ICAO’s aviation offsetting deal is a weak start – now countries must go further to cut CO2
A deal was finally agreed by ICAO on 6th October. It was progress, in that there had never been any sort of agreement on global aviation CO2 emissions before. But it was not a great deal – and far too weak to provide the necessary restriction on the growth of global aviation CO2. It came in the same week that the Paris Agreement crossed its crucial threshold to enter into force, but the ICAO deleted key provisions for the deal to align its ambitions with the Paris aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees C. Tim Johnson, Director of AEF and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said in relation to the UK: “But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act. With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”
Aviation offsetting deal is a weak start – now countries must go further
October 6, 2016 (Transport & Environment)
Today’s decision to offset but not reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft, and on a voluntary basis, is a weak start which must be followed with more effective measures by states to rein in aviation emissions, Transport & Environment (T&E) has said.
The deal’s coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by UN aviation body ICAO and industry, and the lack of clear rules for offsets presents a clear risk to the measure’s environmental effectiveness.
At the last minute states also quietly dropped plans to align ICAO policies with the Paris agreement’s 1.5/2°C warming limit just a day after that agreement crossed its threshold to enter into force.
The decision in Montreal will see airlines in participating countries emit increasing amounts of CO2 so long as the carriers pay for offsetting projects in other sectors.
ICAO still has not agreed on the contentious environmental criteria to ensure offsets have a climate impact, such as whether they are ‘double counted’ or whether the emissions reductions would have happened anyway.
Furthermore the coverage of emissions growth may total between 75-80%, but only 20% of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 will be offset [Forthcoming analysis to be published by T&E], shifting the burden onto other sectors to do more if global warming is to be limited at 1.5/2°C, as was agreed in Paris last year.
Speaking in Montreal, T&E aviation director Bill Hemmings said: “Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal won’t reduce demand for jet fuel one drop. Instead offsetting aims to cut emissions in other industries.”
ICAO and the aviation industry must finalise and implement robust criteria for offsets and then develop further measures if we are to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. This week’s ratification of the Paris climate agreement also means countries and regions – starting with large historical emitters like Europe and the US – must introduce additional measures to close aviation’s ambition gap. In Europe, the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) needs to be strengthened and aviation stripped of its harmful privileges.
Bill Hemmings added: “Today is not mission accomplished for ICAO, Europe or industry. The world needs more than voluntary agreements. Without robust environmental safeguards the offsets won’t cut emissions, leaving us with a deal that amounts to little more than adding the price of a cup of coffee to a ticket.”
T&E is an observer to the ICAO talks as part of the ICSA coalition of environmental NGOs, which said “critical work” remains to be done to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation.
International aviation and shipping were not explicitly mentioned in the Paris agreement. ICAO’s decision today still leaves it unclear how aviation will or intends to meet its reduction commitments.
Aviation is currently responsible for an estimated 5% of global warming. Aircraft CO2 alone is projected to quadruple and will potentially account for 22% of all CO2 emitted globally in 2050.
Global Aviation Climate Deal Concludes With Mixed Results – AEF comment
Montreal — An overwhelming majority of countries agreed to take a first step to address emissions from international aviation by adopting a global market-based measure (GMBM) for the sector.
However, in the same week that the Paris Agreement crosses its crucial threshold to enter into force, countries sent a worrying signal by deleting key provisions for the aviation agreement that would align its ambitions with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Commenting on the landmark deal, Tim Johnson, Aviation Environment Federation Director and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said:
“Viewed globally, this is a landmark deal that addresses a gap in the plan to deliver the Paris Agreement, namely how to tackle the soaring emissions from international aviation.
“But there are gaps in coverage and many issues still to be decided that will determine its effectiveness.
“We urge ICAO and states to view the goal of keeping net emissions at 2020 levels as the start of a process. ICAO will now need to show strong leadership to strengthen the goal over time in line with the effort to deliver Paris.
“But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act.
With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020.
“The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”
Aviation emissions are projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget by 2050, highlighting the urgency of reaching an agreement to tackle airline pollution. AEF recognizes the agreement as a hard-fought political compromise to see that aviation contributes its fair share in the climate change fight, but critical work remains to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation.
The UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreement to establish a GMBM contains some good provisions and a number of troubling elements that need improvement to reflect ICSA’slongstanding recommendations to strengthen the GMBM:
|Positive Elements||Negative Elements|
|The three-year review clause and its connection to the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals in the GMBM resolution, though this connection was substantially weakened in the accompanying climate resolution adopted by ICAO provisions.||The GMBM, falls short of the goals of carbon neutral growth from 2020, Paris Agreement goals, and the industry goal of halving emissions from 2050.|
|The mandate that emissions unit criteria (EUC) and monitoring reporting verification (MRV) modalities be reflected as standards by ICAO.||A lack of public commitment that insists offsets and alternative fuels credited under the GMBM must have high environmental integrity.|
|A solution to the difficult issue of dividing up offsetting responsibilities.||No explicit text mandating that emissions reductions are not double counted.|
|Explicit text on the importance of avoiding double-counting of UNFCCC emission reductions.||Lack of clear provisions on ensuring transparency of the process for finalizing the GMBM|
ICSA’s current analysis of the resolution text and the commitments from more than 60 countries to join the first phases of the GMBM suggests that the measure will cover an estimated three quarters of international aviation’s expected emissions growth between 2021 and 2035.
Although this falls short of ICAO’s own target of carbon neutral growth from 2020, the anticipated coverage would be 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions, provided the emissions criteria to be elaborated allow only high quality carbon credits.
Importantly, the integrity of the agreement’s emission reductions depend on rules not yet in place.
