1. Background

1.1. What is ICAO?

A specialized agency of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was created in 1944 to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world. It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security and facilitation, capacity and efficiency, economic development and environmental protection, amongst many other priorities. The Organization serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 191 Member States. 

1.2. What is the contribution of aviation to climate change?

Aviation (both international and domestic operations) is estimated to be responsible for approximately two percent (2%) of global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. International operations account for approximately 65% of total aviation emissions, and net annual CO2 emissions from international operations were 448 Mt in 2010. Aviation has consistently invested in better aircraft technology and the improvement in efficiency of air transport operations. Significant technological progress has been made in the aviation sector, with aircraft produced today being about 80 per cent more fuel efficient per passenger kilometre than in the 1960s. Total aviation emissions, however, are forecasted to grow in the coming decades. Projected total annual improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency of the order of 1–2% are expected to be largely surpassed by traffic growth of around 5% each year, leading to a projected increase in emissions of 3–4% per year.

1.3. What is ICAO doing to address aviation’s impacts on climate change?

Environmental Protection is one of the strategic objectives of ICAO. Work in this area has been undertaken by ICAO since the late 1960s, first focusing on the establishment of international policies and standards related to aircraft noise, but gradually expanding to other subject areas such as local air quality and climate change.

In October 2013, the 38th session of the ICAO Assembly adopted Resolution A38-18, which constitutes the consolidated statement of continuing ICAO policies and practices related to climate change. Under this Resolution, the ICAO Assembly resolved that ICAO and its Member States with relevant organizations would work together to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net CO2 emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level (so-called “carbon neutral growth from 2020”).  The Assembly also defined a basket of measures designed to help achieve ICAO’s global aspirational goals. This basket includes: aircraft technology; operational improvements; sustainable alternative fuels; and market-based measures (MBM). MBMs are one of the measures in the basket of measures that can respond quickly to the need for emissions reductions.

1.4. What is a “market-based measure”?

An market-based measure (MBM) is a policy tool that is designed to achieve environmental goals at a lower cost and in a more flexible manner than traditional regulatory measures. Examples of MBMs include levies, emissions trading systems, and offsetting.

1.5. Why is ICAO developing a global MBM?

Following a decision of the 38th Assembly, ICAO is developing a global MBM as part of a basket of measures for addressing the contribution of international aviation to climate change. Measures other than a global MBM include aircraft technology (e.g. winglets), operational improvements (e.g. improved air traffic management) and sustainable alternative fuels. The aggregate environmental benefit achieved by these other measures, however, will be insufficient for the sector to reach its aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. An MBM is the cost-effective and complementary way for international aviation to meet its aspirational goal as part of the basket of measures.

2. Schedule for developing a global MBM for international aviation

2.1. What is the schedule for developing a global MBM?

Under Resolution A38-18, the ICAO Assembly requested the Council (a governing body responsible to the ICAO Assembly), with the support of ICAO Member States, to conduct work and to report the results of this work for decision at the next 39th session of the ICAO Assembly, which is scheduled to be held from 27 September to 7 October 2016. Within this mandate, the Council will:

a) finalize the work on the technical aspects, environmental and economic impacts and modalities of the possible options for a global MBM scheme, including on its feasibility and practicability, taking into account the need for development of international aviation, the proposal of the aviation industry and other international developments, as appropriate, and without prejudice to the negotiations under the UNFCCC;

b) organize seminars, workshops on a global scheme for international aviation participated by officials and experts of Member States as well as relevant organizations;

c) identify the major issues and problems, including for Member States, and make a recommendation on a global MBM scheme that appropriately addresses them and key design elements, including a means to take into account special circumstances and respective capabilities, and the mechanisms for the implementation of the scheme from 2020 as part of a basket of measures which also include technologies, operational improvements and sustainable alternative fuels to achieve ICAO’s global aspirational goals.

2.2. What has been achieved since the adoption of Resolution A38-18?

Since the adoption of Resolution A38-18 in October 2013, ICAO has actively engaged with its Member States and relevant organizations in the development of a global MBM scheme. The Council has established the Environment Advisory Group (EAG), which is composed of 17 Council Representatives, taking into account geographical representation, as well as representatives from invited organizations. The EAG, under the direction of the Council, is overseeing all the work related to the development of a global MBM scheme and, based on the results of its deliberations, makes recommendations to the Council.

The EAG is supported in its technical and analytical work by the Council’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which is a technical committee responsible for environmental matters.

