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ICAO makes progress towards a global market-based measure to limit CO2, but Resolution snubs European ambition for early action

8th October, 2013

The International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO’s) 38th Assembly concluded with the adoption of a Resolution on international aviation and climate change setting out a programme of further work to develop a global market-based measure (MBM), aiming for a decision at the next Assembly in 2016. But with little consensus amongst states on some key issues the decision was far from straightforward.

After nearly two weeks of negotiations the text represents a fragile compromise between those calling for the urgent progress on the introduction of a global MBM, including the EU, industry and the NGOs (represented at the Assembly by ICSA, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation), and the concerns of developing countries about how to accommodate their special circumstances and respective capabilities.

ICAO – charged with addressing aviation’s growing emissions.

Progress on a global MBM was essential to the future of aviation’s inclusion in the EU emissions trading system (ETS). Having “stopped the clock” for a year to focus on the ICAO negotiations, the EU had signalled that action towards a global MBM would allow it to show flexibility in the interim period, potentially scaling back the coverage of the original ETS to emissions within the EU’s regional airspace. But despite going into the Assembly with a draft Resolution text that reflected an airspace approach and provided for generous thresholds for exemptions, the meeting voted in favour of an alternative text proposed by a group of countries, including Russia, India and China, requesting states implementing MBMs to consult and agree with all states whose carriers will be affected, irrespective of the proposed coverage. This process could potentially delay the introduction of any national or regional MBM, perhaps indefinitely, and is in stark contrast to recent scientific evidence demonstrating the climate benefits of taking early action. While the Resolution is not legally-binding, the EU was forced to lodge a reservation against this clause.

AEF Director, Tim Johnson, who attended the Assembly as part of the ICSA delegation, said “It’s been a difficult fortnight with polarised, deeply-held positions to reconcile, so the emergence of an agreement to proceed with work on a global market-based measure is to be welcomed. However, these words need to be matched by actions, and we expect more ambition and results from ICAO over the next 3 years to deliver an effective proposal in 2016. At the same time, it has been disappointing to see the continued opposition to the EU’s attempts to take early action to reduce emissions, especially when EU States came to this meeting willing to show flexibility and seeking a solution”.