Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The future of aviation emissions regulation: From EU to ICAO?

The European Union has decided to place a hold on its directive requiring all commercial airlines, including non-EU airlines, to participate in its emissions trading scheme. Per the “Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council derogating temporarily from Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community,” the EU has agreed to withhold the implementation of its Aviation Directive for non-EU airlines. The decision is based on developments at a recent meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), where members agreed to work towards a framework for regulating emissions from the aviation sector by the Fall 2013 General Assembly meeting.

The EU decision is conditional on ICAO establishing a market-based mechanism that would reduce emissions by at least as much as projected under the EU ETS; that is non-discriminatory; and that sets reduction targets for all ICAO member countries. Absent such a result, the EU has indicated that it will begin to implement its directive on non-EU airlines. In effect, the EU appears to be demanding a measure that is comparable to its own directive.

 The question is whether the ICAO can succeed in bartering a new agreement that is based on global consensus. ICAO has been engaged in identifying climate change impacts from airline emissions for nearly a decade now and has encouraged its 190 members to take and report voluntary measures to reduce airline emissions, by 2050. The EU’s expectation appears to go beyond voluntary action.

 Thus far, ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) has agreed on a CO2 metric system to measure emissions from aircrafts operating with different technologies. Members have now agreed to consider a regulatory framework establishing CO2 standards. It must be approved by other members before it can be adopted by the Council. Much depends on the ability of nations to arrive at a consensus. The report is available here

If members do broker such a deal, it may be a signal to approach the problem of climate change differently—by negotiating measures through existing organizations. Such a move in any case may not be undesirable, considering the fact that early reports suggest lack of adequate leadership at the Doha climate meeting, particularly with the EU facing some setbacks because of the EU debt crisis.



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For all the criticism the EU has taken for the Directive, it may ultimately be viewed as doing us a big favor if it successfully gooses the ICAO, whose emphasis to date has been on voluntary approaches that have proved abjectly feckless. Aviation emissions, especially if one also factors in non-CO2 GHG emissions, are growing extremely rapidly. Now let's see if the IMO can also get its act together!

Posted by: Wil Burns | Dec 2, 2012 7:30:36 AM

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