ICSA welcomes that more than 60 states have so far stated their intent to participate in the measure from the beginning.
However, it is critical to expand coverage of the measure given the shortfall between what was agreed to at the assembly and the goal of stabilizing emissions at a 2020 level and the need for further action.
ICSA urges ICAO member states to use the resolution’s review clause to ratchet up ambition over time. It is also important that states and regions, especially developed and fast-developing ones, adopt additional measures to mitigate aviation’s climate impact.
ICSA is committed to ongoing engagement to ensure a high level of environmental integrity, broad participation, and a transparent process.
ICAO member states should work to align the reduction of aviation climate impacts with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets.
ICSA will maintain pressure as discussion on the EUC and overall implementation continue, which will need to stand up to public scrutiny.
The Aviation Environment Federation is the only national NGO campaigning exclusively on environmental impacts of aviation including noise, air pollution and climate change. We represent community groups around many of the UK airports in our work to secure effective regulation of the aviation industry at national and international levels
The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) works to reduce pollution from air travel. As a network of nonprofit organizations representing millions of members, ICSA is the only environmental civil society group accredited as an observer by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN standard-setting body for international air travel.
ICAO deal: Soaring success or timid take-off?
By Madeleine Cuff (Business Green)
7 October 2016
The aviation deal is a step in the right direction, but needs an explicit link to the Paris Agreement goals and a credible offsetting system to really set the industry on a climate-friendly flight path
What a week. Hot on the heels of the momentous ratification of the Paris Agreement – confirming that the landmark deal will enter into force next month – environmental campaigners and journalists once again rolled out the superlatives to applaud the agreement of the first deal to limit emissions from the international aviation sector.
“Historic”, “unprecedented” and “visionary” were all words used by commentators to describe the deal, which seeks to limit emissions from international passenger and cargo flights at 2020 levels, via a carbon offsetting scheme. Participation will be voluntary at first, and from 2027 most countries are mandated to join.
While the media may be getting superlative fatigue following this week’s mini-flurry of “historic” deals, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreement really is worthy of the fuss. After years of political wrangling, it represents a major diplomatic breakthrough on the topic of international aviation emissions – which have historically been left out of UN climate deals and not regulated under domestic climate law. It is also the first agreement of its kind to cover a single sector of a global industry.
And while not perfect, there is much in the deal to be celebrated.
From 2021 around 75% of emissions from the global aviation sector will be offset, with dozens of countries – including China, the US and Japan – voluntarily taking part in the first phases of the scheme, more than ICAO had assumed would when the idea of a voluntary phase was first floated.
This means that over the 15 years of the programme (from 2021-2035) airlines could offset almost 2.5bn tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to taking 35 million cars of the road each year –according to the Environmental Defense Fund. It seems the ‘peer pressure’ effect that was so important to the early signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement is once again having the desired effect in spurring countries on to commit to higher climate action.
Airlines will now also have a major – read, financial – incentive to make their routes, and their aircraft, more fuel efficient, boosted by new carbon dioxide standards for new aircraft agreed earlier this year by ICAO. By 2021 Virgin Atlantic has promised to have a purely twin engine aircraft fleet – planes which are on average 30% more fuel efficient than traditional aircraft. Other airlines will follow suit.
And although the cost of the scheme is expected to add very little to the cost of the airfare on customers – a maximum of 2% on ticket prices, according to ICAO – as the scheme becomes mandatory it could become a vital source of cash for climate projects around the world. By 2035 ICAO figures suggest it could have funded up to $24bn worth of offsetting projects around the world, from reforestation to alternative energy projects.
And the fact the deal is a single, unitary agreement backed by 191 countries means aviation avoids what many were viewing as the inevitable alternative if a compromise wasn’t reached – a messy patchwork of national and regional policies that could lead to overlapping costs and confusing bureaucracy for many international airlines.
It was a risk ICAO was well aware of going into the meeting: “In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of carbon pricing instruments, such as CO2 taxes or emissions trading schemes, applied around the world,” read one briefing note. “A similar proliferation of carbon pricing instruments on aviation would result in an unsustainable patchwork of measures for operators and for governments. Indeed, there are strong indications that a number of States around the world have considered the adoption of economic measures in this area and the International Monetary Fund has specifically called for a tax on CO2 on aviation and shipping.”
UK secures historic deal to combat global aviation emissions
From: Department for Transport and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
6 October 2016
The UK has agreed a huge aviation climate deal with 190 countries. Airlines will offset emissions aiming for carbon neutral growth from 2020.
The UK along with 190 other countries has secured a major global climate deal to combat aviation emissions. The deal was struck on 6 October 2016.
This is the first worldwide scheme to address emissions in any single sector. Under the deal, airlines will offset their emissions with reductions from other sectors and activities with the aim of delivering carbon neutral growth for the aviation sector from 2020.
It is the most significant global deal on climate since the Paris Agreementlast year, when the world agreed to pursue efforts to keep the global temperature increase well below 2 degrees. As one of the two sectors not covered by Paris, it was critical that international aviation also took action. This agreement is a major step forward, and the UK has played an important part in delivering this.The deal was reached at the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, following 3 years of challenging negotiations.
Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said:
This is an unprecedented deal, the first of its kind for any sector. International aviation is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year than the whole of the UK and yet until now, there has been no global consensus on how to address the growing problem of aviation emissions.
For years, the UK has pushed to tackle aviation emissions globally. Now, 191 countries have agreed on a global measure and sent a clear message that aviation will play its part in combating climate change.
The UK’s focus will now be on ensuring the scheme is implemented successfully across the world.