EU's main tool to fight climate change too weak

The International Civil Aviation Organisation last week set up a global standard to cap CO2 emissions. But a lot of detail remains to be cleared before a final decision in September.

The Foreign Affairs’s Council stated very broadly, on February 15, that the COP21 agreement in Paris “represents an ambitious, balanced, equitable and legally binding agreement,” adding that its implementation “must remain particularly for climate diplomacy priority for the EU.”

At the same time, the 28 EU foreign ministers welcomed “the negotiations in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to address greenhouse gas emissions.”

The European Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete tweeted “Moving from words to deeds.”

Last week, in Montreal (Canada), an agreement was reached within the ICAO on the first global standard to cap CO2 emissions by aircraft.

The European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said “this agreement is an important step to curb aviation emissions. An ambitious climate policy is an integral part of the Commission’s plan to create an Energy Union, and a priority of the new Aviation Strategy.”

The ICAO agreement aims to save up to 650 million tonnes between 2020 and 2040.

According to the ICAO, the agreement will particularly affect long-haul aircraft that weigh over 60 tonnes and which “account for more than 90 percent of international aviation emissions.”

Jakub Adamowicz, Commissioner Bulc’s spokesperson, said that the impact on CO2 emissions can be efficient on this category of aircraft.

“What is really important is that we are taking steps for different aircrafts types,” Adamowicz said.

“The biggest aircrafts like the A380 or the [Boeing] 777, these are the ones where the reductions will be the most – and why? Because the biggest growth would be in intercontinental travel and these machines have still a lot of efficiency potential. So that is where the big amount of the reductions will occur,” he explained.

The ICAO mentioned that the “emissions standard would not only be applicable to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, but also to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023.”

Tricky deal to find

The new environmental measure was recommended by the 170 international experts on the ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP).

But British MEP Julie Girling, from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group /ECR), said that reaching a global market measure won’t be easy, with nearly 200 states involved.

“It is across the world and that is why it makes it so tricky, of course, because you know sometimes it is tricky here in Europe for doing it for 28 member states, so imagine doing it for nearly 200,” Girling explained.

“But it has to be global. International air transport cannot be regulated on a piecemeal basis and if we don’t have the bones over a global dealing place, we would be looking putting on a regional dealing, and that is not really in anybody’s interest.”

Whereas she welcomed the Montreal agreement and believes it is a step forward, Girling stressed that plenty of work remains and some details need to be clarified.

“Some of the details, of course, we need to see and we haven’t yet seen, for example: if it is going to be an offsets scheme? What’s the quality of the offsets? What is the quality of the credits? That is something which we cannot have a view on at the moment and we won’t know until a little bit later on in the process,” Girling said.

This agreement will be politically endorsed at the ICAO’s 39th general assembly in September 2016 and it is expected to be formally adopted by the ICAO Council in early 2017.

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency