Recent developments in ECAC's environmental matters
ECAC's comments on the outcome of the 40th ICAO Assembly regarding climate change aspects
From 24 September to 4 October 2019, the 40th ICAO Assembly took place in Montreal, setting out the organisation's priorities for the next three years. It covered all domains within the competency of ICAO, which included safety and air navigation, security, environmental protection, economic matters, facilitation, legal and administrative matters.
Regarding environmental protection, the discussion was challenging, and in particular on the issue of climate change.
A few countries, notably China, the Russian Federation, and India, expressed a strong vocal opposition and required to proceed by secret vote on the endorsement of the two ICAO resolutions on climate change and CORSIA which were proposed by the ICAO Council. This is exceptional in ICAO, as recalled by the President of the Council during the meeting, who had appealed for endorsement by consensus on the basis that a large majority of States supported the resolutions.
Nonetheless, the Assembly reconfirmed its support for CORSIA by a clear majority. But the lack of consensus has demonstrated that beyond the focus on its practical implementation as well as on the finalisation of CORSIA implementation elements to ensure the intended environmental integrity, efforts will have to be redoubled in order to reinforce understanding and support for CORSIA around the world.
The commitment of the 44 ECAC States to voluntarily implementing CORSIA from its start was confirmed. Finland, on behalf of EU States, Iceland and Norway, confirmed their commitment to implementing CORSIA, while also preserving the right to pursue a higher climate ambition within the EU.
Despite interventions by China, the Russian Federation and India to undermine CORSIA, supported by interventions from a limited number of other States such as North Korea, Eritrea and Cuba, CORSIA remains a reality supported by a clear majority of ICAO States. The momentum must be maintained with active communication on the expected achievements of CORSIA, recalling that 81 countries covering 76% of global international aviation activity have already announced their participation in the pilot phase that will kick off in 14 months.
Basket measures to mitigate climate change
Discussions also covered the need to intensify ICAO's work on a basket of measures, including the production and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels as a promising way to mitigate CO2 emissions within the aviation sector.
Long-term goal for the reduction of CO2 emissions from international aviation
The debate on a long-term goal, promoted by Europe, was equally challenging, with vocal opposition from the Russian Federation, China, and India. However, significant support was voiced from various regions of the world as well as from the industry, stressing the need for prioritising work on a long-term CO2 emissions goal and its feasibility, such that options on a long-term CO2 emissions reduction goal would be considered at the 41st ICAO Assembly in 2022.
The agreement was reached at this 40th ICAO Assembly on the prioritisation of the work on the feasibility of a long-term global aspirational goal for international aviation CO2 emissions reduction, and the presentation of options, followed by a roadmap showing how the goal will be achieved. This represents an important and positive step forward, and confirms the commitment of the sector to climate change mitigation and a sustainable future by addressing the long-term impacts. Europe is fully committed to the work that will now be conducted in ICAO.
Overall, Europe went into this Assembly determined to speed up ICAO's process to establish a long-term goal for CO2 emissions reductions in the aviation sector. This was in line with the urgent need to reduce reliance on fossil fuel in light of the Paris Agreement's long-term goal (of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while also aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C) and to provide a stable framework for airline operators.
Europe remains confident that the agreement to prioritise ICAO's work on a long-term CO2 emissions reduction goal for aviation will allow for informed discussion of options for a long-term goal at the next ICAO Assembly.
Download here the ECAC's comments on the outcome of the 40th ICAO Assembly regarding climate change aspects.