ICAO agreement to get global aviation industry to limit CO2 may just be “voluntary” for years
ICAO is meeting in Montreal from 27th September to 7th October, with the intention of agreeing some mechanism globally to limit, or trade, aviation carbon emissions in future. However, aviation was not included in the Paris agreement, and ICAO has made little progress in getting airlines internationally to agree measures that would be effective. Aviation should contribute to the global ambition of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees C (or 1.5 degrees C ideally) above pre-industrial levels. Now it appears that there may not even be a mandatory system, but just a voluntary one for the first 5 years for certain countries. This apparently is not yet meant to be public knowledge. Environmental groups said a voluntary first phase waters down a deal that already exempts too many countries, including most developing states, during its first five years. It will not achieve the ambition of making aviation making a fair contribution on the needed emissions reductions, especially if the largest carbon emitters do not join it. Airlines from countries that voluntarily participate would have to limit their emissions or offset them by buying carbon credits from designated environmental projects around the world.
U.N. aviation emissions pact may be voluntary at first – sources
Aug 2, 2016
By Allison Lampert (Reuters)
MONTREAL – A deal to limit carbon emissions from global civil aviation could be voluntary for the first five years instead of mandatory for certain countries under the current proposal, four sources familiar with the matter said.
Facing an October deadline, countries have been unable so far to agree on the metrics that would oblige participants to be included, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are involved in the talks and the idea of a voluntary first phase has not been made public.
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meets Sept. 27 to Oct. 7 and it will be under pressure to finalise a deal that would cap the carbon pollution of all international flights at 2020 levels. Aviation was excluded from last December’s climate accord in Paris when countries agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
One source from an Asian member state of the ICAO said many countries were receptive to a voluntary first phase. A second source, a Western state negotiator, said that the deal would be effective if the countries that generate most of the world’s aviation emissions join.
“What’s going to make or break this is knowing who is going to be in the first phase,” the Western negotiator said.
Airlines from countries that voluntarily participate would have to limit their emissions or offset them by buying carbon credits from designated environmental projects around the world.
The market-based plan must win the support of ICAO’s 191 member states at its assembly in Montreal, or risk the European Union breaking off talks and imposing its own emissions trading plan on international airlines.
An ICAO spokesman said the agency would only know its members’ positions at the assembly and otherwise declined comment.
Some environmental groups said a voluntary first phase waters down a deal that already exempts too many countries, including most developing states, during its first five years.
“Aviation, in particular, will need to make a fair contribution on the needed emissions reductions,” Bill Hemmings, director of aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment in Brussels, a non-governmental organisation, said in an email.
“A voluntary scheme will not achieve this,” Hemmings said.
Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, noted other global climate agreements such as the Paris deal were voluntary, but contained participation thresholds that had to be met for the deal to take effect.
Countries are under pressure to approve the two-phase agreement, starting in 2021, that would curb emissions from aviation, a sector that would be the world’s seventh largest carbon emitter if it were a country. The mandatory second phase would begin in 2026.
The United States, Canada, Mexico and Singapore have said they would join the first phase, while European negotiators want the 44 states in the European Civil Aviation Conference to participate, said two of the sources.
It is not yet known whether India and China with their fast-growing aviation sectors would volunteer for the first phase. A spokesman for India at ICAO declined to make his country’s position public, while China’s air transport industry association could not be reached for comment.
Countries with a high-growth aviation sector want more latitude to produce emissions than developed countries, which are growing more slowly but were responsible for generating the bulk of the industry’s greenhouse gases.
Most future global air traffic will come from Latin America and Asia, according a New Climate Economy report this year. In 1993, more than 73 percent of all traffic was carried by airlines in Europe or North America. By 2033, that share is expected to shrink to 38 percent.
