ICAO strikes deal on aviation CO2 standards, focus turns to market mechanism

Published 23:33 on February 8, 2016  /  Last updated at 00:03 on February 9, 2016  /  Aviation, Climate Talks, International  /  No Comments

Government negotiators at a two-week ICAO meeting on Monday agreed to global CO2 standards for newly-built planes from 2020, but they included loopholes that mean it will take until 2028 before all manufacturers’ models are forced to comply.

Government negotiators at a two-week ICAO meeting on Monday agreed to global CO2 standards for newly-built planes from 2020, but they included loopholes that mean it will take until 2028 before all manufacturers’ models are forced to comply.

The agreement on CO2 standards is the first in the UN aviation body’s twin-track approach to climate action, with a deal on a 2020 cap on all aviation emissions and a market-based mitigation measure aiming to be agreed later this year.

Standards for planes of all sizes were unanimously recommended by the 170 officials on ICAO’s technical-level Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, and they must now be approved by its 36-state Governing Council, ICAO said a statement.

For large planes representing the bulk of emissions, ICAO said the new standards would apply to new aircraft designs from 2020 and for new deliveries of current designs from 2023 and staggered over five years.

The standards set a 36% emission reduction target for new designs and a 33% cut for current designs, Reuters reported, citing two unnamed sources.

“The goal of this process is ultimately to ensure that when the next generation of aircraft types enter service, there will be guaranteed reductions in international CO2 emissions. Our sector presently accounts for under 2% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions, but we also recognize that the projected doubling of global passengers and flights by 2030 must be managed responsibly and sustainably,” said ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.

Aircraft typically have 25-30 years of service, meaning it would take many years before the majority of planes in operation would meet the standard.

The deal came during the second week of ICAO’s meeting at its headquarters in Montreal.

It was welcomed by environmental groups EDF and T&E as a positive first step by the sector in addressing its climate impact but others said it was too weak because it represented business as usual for the vast majority of new planes.

“Having more efficient aircraft take to the sky can help airlines begin to slow aviation’s skyrocketing climate pollution,” said Annie Petsonk of EDF in a statement, who said ICAO’s work must now shift to the “real prize” of capping and driving down aviation emissions via a market-based measure.

“These standards set the bar embarrassingly low, ensuring that almost all aircraft will already meet the requirements well before they go into effect in 2023,” said Sarah Burt of Earthjustice, which, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, said would mean the US administration was likely to come under legal pressure to propose stronger airplane standards under its Clean Air Act.

ICAO intends to complete talks on the market mechanism, the second part of its climate strategy, in September, before both elements are rubber-stamped by the body’s General Assembly in October.

By Ben Garside – ben@carbon-pulse.com

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