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ICAO to discuss limiting the EU emissions trading system but where’s the global deal?

19th September, 2013

During an event earlier this month at the European Parliament in Brussels attended by AEF’s James and Tim, leading MEP Dr Peter Liese and senior Commissioner, Jos Delbeke, announced that aviation emissions in the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS) could soon be limited to the region’s airspace. This marks a huge concession to US demands for a reduction in the geographical coverage of the regional market based measure (MBM). The event took place on the same day as the ICAO Council met to agree on a draft resolution for the forthcoming Assembly. The resolution proposes that States can implement MBMs in their own airspace, but require the agreement of other States if they wish to extend the coverage.

The text of the resolution will now be reviewed by member states of the ICAO Assembly at the end of this month. However, the current text makes limited progress on a global measure and suggests that further work is needed before a decision at the next Assembly in 2016. Deferring a decision until 2016 effectively means that the international community has taken a step backwards in its attempts to curtail the aviation industry’s rapidly growing emissions. This also comes at a time when scientists, the industry and NGOs are all calling for international action immediately.

The original extent of the EU ETS covered all flights into and out of the European Union. But the international fallout from the scheme, predominantly from the US, India and China,  led the EU to suspend it for a year in October 2012 (under the “stop-the-clock” exemption where only emissions of intra-EU flights were included). A year on, it was expected that there would either be serious progress on a global deal or the EU would reinstate the full EU ETS. The likely outcome of the ICAO Assembly means that the EU ETS will fall way short of its original coverage. In fact, limiting regional schemes to sovereign airspace means that even if all 191 ICAO states joined such a scheme, only 22% of international emissions would be covered. In other words, the impact such regional measures could have on reducing aviation emissions is negligible.

The huge reduction in coverage of the EU ETS and the lack of progress towards a global deal is particularly worrying given the findings of a recent report which showed how big an impact a global market based measure could have. A global MBM introduced now could reduce the climate change impacts of aviation by over 30% by 2050.

The urgency for international action is why AEF and other NGOs will be calling for a firm commitment to introduce a global measure by 2016 at the upcoming ICAO Assembly.  We outline this in a joint commentary piece written by AEF’s James with Bill Hemmings from Transport & Environment on Green Air Online.

The ICAO Assembly takes place between the 24th September and 4th October in Montreal, Canada. Tim will be representing civil society as a lead representative of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA). James will be providing regular updates on progress at the Assembly. If would also like to receive these updates, please contact James on: