International aviation is a major and fast-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite on-going discussions for over 15 years within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) there exists no legal instrument which addresses the limitation and reduction of emissions of the international aviation sector globally, even though emissions have grown to the point where aviation represents an estimated 4.9% of global radiative forcing. Further, aviation activities are being under-charged from an environmental perspective. Yet there is high potential to reduce these emissions globally, beyond the energy efficiency measures being developed and considered under ICAO. Carbon pricing would be an effective means of addressing this situation and can be applied fairly and equitably.
The current year – 2013 – is a crucial year for decisions on the adoption of market-based mechanisms to address aviation emissions. The European Commission proposed in late 2012 a one year “stop the clock” exemption, temporarily deferring enforcement of the obligation of aircraft operators in respect of incoming and outgoing flights under the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) to give a final chance for the adoption of a global approach through a multilateral process under ICAO. In late 2012 the ICAO Council created a High Level Group on Climate Change to provide political impetus towards agreement on measures to address GHG emissions, including a global market-based measure (MBM). The highest decision making body of ICAO – its triennial Assembly – is meeting in September/ October 2013. Since it only meets every three years it is essential that an ambitious global MBM for addressing the sector’s emissions is agreed upon at this year’s Assembly.