Mon 9 Oct 2017 – The participation of all countries in ICAO’s global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme is needed for it to be fully effective, a senior UNFCCC official told industry leaders at last week’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva. Even then the sector’s aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 levels would not be enough to reach the Paris climate agreement targets, said Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN climate change agency. However, he commended the aviation industry’s 2050 reduction target and called on ICAO to up its own long-term ambitions. Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of ICAO’s governing Council, told the conference that a steering group of ICAO’s CAEP environmental committee had finalised recommendations for new CORSIA regulations and the UN aviation agency was working with the UNFCCC on eligible emissions units for the scheme.
In a keynote address, Sarmad said the success of the Paris Agreement would “depend on the combined efforts of every man, woman, child, government, business and industry – including the airline industry.”
While under the Agreement and its Kyoto Protocol predecessor only emissions from domestic aviation were taken into account, “climate change knows no borders nor does it have an opt-out clause,” he said.
“That’s why we welcome the decision of ICAO to implement the first global carbon market-based mechanism – CORSIA – to stabilise emissions at 2020 levels. CORSIA is the world’s first market-based measure for dealing with climate change from any industrial sector. This alone is significant and represents a much-needed step forward in ensuring that international aviation will be part of the solution to climate change.
“Nonetheless, we feel the long-term goals of ICAO need further improvement in order to be in line with the Paris Agreement. Remember, we set ourselves the target to stay well below 2 degrees C of global temperature increase. To reach it, science tells us that emissions must peak as soon as possible and we must achieve climate neutrality in the second half of this century.
“The aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 is therefore a good start, but these levels will not be enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s targets. Simply put, we need more ambition.”
Sarmad noted the aviation industry had accepted responsibility with a more ambitious target to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
“This is the kind of ambition that every government should be happy to support the aviation industry to achieve,” he said. “Therefore, in addition to ICAO upping its long-term ambition for aviation overall, we need more member states joining CORSIA.
“The industry has pushed to get CORSIA implemented for more than six years but, as of September, only 72 member states out of 191 have volunteered to be part of its first phases. Let’s be clear: this represents close to 88% of international activity and 80% of emissions growth above 2020 levels – but the participation of all member states is needed for it to be fully effective.”
In the period leading up to the start of CORSIA, he said, clear guidelines on emissions units needed to be set, for example to avoid double-counting, and he encouraged airlines to take early voluntary action to reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
“The early actors will have the benefit of having complete systems, experience and a good understanding of what climate action means for their companies. There are significant benefits for airlines to benefit from learning-by-doing.”
ICAO’s Dr Aliu said the agency was “fully engaged” on the full implementation of CORSIA and was “very hard at work” on its regulatory framework. The Steering Group of its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) had recently finalised recommendations for the new Volume IV of Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention containing proposed Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for CORSIA, he reported.
“These are now being reviewed simultaneously through the ICAO Air Navigation Commission and the Council Advisory Group on CORSIA, and they are expected to be finally adopted by the ICAO Council by mid-2018. The related applicability date is presently being targeted for January 2019,” he told delegates in his keynote speech.
The SARPs would be complemented with standardised templates, guidance and tools for what he described as “robust and transparent” monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of international aviation CO2 emissions, which he said was crucial to the overall effectiveness of CORSIA. ICAO is currently developing a CO2 Estimation and Reporting Tool (CERT) to help simplify MRV procedures.
Recent reports have suggested a difference of opinion by certain states at ICAO on who should determine which emissions units are eligible under the scheme that airlines may use. However, Dr Aliu said that as it had been requested by its Assembly in 2016, the responsibility would rest with ICAO.
“One thing we should be very clear about in this context is that relationship between ICAO and the UNFCCC process,” he said. “We have a very good partnership with the UNFCCC Secretariat, by exchanging information and expertise of mutual interests, while respecting the specific mandates of each organisation.
“In considering carbon credits, special attention will be given to those credits generated from the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, as agreed by the Assembly, but our goal must be to make sure that reliable credits will be purchased by international aviation, without the possibility of them being used for double counting by other sectors. I expect good progress in the UNFCCC process, so that ICAO can take into account the relevant developments in our decision on eligible emissions units for CORSIA.”
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