from 190 countries are aimed at developing a market based mechanism (MBM) for the global aviation industry that would reduce emissions.
The US has been historically opposed to any such deal, and vehemently opposed EU efforts in 2012 to unilaterally place all flights in and out of Europe under its own emissions trading scheme (ETS).
Weak proposals
The EU has been pushing for ambitious deal to impose a carbon tax on all airlines using its airspace, but a draft deal presented this week suggests that was optimistic.
Described as a “dream come true” for airlines by O’Leary, it will not allow the EU to cover overflights – flights that do not land or take off from somewhere in the EU – without mutual agreement. This would mean the ETS could only cover sovereign airspace and not regional airspace as previously announced.
The draft text is expected to be finalised either Friday or Saturday this week.
“It is not clear yet how the EU would deal with this,” said O’Leary, “because it would make a big mess of the ETS. Unfortunately it seems that this will be the text that the majority agree to in the end.”
An alleged breach of airspace is one of the main objections by other countries.
“The argument all along about the ETS is it violates other countries sovereignty because we’re regulating the carbon emitted on someone else’s runway which is bullshit because nobody else was ever going to regulate that carbon anyway and it’s not like they’re particularly attached to that carbon – they don’t want anyone to do it,” said O’Leary.
“Even if every country in the world created their own airspace regime 78% of aviation emissions would still be unregulated due to the huge amount of carbon that is emitted over the high seas.”
Carbon budget
These talks have gained added significance this week with the release this week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
It warned the world can absorb approximately 1000GT of greenhouse gases — of which humans have already used up about two thirds.
Countries are expected to discuss the ‘budget’ at next month’s UN climate talks in Warsaw, but with aviation emissions expected to rise rapidly between now at 2050, the ICAO talks are seen as hugely important.
Some scientists say pollution from planes could be more damaging to the environment because of the altitude they are released, meaning carbon dioxide at that height could have greater ‘radiative forcing’.
Speaking from Montreal, WWF transport policy manager Jean Leston said any sense of urgency was “completely lacking”.
She added: “Given the level of dissention I’ve seen on the ground here, it’s going to be a very uphill task if you’re ever going to get an MBM.


Top EU powers backing down over aviation emissions

By Barbara Lewis and Valerie Volcovici
BRUSSELS/MONTREAL, Oct 2 (Reuters) –
Britain, France and Germany are prepared to water down the EU’s position on aviation emissions as a way to strike a global deal, after some regions threatened a trade war when the EU imposed restrictions on its own, sources close to the talks said.
But the sources said the shift could jeopardise the EU’s carbon trading scheme – the central plank of its climate policy – and put the three countries on a collision course with the European Parliament, which could reintroduce the EU emissions restrictions if it is not happy with a global deal.
“These three countries – France, Germany and Britain – are putting the whole deal at stake,” one of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is meeting in Montreal to try to resolve the global row, which was sparked when the EU introduced a law making airlines using EU airports pay for their carbon emissions. Two weeks of talks are slated to end on Friday.
The outcome will have implications for international relations, aviation competitiveness and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which is already struggling under a burden of surplus carbon allowances.
The EU introduced its law after a decade of ICAO talks failed to reach a deal on aviation emissions, which account for 5 percent of global warming, according to U.N. data, and are expected to triple by 2050.
But, after international outrage, the bloc agreed to suspend for one year its law for intercontinental flights.
Sources close to the matter said Britain, France and Germany – which represent some of the EU’s biggest aviation interests, including IAG, Airbus, Deutsche Lufthansa and Air France-KLM – were instrumental in agreeing to the delay, and were ready to back down again.
While the three powers dominate the European Council of member states, they have less influence in the European Parliament, which has said it needs a strong deal.
Negotiators from 191 countries are debating a global market-based measure by 2020, plus a framework on regional schemes for the interim.
That proposal was supported by the 36-member ICAO governing council in early September as the basis for talks at the ICAO general assembly, which concludes on Friday.
The framework is needed to allow the EU ETS, the only existing regional scheme that applies to foreign carriers, to continue to function until 2020.
Parts of the framework for what will transpire between now and 2020 have drawn fierce opposition from the United States, Singapore, Russia, Brazil and emerging economies.
Michel Wachenheim, France’s ICAO representative and president of the two-week assembly, unveiled a revised negotiating text Wednesday morning with drastically watered-down framework language.
Wachenheim tried to mesh input from key nations and blocs of countries he met with over the past five days, especially surrounding concerns about the framework for interim measures.
The new text says that “mutual consent” is needed if a regional scheme is found to cover flights that do not depart or land within that region, or if the scheme is “intended to cover any portion of those flights beyond the national airspaces of the States concerned.”
The revised text also tried to address festering concerns about which countries would be exempt from complying with regional schemes.
The United States had suggested an approach which appears in the new text, exempting airlines based on routes rather than country, and based on a hard number of so-called “revenue ton kilometers” (RTKs) that gets reduced each year after 2014. That would replace an earlier plan to exempt countries that account for less than 1 percent of global RTKs.
Englebert Zoa Etundi, Cameroon’s representative to ICAO, who represents the African bloc of negotiators, told Reuters last week that the 1 percent threshold was necessary to protect African air passengers and Africa’s burgeoning airline industry.
Britain and Germany declined to say whether they backed a watered down deal, while the French government was not immediately available to comment.
“The UK is continuing to work closely with EU and international partners to achieve an ambitious package toward a global market-based aviation emissions measure by 2020, plus a framework on regional schemes which allows the EU ETS to continue to function in the interim,” Britain’s department of energy and climate change said.
An EU official said ICAO’s executive committee continues to debate the text, and may vote on the changes on Thursday. Should the text win committee approval it would be sent to the entire plenary for approval on Friday – in theory, the final day of the meeting.
European Commission spokeswoman Helen Kearns said any agreement was unlikely before the very end of the talks.
“Europe has already been extremely flexible in agreeing to stop the clock,” she told reporters. “In doing this we avoided a probable trade war. We now have a very important window of opportunity between now and Friday.”