ICAO appoints 17 countries to new High-level Group to hammer out important policy issues on aviation MBMs

ICAO appoints 17 countries to new High-level Group to hammer out important policy issues on aviation MBMs | MBMs,ICAO,Raymond Benjamin

ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González (left) and ICAO Secretary-General Raymond Benjamin (photo: ICAO)

Wed 28 Nov 2013 – More details have been released of the High-level Group (HLG) that is being set up to primarily work on political and policy issues surrounding the controversial application of market-based measures (MBMs) to address international aviation emissions. Officials from 17 countries will form the group, representing all geographical regions of the world and include all the major aviation nations. The EU, or more accurately Belgium, will be represented by Jos Delbeke, Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action, and it is believed Todd Stern, the US Special Envoy for Climate Change, will act for the United States. The HLG will meet for the first time on December 12/13 and will provide recommendations to the ICAO Council and develop a draft resolution on climate change action for submission to the next ICAO Assembly that gets underway in September 2013.

The full list of the 17 member states making up the HLG are the United States, Canada, Russian Federation, France, UK, Belgium, Nigeria, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

The group will also consider a broader ‘basket of measures’ to help reduce international aviation emissions, as instructed by the last Assembly in 2010. These include sustainable alternative fuels, action plans by member states, an aircraft CO2 standard and also future air navigation systems that will allow more direct routes that save fuel and emissions.

However, its priority is the MBM issue and it will work in parallel with existing expert groups that are developing MBM options and a framework for their global implementation. Progress made on policy and political issues will be reported to the experts so they can progress their own work on a technical level.

The ICAO Council set up a similar high-level group in early 2008 called the Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) that was tasked with developing a programme of action for ICAO to take forward to the 2010 Assembly. However, the new HLG not only will have a much reduced time-frame but will also have to deal with highly sensitive issues such as reconciling the UN climate principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities enshrined in Kyoto with the non-discrimination and equal treatment principle that governs international civil aviation through the Chicago Convention. As yet, no group has found a solution acceptable to all states in which MBMs can be applied in a manner that can satisfy both principles.

The 2010 Assembly resolution on climate change (A37-19) requested the ICAO Council to develop both a framework for MBMs and explore the feasibility of a global MBM scheme. The expert group has concluded that the three measures it has narrowed the options down to are technically feasible but more work is required to fulfil the resolution’s requirement, said ICAO Secretary-General Raymond Benjamin.

“We have to take it step by step,” he told GreenAir Online. “I have identified the policy issues that have to be answered by the High-level Group in order for the experts to continue their work. The experts on the global scheme are to go into the quantitative analysis of the options, having now carried out the qualitative analysis. In order for them to move forward they need answers to a certain number of political issues.”

Benjamin welcomed the recent EU decision to suspend the inclusion of non-EU flights into the EU ETS. “The EU move was necessary. It was not making sense to keep hammering the fact that airlines would be fined if they did not comply by the April 2013 deadline. It was not helpful at all. The point is that the move to suspend the directive is directly linked to the progress made in ICAO.”

Despite the announcement being attributed to the recent ICAO Council meeting, Benjamin said discussions leading up to the decision to give the ICAO process a chance had been ongoing since the summer and started with a meeting he and the ICAO Council President had with European Commission President Barroso in July.

The Secretary-General is not concerned with the threat that the suspension would be lifted by the EU if sufficient progress towards a global agreement was not reached by next year’s Assembly.

“I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of our work – we will see where we stand at the next Assembly and the EU will have to make their own assessment of what they want to do. The EU ETS is not on my agenda,” he said. “Of course, it would have been even more welcome if the EU had prolonged the suspension but in any event our work is not dependent on the EU – we are working on what the Assembly instructed us to do.”

Benjamin stated that an Article 84 dispute over the EU ETS would have been unhelpful at this stage.

Despite the important focus on MBMs, work at ICAO has continued steadily on the wider ‘basket of measures’ and related activities.

According to its submission to the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which is running concurrent with the COP 18 climate talks in Doha this week, ICAO says important progress has made in the year since COP 17 in Durban to move international aviation closer to a sustainable future.

