FlightPath 1.5 Campaign Analysis: Progress and Unresolved Tensions Emerge at UN Aviation Agency’s High-Level Meeting to Develop Effective Plan to Cut Aviation Global Warming Pollution
After a three-day High-level Meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN’s aviation agency, divisions between nations over how to share the benefits and burdens of pollution cuts in the international aviation sector continue to threaten prospects for an agreement to limit these emissions.
The current version of the draft proposal for a global market based measure that emerged from the May 11-13 ICAO High-Level Meeting, risks a high profile failure at its September assembly of delegations if council members are unable to bridge key differences quickly. The current text falls short of what is needed to meet ICAO’s own targets. As it currently stands, the text fails to meet the long-term temperature goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, including limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
ICAO’s High-level Meeting last week yielded progress in some areas while delaying decision on, or worsening, other parts of the draft text being negotiated. Of particular concern, Singapore’s proposed “pre-implementation phase” of the market-based measure must be designed to ensure that ICAO meets its 2020 emission goal, not to delay effective action on aviation emissions.
Solid progress was made in two areas:
- Offset criteria: Countries intend for the offset criteria to be reflected by ICAO as standards, whereas before it appeared they would only be established as guidance. This is something FlightPath 1.5 NGOs have advocated for the past several months.
- Reviewing the MBM and aligning it with the Paris Agreement: The review clause in the text of the market-based measure has greater detail and now explicitly calls for consideration of the necessary improvements to have the aviation industry contribute its fair share towards the long-term temperature goals in the Paris Agreement.
But some issues remain unresolved:
- Emissions covered under the MBM: On the question of who will be covered by the program, delegates took a big step backward. Going into the talks, they considered a formula that would have exempted countries representing 33% to 40% of the program’s offset requirements in the first five years. By week’s end they exempted even more, representing around 50% of all aviation emissions from the same period. As the negotiations continue over the coming months, delegates must search for a way to make up to this gap if ICAO is to meet their own 2020 emissions goal.
- Differentiation of airline offsetting obligations: At the meeting delegates ultimately sidestepped the crunch issue of how to divide up emissions-cutting responsibilities, with deep divisions remaining between slow growing and fast growing aviation states. There have been multiple references to exploring how to increase the coverage of international aviation emissions and thus increase the environmental integrity of the MBM.
As the Council enters June meetings and in bilateral discussions, countries must work together to explore how to come to an agreement on crunch issues like differentiation and how to make up the current emissions gap, so ICAO is able to meet their own 2020 emissions target.
With less than 140 days remaining until October 2016, ICAO’s deadline to finalize the global MBM, ambitious action must be taken to curb the aviation industry’s growing climate impact, with pollution from the sector forecast to triple in coming decades.