Breakthrough in Climate Change talks at UN Aviation Body
At the end of difficult negotiations during the 37th session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the 190 contracting states of the International Aviation Body were able to strike the first global governmental deal to commit the aviation sector to reduce greenhouse emissions from international aviation from 2020. Europe played an instrumental role in securing this agreement and has taken the lead by including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which will start in 2012. European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport and EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard responsible for Climate Action, welcomed the breakthrough, which came after almost a decade of deadlock at ICAO on how to address emissions from international aviation. They underlined that aviation is the first sector to commit itself to such emissions reductions and that the agreement will cover over 90% of worldwide air traffic.
EU Vice President Siim Kallas, Responsible for Transport said: "This deal is very significant because at a global level, governments and the aviation industry, have for the first time agreed to cap greenhouse emissions from 2020. It is the first time any transport sector has been able to reach this kind of global deal. This is a real breakthrough. There is a lot more work to be done, but this is a deal which is very good news for the aviation sector, good news for the environment and good for a more sustainable future."
EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said "ICAO has taken a step in the right direction. The Resolution adopted expressly recognises that aircraft emissions must be stabilised and that also big developing countries have a role to play in this regard. The goal is not as ambitious as Europe thinks it should be, but at the same time ICAO has recognised that some States may take more ambitious actions prior to 2020. Critically, the deal is a good basis for proceeding swiftly with the inclusion of aviation in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012 as foreseen by the EU legislation in force."
The agreement at ICAO is composed of a number of important elements, which form part of a comprehensive package:
Global Goal: ICAO has agreed on a global medium-term collective goal of capping emissions from international aviation as of 2020, whilst recognising that States or regions such as the EU can act sooner and be more ambitious. In addition, aviation should become more fuel efficient at a rate of 2 % per year.
Action Plans: States will notify to ICAO the different measures that they are taking to meet the agreed goal by submitting Action Plans. States with less that 1 % of international aviation activities are not expected to submit plans unless they choose to do so voluntarily.
Market-based measures: ICAO recognises the important role of market-based measures, such as emissions trading, and has agreed to a range of guiding principles to be applied by States designing and implementing them. The EU ETS is consistent with all 15 of these principles. Crucially, ICAO has refrained from language which would make the application of the EU's ETS to their airlines dependent on the mutual agreement of other States. It was this requirement that led to a stalemate at the last ICAO Assembly in 2007. This time, the EU agreed to engage constructively in dialogue with third countries during the implementation of its ETS, notably regarding how to deal with emissions from incoming flights from third countries.
Exemptions for small emitters: A crucial element in this package is the recognition that small emitters, in particular air carriers of countries falling below a threshold of 1.0% share of air traffic, may be exempt from the commitments to submit action plans towards achieving the global medium-term goal and from the application of market-based measures.
Financial assistance: The agreement also includes provisions on technical and financial assistance for developing countries’ actions to mitigate the climate change impacts of aviation.
Background: Aviation and climate change: towards a global approach to a global problem
Emissions from international aviation currently account for about 2% to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but as aviation is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades, this figure is forecast to rise. Efforts to fight climate change should therefore also address emissions from aviation and measures should be taken to make aviation more sustainable.
This is why the EU has taken a comprehensive approach to reducing the impact of aviation on the environment. It is going forward with a mix of different measures, including research and development for new greener technologies, such as cleaner aircraft engines and fuels, more efficient air traffic management systems and flight procedures, and extending the existing EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) to include emissions from air carriers as of 2012.
Addressing the climate change impacts of international aviation has proved to be a major challenge at ICAO. The EU has been pressing ICAO to take leadership in this area by demonstrating that it can agree on ambitious goals. The EU has also made it clear during the negotiations that any future global framework should not hamper the efforts of States or regions like the EU who are going ahead with their own measures.