It reports that 53 member states have submitted voluntary action plans, representing 75% of global international air traffic, with additional plans expected by the end of the year to bring the representation to 85%. The ICAO Secretariat is also exploring the possibility of some groups of states developing a joint action plan.

Action plans came out of the last Assembly and are designed to enable ICAO to assess progress towards achieving the global aspirational goals of improving annual fuel efficiency by 2% and stabilising global CO2 emissions at 2020 levels, as well as to identify areas of implementation support and assistance needed by states. Last month, ICAO held a seminar to bring states and other stakeholders together to exchange information and views on the assistance required to develop and implement action plans.

Having completed the first phase, efforts will now be directed to building an overarching strategy to support states that have newly developed their action plans as well as those that need their plans reviewed by ICAO and others that need assistance in implementing the actions identified in their plans.

Work on measuring current and estimating future progress towards the achievement of the global aspirational goals is being undertaken by ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which is studying the contribution of various categories of mitigation measures such as aircraft-related technology development; improved air traffic management and infrastructure use; more efficient operations; and sustainable alternative fuels.

Estimating  and verifying the current global fuel consumption from international aviation is being carried out at the request of the last Assembly in order to regularly report international aviation CO2 emissions to the UNFCCC. In support of measuring future progress towards the global aspirational goals, the ICAO Secretariat has been compiling and interpreting data from action plans to determine a global CO2 figure, which will be integrated with the CAEP CO2 trends assessment for the period 2010 to 2050. The assessment will be finalised by CAEP in early 2013 and will help support a review by the Council of the medium-term 2020 aspirational goal as well as the exploration of a long-term aspirational goal for international aviation.

ICAO is strongly supporting the development of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation and given their proven technological viability, it says the next challenge is to enable their commercial availability in sufficient quantities. An ICAO expert group was set up in June to develop a set of policy recommendations to promote the development and deployment of such fuels for consideration by the ICAO Council in early 2013. Four key themes are being studied: policies; development and deployment; sustainability criteria and emissions accounting; and financing.

Another important area of activity has been the development of a technical CO2 certification standard for aircraft. The report to SBSTA describes it as one of the most challenging tasks in the CAEP work programme but an agreement was reached by a CAEP steering group in July. This allows CAEP to move on to the next stage of defining certification procedures and the standard’s scope of applicability, to be followed by the analysis of an appropriate regulatory limit for the standard.

As in previous reports to SBSTA, ICAO warns against taking financial resources away from the international aviation sector in order to provide funds for long-term climate change finance under consideration by the UNFCCC. It says that to achieve its global aspirational goals and effectively respond to the climate change challenge, adequate resources will be required by the sector itself.

Two reports have highlighted that international transport sectors such as aviation and shipping could make substantial contributions to climate funding agreed by UNFCCC commitments. A report by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund explored global carbon charges of $25 per tonne of CO2 that could raise $12 billion per year by 2020 from international aviation.

“It is of utmost importance that the design and implementation of market-based measures for international aviation to be treated as one element of a basket of mitigation measures to achieve the global aspirational goals, as part of a global solution for the sustainable future of international aviation, and not in isolation,” says the ICAO report.

The Secretary-General is more blunt. “I do not welcome any contribution from international aviation to such a fund,” he said. “I believe the state of the industry is a fragile one. All the figures I have seen, whether for aviation or maritime, are disproportionate to our carbon footprint.”

Despite the 15 difficult years that have elapsed since the UN agency was tasked with finding a global solution to tackle the accelerating growth of international aviation emissions, Benjamin is adamant that ICAO remains the right forum to deal with the problem. “The ones who are arguing that ICAO has been very slow on the climate change issue have to take into consideration that we have more than 190 member countries and we have to reconcile views that are totally divergent – but we are progressing.”

He does not believe that the glacial pace in global climate change negotiations on the wider UNFCCC stage impacts on moves at ICAO.

Referring to the current COP 18 talks, he said: “We would welcome any advances in Doha but we are not dependent on the UNFCCC process. We have instructions from the last Assembly to produce something that is very well defined. Civil aviation emissions have to be addressed in ICAO and we are going to do our utmost to produce an Assembly resolution in 2013.”

ICAO – Environmental Protection
ICAO 2010 Assembly Resolution A37-19 (pdf)
ICAO submission to 37th SBSTA (pdf)



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