COP21: China expresses "serious concerns" over ICAO global measure to limit growth of aviation emissions

COP21: China expresses "serious concerns" over ICAO global measure to limit growth of aviation emissions | COP21

Wed 2 Dec 2015 – In a statement presented yesterday at the COP21 climate conference in Paris, China expressed its displeasure over a key element of the global market-based measure (GMBM) currently under development at ICAO. The Strawman proposal drawn up to provide a potential framework for the main structure of the GMBM is not compatible with the UN climate differentiation principle (CBDR), says a statement by China to SBSTA, the UNFCCC technical and scientific body dealing with international aviation and shipping emissions. Another statement by Argentina on behalf of a number of developing States, including China, Brazil and India, plus groups of African and Arab countries, said the CBDR principle had to be fully respected by ICAO on climate issues and measures should not constitute hidden restrictions on international trade.


China’s statement to the 43rd session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which is running alongside the main climate negotiations at COP21, says that while it supports addressing aviation emissions under ICAO’s ‘basket of measures’, it had serious concerns on the carbon-neutral growth from 2020 goal (2020 CNG) and the GMBM Strawman proposal put forward by the ICAO Secretariat. The Strawman, which remains an internal ICAO document, is intended to guide and stimulate discussions taking place within the governing ICAO Council-appointed Environment Advisory Group (EAG). It was drawn up after the last ICAO Assembly (A38) in 2013 when States agreed to develop a GMBM for a decision on implementation to be taken at the next Assembly (A39) later in 2016.


“The ICAO 2020 CNG is not feasible and lots of States have reservations on it,” says China. “The Strawman proposal is not in line with the CBDR [common but differentiated responsibilities] principle, acknowledged by the ICAO Assembly and reaffirmed by the new UN global Sustainable Development Goals. The proposal, with aircraft operators as the accountable entities, cannot take into full consideration the national realities and circumstances of States, particularly those of developing States. Some technical aspects of the Strawman proposal [are] not feasible, particularly for developing States.”


The statement invites ICAO to carry out more analysis and assessment work on the feasibility and legitimacy of the proposal in line with the MBM guiding principles listed in the annex to the climate change resolution (A38-18) passed at the last Assembly. It calls on ICAO to report the results to the next meeting of SBSTA, which is due to be held in May 2016. However, according to ICAO’s timetable for an agreement on the GMBM, a draft proposal is expected to be in place before then and presented to Member States for consideration in April, followed by a high-level meeting of governments in the middle of May.


China has also backed the statement by Argentina to SBSTA, which is supported by Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, Iran, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, the African group of countries and the League of Arab States. These countries too call for further technical analysis of the current proposals, “in particular in terms on how they take into account the special circumstances of developing States and address the concerns presented by parties before taking further steps forward, following Resolution A38-18. The work in ICAO should also remain Party-driven, transparent and inclusive.”


The statement also affirms that any market-based measure should only be implemented after bilateral and/or multilateral agreement and on the basis of mutual consent, with countries respecting ICAO decisions and not resorting to unilateral action. At the last Assembly, many of the countries supporting the statement voted against a proposal that would have allowed the European Union to unilaterally include all aviation emissions taking place over European airspace within its EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).


The developing countries named also stress the need for ICAO to operate the differentiation principle – which is at odds with the ICAO principle of equal treatment of all countries and their airlines – in the design of the GMBM. Provision should also be ensured, it adds, of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building support to developing countries for them to be able to voluntarily undertake specific action plans and measures.


“In this way, the ICAO discussions should not prejudge UNFCCC principles and provisions,” they conclude.


By contrast, a statement from Luxembourg on behalf of EU Member States calls for ICAO to step up its work to address and reduce international aviation emissions and for UNFCCC Parties to agree on global sectoral emission reduction targets for the aviation and shipping sectors and to develop policy frameworks to achieve them.


“The EU is fully engaged in discussions to develop a robust GMBM to tackle international aviation emissions in order to achieve carbon neutrality from 2020,” it says. “Our expectation is to have this mechanism agreed in the 2016 Assembly, and allow for its implementation by 2020 as it was agreed in 2013.”


The statement notes the EU is financing a capacity-building project to mitigate international aviation emissions that ICAO is implementing in 12 developing countries in the African and Caribbean regions.


A further statement by China and the G77 group of countries calls for activities relating to international aviation and shipping emissions and reporting by ICAO and IMO respectively to be kept within SBSTA, “avoiding any attempts to include [them] in the ADP”. Although the inference is not clear, this could signal an attempt by these countries to have the paragraph referring to aviation and shipping emissions removed from the final climate agreement (see article). Contact groups are now working to refine and reduce the content of the current draft Paris Climate Package by the end of the week before it is handed over to the French COP21 presidency and scrutiny by environment ministers next week.




UNFCCC – Paris COP21 Information Hub


Update 9 Dec 2015:


After the first week of negotiations over the text of a draft Paris agreement, a revised version was presented on 5 December for work this week and contained the following heavily bracketed paragraph relating to international aviation and shipping emissions:


{International transport emissions}

20. [Parties [shall][should][other] pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively, with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.]”

2nd update 9 Dec 2015:


A new, slimmed-down version of the draft Paris agreement released this afternoon has removed all reference to international aviation and shipping from the text. Transport NGOs have been quick to condemn the removal, saying attempts to keep a temperature increase to under 2ᵒC would be “close to impossible” and called on States to reinsert language on the two sectors into the agreement.



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