(Additional reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Amran Abocar and Grant McCool)
Some recent news stories about ICAO and its work on aviation CO2:
Bill Hemmings: An ICAO deal that falls well short of “carbon-neutral growth” target will have no credibility
Bill Hemmings, (from T&E) explains the hurdles to ICAO agreeing an environmentally meaningful deal in October. The global aviation sector needs to play its part in the international aspiration, from the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C, or 2 degrees at worst. However, ICAO is not looking as if this is likely, largely due to the differences between historical and current CO2 emissions, and current and future growth rates, between airlines from countries (US and Europe largely) with historic aviation sectors, and those of developing countries, with young aviation industries. Ways to apportion the CO2 fairly need to be agreed, but solutions favour one group or the other. The developing countries (including Brazil, South Africa, and Nigeria) want their aviation CO2 to be exempted from any scheme. But emissions gap would amount to around 40-50% of the total, and so directly threatens the integrity of the commitment to carbon neutral growth from 2020, to which IATA pays lip service. Then there is the problem how to determine what percentage of emissions above the 2020 baseline airlines should have to offset each year. European and US airline CO2 is barely growing, but the CO2 from some is rising by 8% per year. US airlines do not want to pay for this. The issues are complicated. Read Bill’s explanation.
New petition demanding real action to address global aviation CO2 – not ineffective use of “REDD” offsets
The group REDD-Monitor and other organisations have a petition asking people to sign up, to oppose the use by the global aviation industry, through ICAO, of “offsets” for its emissions using forestry. These offsets, through REDD or REDD+ (meaning (‘Reduce Deforestation from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’) would be very cheap and available in huge numbers. They would not be an effective way to compensate for growing aviation carbon emissions. The industry’s only plan to control its CO2 emissions, while doubling them, is buying credits from other sectors. In April 2016, more than 80 NGOs put out a statement opposing the aviation sector’s carbon offsetting plans through use of REDD credits. There are many really serious problems with REDD credits. Some are: They would only use large forestry institutions, or monoculture farming, not small landowners or forest peoples. Most REDD projects are not those that tackle the real drivers of large-scale deforestation – extraction of oil, coal, mining, infrastructure, large-scale dams, industrial logging etc. REDD credits carry the additional risk of becoming null and void when wildfires, storms or natural decay cause uncontrollable release of carbon stored. There are serious risks of lack of monitoring, and of fraud. REDD offsets should not be allowed for aviation carbon credits.
ICAO still very far from any effective means of limiting aviation CO2 to be in line with Paris Agreement
Operating without fuel taxes, VAT, legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements or limits on its CO2 emissions, the aviation sector operates in something of a parallel universe. ICAO will have an opportunity to finally take a step forward on climate action. ICAO will discuss the impact of the Paris Agreement on the sector, and specifically the next steps for an aviation carbon offsetting scheme currently under negotiation. Their earlier response to the Paris Agreement was to try to give the impression that the sector is making huge progress. In reality, industry lobbyists succeeded in preventing an explicit reference to aviation in the text. But the globally-agreed goal of striving to limit global warming to 1.5C does apply to aviation. All ICAO Parties are also Parties to the Paris Agreement. If they let aviation off the hook, the target 1.5 degree, or even 2 degree, global target will simply be impossible to reach. The aviation sector will have to act – rapidly and radically – on climate if the Paris goal can be achieved. But ICAO’s current proposals are a very inadequate first step, and the industry plans for up to 300% growth by 2050. Even their modest goal of buying carbon permits to offset aviation carbon is not ambitious enough, as proposed exemptions for airlines of less developed countries amount to about 40% of global aviation CO2.
ICAO aviation offset market talks yield little progress, but backtracking on previous agreement
ICAO has concluded 3 days of talks to try to achieve a deal on a market-based offsetting mechanism for international aviation emissions from 2020. It has not made much progress. The industry has expressed the hope of “carbon neutral growth” after 2020, which means continuing to grow and emit more carbon, but buying offsets from other sectors that actually do cut CO2 emissions. Unless this is done, the prospect of the world achieving a limit of global temperature of 2 degrees C is remote. However, there are difficult issues to be resolved, of how to divide up the offsetting responsibilities between fast-growing airlines in emerging economies, and established carriers often with older, less fuel-efficient fleets and based in the industrialised world. Neither side will accept being disadvantaged. There have been proposals to try out a “pilot” scheme, and delay the 2020 date. Either way, the ICAO scheme only intends to cover international flights, not domestic – which form a large proportion in countries like the USA and China. That means only about 62% of the total aviation CO2, assuming the EU counts as a single bloc (more like 40% otherwise). Airlines do not want a patchwork of different systems in different parts of the world.
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