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Global Aviation Climate Deal Concludes With Mixed Results, Aviation Environment Federation comment

6th October, 2016



Tim Johnson, +44 (0) 77 1038 1742 // //

James Lees +44 (0) 20 3102 1509 //

Global Aviation Climate Deal Concludes With Mixed Results, Aviation Environment Federation comment

Montreal — An overwhelming majority of countries agreed to take a first step to address emissions from international aviation by adopting a global market-based measure (GMBM) for the sector.

However, in the same week that the Paris Agreement crosses its crucial threshold to enter into force, countries sent a worrying signal by deleting key provisions for the aviation agreement that would align its ambitions with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Commenting on the landmark deal, Tim Johnson, Aviation Environment Federation Director and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said:

“Viewed globally, this is a landmark deal that addresses a gap in the plan to deliver the Paris Agreement, namely how to tackle the soaring emissions from international aviation. But there are gaps in coverage and many issues still to be decided that will determine its effectiveness.

“We urge ICAO and states to view the goal of keeping net emissions at 2020 levels as the start of a process. ICAO will now need to show strong leadership to strengthen the goal overtime in line with the effort to deliver Paris.

“But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act. With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020.

“The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”

Aviation emissions are projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget by 2050, highlighting the urgency of reaching an agreement to tackle airline pollution. AEF recognizes the agreement as a hard-fought political compromise to see that aviation contributes its fair share in the climate change fight, but critical work remains to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation.

The UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreement to establish a GMBM contains some good provisions and a number of troubling elements that need improvement to reflect ICSA’s longstanding recommendations to strengthen the GMBM:

Positive Elements Negative Elements
The three-year review clause and its connection to the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals in the GMBM resolution, though this connection was substantially  weakened in the accompanying climate resolution adopted by ICAO provisions. The GMBM, falls short of the goals of carbon neutral growth from 2020, Paris Agreement goals, and the industry goal of halving emissions from 2050.
The mandate that emissions unit criteria (EUC) and monitoring reporting verification (MRV) modalities be reflected as standards by ICAO. A lack of public commitment that insists offsets and alternative fuels credited under the GMBM must have high environmental integrity.
A solution to the difficult issue of dividing up offsetting responsibilities. No explicit text mandating that emissions reductions are not double counted.  
Explicit text on the importance of avoiding double-counting of UNFCCC emission reductions.   Lack of clear provisions on ensuring transparency of the process for finalizing the GMBM


ICSA’s current analysis of the resolution text and the commitments from more than 60 countries to join the first phases of the GMBM suggests that the measure will cover an estimated three quarters of international aviation’s expected emissions growth between 2021 and 2035. Although this falls short of ICAO’s own target of carbon neutral growth from 2020, the anticipated coverage would be 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions, provided the emissions criteria to be elaborated allow only high quality carbon credits. Importantly, the integrity of the agreement’s emission reductions depend on rules not yet in place.

ICSA welcomes that more than 60 states have so far stated their intent to participate in the measure from the beginning. However, it is critical to expand coverage of the measure given the shortfall between what was agreed to at the assembly and the goal of stabilizing emissions at a 2020 level and the need for further action. ICSA urges ICAO member states to use the resolution’s review clause to ratchet up ambition over time. It is also important that states and regions, especially developed and fast-developing ones, adopt additional measures to mitigate aviation’s climate impact.

ICSA is committed to ongoing engagement to ensure a high level of environmental integrity, broad participation, and a transparent process. ICAO member states should work to align the reduction of aviation climate impacts with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets. ICSA will maintain pressure as discussion on the EUC and overall implementation continue, which will need to stand up to public scrutiny.



Tim Johnson, +44 (0) 77 1038 1742 // //

James Lees +44 (0) 79 8177 2962 //


The Aviation Environment Federation is the only national NGO campaigning exclusively on environmental impacts of aviation including noise, air pollution and climate change. We represent community groups around many of the UK airports in our work to secure effective regulation of the aviation industry at national and international levels 

The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) works to reduce pollution from air travel. As a network of nonprofit organizations representing millions of members, ICSA is the only environmental civil society group accredited as an observer by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN standard-setting body for international air travel.