Government, industry and civil society representatives at this year’s 39th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly agreed to recommend adoption of a measure to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, despite resistance from developing economies, such as China, which expressed concern that the deal would stifle development.
Other countries – including Russia, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Chile and the Philippines – will not join the scheme during the voluntary phase (2021-2027), even as the European Union and its allies sought to reduce the timeline for implementation.
The ICAO, however, was optimistic. “We now have practical agreement and consensus on this issue, backed by a large number of states who will voluntarily participate in the global market-based measure (GMBM) – and from its outset. This will permit the CORSIA to serve as a positive and sustainable contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions reduction,” said ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. CORSIA refers to Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, the first climate action agreement ever reached by the industry to reduce emissions.
Implementation of the deal will begin with a pilot phase from 2021 through 2023, followed by a first phase, from 2024 through 2026. While the early stages are voluntary, participation from 2027 to 2035 will be mandatory. Exemptions are in place for states that are unable to cope with the terms for either economic or geographical reasons.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), however, aren’t as enthusiastic as some of the signatories, citing concerns about the vagueness of the deal, which regulates participation based on market-based measures. “The deal’s coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by UN aviation body ICAO and industry, and the lack of clear rules for offsets presents a clear risk to the measure’s environmental effectiveness,” the Transport & Environment (T&E) lobby group said in a statement.
The environmental organization added that only 20 percent of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 would be offset, as the deal only applies to emissions growth.
The signing took place in Montreal, where another deal was signed between Eurocontrol and ICAO for the latter to test-run of a version of the Local and Sub-Regional Air Space Management (ASM) Support System (LARA). LARA is used across Europe to support airspace management, and ICAO hopes to expand the scope of the system.
A third agreement was reached when Airports Council International (ACI) and the ICAO signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to step up co-operation on environmental initiatives. The MOU is an attempt to align the organizations’ goals, “with the need to improve environmental-related initiatives and promote the respective capacity building at airports worldwide,” said Angela Gittens, ACI World director general.
But with air traffic expected to double by 2035, these agreements put significant pressure on participating countries, and the carriers that fly out of them. In order to maintain current levels of CO2 emissions – a goal of the CORSIA plan – the sector will rely on more efficient engines, shorter routes, biofuels and other innovations.
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