Brace for ICAO Emissions Scheme This Year

 - June 16, 2016, 3:31 PM

With a general agreement hashed out earlier this year on a basic CO2 emissions standard for aircraft, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is now turning to one of the most politically difficult issues surrounding the implementation of such a standard: the use of market-based measures.

In February ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) formally recommended the emissions standard, paving the way for adoption by the full ICAO Governing Council and General Assembly later this year.

The standard itself has captured mostly support from aviation groups, which said it underscores the industry’s commitment to addressing climate change. But debate surrounding market-based measures (MBMs), or levies on emissions output, largely remained quiet during the development of the CO2 standard. With a standard on the cusp of being finalized, ICAO recently assembled a “High Level Meeting” to begin the dialog on how to use MBMs to implement the CO2 standard.

 The meeting, held just before EBACE, did not result in a specific solution; working groups are expected to hash out details over the summer in time for a fall meeting, said NBAA COO Steve Brown.

During the meeting, Europe’s controversial EU-ETS plan continued to draw support from European representatives. But individual states within Europe also acknowledged the need for a global approach. Numerous other nation participants also backed a global approach, as did the aviation community.

On the eve of the meeting, industry groups gathered for a Global Sustainable Aviation Forum where they collectively agreed to a statement on the global approach. “The minimization of market distortion is a key issue for operators and states and, as such, any offsetting mechanism must have a globally agreed set of rules for monitoring, reporting, compliance and the use of emissions units,” the industry statement said. “Unless ICAO adopts standards and guidance in these areas on a global level, both governments and industry will be faced with regulatory fragmentation, creating unnecessary costs, administrative burden and unacceptable risks of market distortion.

“Understandably, there are questions about the cost of such a global offsetting mechanism to the economy at large and how this might affect connectivity around the world. Indeed, the absence of such a globally agreed mechanism will lead to a costly and cumbersome patchwork of different policy measures, adversely affecting economic development by reducing connectivity, trade and tourism.”

Business Aviation Doing Its Part

Among those signing the statement was Kurt Edwards, director general for the International Business Aviation Council. During the Global Sustainable Aviation Forum, Edwards also outlined the business aviation community’s position. As the states work to establish a global MBM, he said, “the industry’s demonstrated willingness to contribute as well as its roles as generator and facilitator of global economic activity must be kept in the forefront of ICAO’s efforts. The business aviation community is doing its part to contribute.”

He added that the community would be willing to participate in a global MBM initiative “that is administratively simple, recognizes the diverse range of international aircraft operators, and is fair.”

As these deliberations continue, the business aviation community will continue to watch closely, European Business Aviation Association CEO Fabio Gamba told attendees at the opening general session of EBACE. This year, he commented, “will be the year of an [emissions] scheme. We don’t know how, we don’t know when and we don’t know who yet, but we do know this is coming and we need to prepare ourselves in the best possible way.” He added that under the leadership of IBAC, the business aviation community “will work hard to put forward solutions that are equitable, proportionate and fair.”

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen echoed those sentiments, calling emissions one of the most significant issues of this year, and said the associations together are working with manufacturers, operators and regulators to ensure policy leaders “understand the unique aspects of business aviation.”