To date, a series of analyses requested by the EAG and the Council on the impacts of different approaches for a global MBM design have been undertaken by CAEP. Work on technical aspects of the global MBM (e.g. monitoring, reporting and verification; emissions units criteria and registries) has also been undertaken by CAEP to make recommendations to the tenth meeting of the CAEP in February 2016.

2.3. What is the role of the GLADs in the development of a global MBM?

The Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) are the response to the ICAO Assembly’s request in Resolution A38-18 for the Council to organize seminars and workshops on a global scheme for international aviation. They aim to allow for well-informed deliberations on a global MBM scheme at the next 39th session of the ICAO Assembly  from 27 September to 7 October 2016.

The GLADs are a forum for information and exchange of ideas, rather than a forum for decision-making. The main objective of the GLADs is to reach out to those States that are not directly engaged in the Council, the EAG or the CAEP in order to facilitate information and engagement.

2.4. How many GLADs will there be?

The first round of five GLADs was held in 5 venues across the ICAO regions was organized throughout April 2015. Total of 362 participants from 79 different States and 22 different International Organizations participated in the first round of GLADs.

Second round of GLADs are being organized  from 20 March to 8 April 2016. GLADs will be held in Cairo, Dakar, Indonesia, Netherlands and Mexico

3. Design of a global MBM for international aviation

3.1. What is the goal of a global MBM?

The goal of a global MBM is, as part of a basket of mitigation measures, to help international aviation achieve its aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards.

3.2. How will a global MBM work?

Under the current discussion in ICAO, the level of international aviation emissions in 2020 represents the basis for carbon neutral growth from 2020, against which emissions in future years are compared. In any year after 2020 when international aviation emissions exceed this baseline, this difference represents the sector’s obligation for that year. This obligation is then distributed among aircraft operators, and each operator will be responsible for addressing its share of this obligation.

How this obligation will be distributed among aircraft operators, and how each operator may address its share of this obligation, are the main matter being considered.

3.3. What are “adjustments and exemptions”?

Adjustments and exemptions refer to possible design features of a global MBM that may be incorporated to address particular circumstances of States or operators. Examples of adjustments and exemptions might cover: fast growers (aircraft operators with a high emissions growth rate); early movers (aircraft operators with high fuel efficiency); new entrants (aircraft operators that commence an aviation activity falling within the scope of a global MBM); exemptions for services to lowest emissions States; and technical exemptions (operators with low CO2 emissions from international aviation per year, aircraft with low Maximum Take Off Mass (MTOM), humanitarian, medical and firefighting flights).

3.4. When would obligations under a global MBM come into force?

Obligations for addressing emissions under a global MBM are expected to come into force in 2021. Obligations in other areas, such as monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions, may come into force before this date.

4. Technical aspects of a global MBM for international aviation

4.1. Does a global MBM apply to domestic flights?

No. A global MBM will apply only to international flights. Emissions from domestic flights are within the authority of the relevant country to address.

4.2. Which emissions are addressed in the scope of a global MBM?

CO2 emissions are addressed in the scope of a global MBM, accounted for in metric tonnes of CO2.

4.3. What is “MRV”?

The purpose of the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions is to collect data on international aviation emissions annually and compare emissions against the baseline level of emissions. Components include the monitoring of fuel use and calculation of CO2 emissions, the reporting of emissions data as a basis for establishing the annual obligation, and the verification of emissions data to ensure completeness and avoid inaccuracies. A sub-group of the CAEP is currently elaborating MRV procedures.

4.4. What are “emissions units criteria”?

The global MBM scheme calls for international aviation to address its emissions through the acquisition and redemption of emissions units that represent emission reductions achieved outside of international aviation. It is therefore essential that these emissions units correspond to emission reductions with high environmental integrity (e.g. they are real, permanent, additional and verified) and are not being used for any other purpose. A sub-group of the CAEP is currently elaborating criteria for the eligibility of emissions units.

4.5 What is “a registry”?

“Registry” refers to the institutional, legal and operating infrastructure designed specifically to ensure

efficient and transparent recording of emissions units, reportable emissions, compliance actions and to ensure accountability and environmental integrity. A co-ordinated registry structure design where different systems can “talk” with each other and have common technology, rules, and operational processes is being discussed for the global MBM. This option builds on the registries that already exist in a number of States. A sub-group of the CAEP is currently working on design elements of a co-ordinated registry structure.

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