ICAO stuck in bunker

24 May 2012

SBSTA missed yet another opportunity yesterday to take action on bunker fuels (i.e. fuels used for international transport). At 3.5 per cent per year, emissions from aviation constitute the fastest growing greenhouse gas emission sector worldwide. Yet they are not included in Climate Convention (CC) or Kyoto commitments, Parties do not have to report on them and they are tax-free. This clearly is an outrage.

After years of dithering, and a damning IPCC report on the harmful effects of air transport, the body nominally responsible for the regulation of international aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organistation (ICAO), announced yesterday it would be a good idea to have a cap and trade scheme for aviation emissions – provided it is “an open one across economic centres”.

What ICAO has overlooked is that advanced plans for such a scheme already exist. It is known as the Kyoto Protocol emissions trading scheme. It already has agreed on caps (obviating the need to negotiate new ones) and it enables participants to trade across all economic sectors except, at present, international aviation and marine transport.

A golden opportunity was thus missed. All that was needed yesterday was for SBSTA to have a short debate on the allocation of emissions from international transport to individual countries. (The debate could have been very short because there is only one practical option: allocation of emissions to the point of sale of the fuel.) ICAO could then have agreed to include aviation-related emissions under the Kyoto cap.

Seriously, ICAO just had its assembly and only meets every three years. Unless Parties to the CC decide the allocation and cap issues in the next SBSTA, we could wait long and hard for a solution to be found in ICAO. Even then, discussion in ICAO is likely to get bogged down in disputes amongst vested interests – those are much more entrenched than in SBSTA.

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