Thu 4 Jun 2009 – The Group on International Aviation Climate Change (GIACC) set up by ICAO to develop a global action plan to curb international aviation emissions concluded its task last week with its fourth and final meeting in Montreal. The outcome, according to ICAO, is an “aggressive” plan which would see a “significant improvement” in fuel efficiency of the world’s civil aircraft fleet, with GIACC recommending a global aspirational goal of 2% annual improvement to 2050. GIACC members failed to agree on the application of market-based measures and suggest the ICAO Council takes on further work to develop a framework.
The 2% efficiency gains represent a cumulative improvement of 13% in the short term (2010-12), 26% in the medium term (2013-2020) and about 60% in the long term (2021-2050) from a 2005 base level.
“This plan reflects the strong commitment of States to cooperate on specific actions and measures required to tackle the urgent issue of climate change,” commented Roberto Kobeh González, President of the ICAO Council. “I am certain that the recommendations of the GIACC, once implemented, will establish the framework that will allow ICAO to respond effectively to any future global agreement on climate change.”
The GIACC recommendations include no reference to a global sectoral approach or a target for achieving carbon-neutral growth as proposed by IATA, the international representative body for airlines. They will be even more disappointing to NGOs and climate change stakeholders, who are pressing for absolute reduction targets from the air transport sector.
However, they reflect the difficulties faced within the 15 members of GIACC which had representatives from developed and developing States that had to reconcile the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with those of non-discrimination and equal and fair opportunities to develop international aviation contained in sister UN agency ICAO’s charter.
No consensus could be found on a global market-based measures approach such as a sectoral emissions trading scheme or an international levy on fuel. Instead, GIACC recommends “that the ICAO Council establishes a process to develop, expeditiously, a framework for market-based measures in international aviation, taking into account the conclusions of an ICAO high-level meeting on the subject to be held from 7 to 9 October and the outcome of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, in December.”
Under the GIACC proposals, each State would retain its authority to choose from a portfolio of greenhouse gas reducing measures “appropriate to its circumstances” and consistent with the global aspirational goals. This portfolio includes a basket of measures that a GIACC working group has developed. These cover aircraft-related technology development, including advances in aircraft design and drop-in biofuels; improved air traffic management and infrastructure use; more efficient operations; and also economic, market-based and regulatory measures.
States would be “encouraged” to develop and file with ICAO individual action plans for coordination and, where needed, for assistance. GIACC recommends that ICAO continues to develop and update guidance to States on the adoption of the measures, including specific initiatives to assist developing countries, as well as access to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building.
In order that its proposed action plan is effectively implemented, GIACC recommends that ICAO should have an enhanced global coordinating role “in line with its responsibilities and consistent with the Kyoto Protocol for managing emissions from international civil aviation.”
ICAO is also requested by GIACC to:
· undertake to develop a CO2 standard for new aircraft types;
· facilitate the reporting by States of their traffic and fuel consumption, through technical assistance, particularly to developing countries;
· monitor and report progress on aspirational goals on a triennial basis to the ICAO Assembly and identify any adjustments that may be required; and
· establish arrangements for further work, as required, building upon the GIACC report in the lead-up to the 2010 ICAO Assembly.
A spokesman for IATA told GreenAir Online the 2% fuel efficiency goals were achievable “as long as governments play their part”, for example in upgrading the air traffic management infrastructure, and said the basket of measures was in line with IATA’s four-pillar strategy.
“We are also pleased that the ICAO process will continue look at market-based measures for international aviation. IATA is clear it wishes to see a global sectoral approach and we would like to see ICAO push forward on some proposals as soon as possible.”
The GIACC report will be considered in more depth during IATA’s Annual General Meeting about to take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said: “While the GIACC recommendations live up to its unambitious terms of reference, we are nevertheless hugely disappointed that the GIACC could not find any consensus on what we believe to be the cornerstone of any climate strategy – a base year for measurement, a target for reduction (in absolute terms) and identification of global mitigation measures that many in the industry called for to avoid a patchwork of regional measures.
“Instead, the recommendations appear to support States taking what they consider to be the most appropriate action. The aspirational fuel efficiency goals of 2% per annum out to 2050 need to be put into context: over the last decade or so the global fleet has improved its efficiency at or close to 2% per annum. The commitment is no more than a signal to maintain an existing trend, and while we recognize that gains get harder with time, it nevertheless fails to send a convincing message, especially when set against future traffic growth predictions.
“The recommendations clearly fall short of global expectation. However, while they will form the basis of the input to ICAO’s high level meeting in October, States still have the opportunity to propose more ambitious text – we hope they take it.”
With the publication of the report (link below), the group’s work is now effectively over, although the ICAO Council must formally declare GIACC’s mandate completed at a meeting later this month. The report will then be reviewed before being submitted to the high-level meeting in October.
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