The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) intends to adopt a global market-based mechanism to reduce emissions from international aviation at its 2016 meeting. A series of regional workshops – Global Aviation Dialogues, or GLADs – over the month of April will put political discussions on this process into the next gear. Given the slow pace and lack of ambition so far, the upcoming GLADs will provide the opportunity for EU countries to start aligning positions to ensure that a future mechanisms does what it is set out to do and is not merely a greenwash for the aviation industry.
At its most recent triennial meeting, in 2013, ICAO adopted a number of measures, including an efficiency improvement for aviation of 2% per year, a global CO2 standard and an aspirational pledge to stop emissions growth at 2020 levels from 2020 onwards, through offsetting from emissions reductions in other sectors. A global market-based mechanism (GMBM) is seen as the main means to achieve this latter goal, although real emissions reductions will be needed in order to stay within the remaining global carbon budget.
It’s welcome to see the aviation industry developing measures to limit its on-going rapid growth in emissions. It is, after all, now a mere eighteen years since ICAO was requested to do so by Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The background process to develop this mechanism is well under way. There are crucial areas that will define whether the eventual GMBM is fit for purpose and actually does offset the aviation industry’s CO2 emissions. Like for any other offsetting mechanism, these include additionality, avoiding double counting, permanence and leakage. It should be in the interest of the aviation industry to mitigate reputational risks that may arise by claiming offsets that don’t even meet the minimum requirement of having actually caused emissions reductions at any point or are associated with other environmental and social risks.
Sustainability considerations beyond just the CO2 emissions including the choice of project types allowed to generate offsets for the aviation industry are therefore essential. However, discussions on establishing a negative list to filter out substandard offset types, such as coal power projects, are expected to be tough and will require strong support from EU countries.
With roughly a year to go for the expected decision on the GMBM, discussions will now enter into the next gear with a series of regional workshops – Global Aviation Dialogs, or GLADs – over the month of April, which will take place in Lima, Cairo, Nairobi, Singapore and Madrid. These seek to build capacity on MBMs, provide updates on progress to date on the GMBM and gain Member States’ feedback.
Establishing a GMBM will be an important first step for the aviation industry in tackling its greenhouse gas problem. As we move towards the more political phase in its development, even this step will require real political will from Member States to ensure that the GMBM does what it set out to do and is not merely a greenwash for the industry.