Such a commitment to carbon neutral growth post-2020 would, itself, not be enough to fulfil the goals of the Paris agreement. And the current state of negotiations suggests that any final agreement will, in any case, fall far short of even that fundamental commitment.
Worryingly, in a blatant attempt to delay vital action, ministers are set to agree that binding limits should not come into force before 2027. Until then, two ‘voluntary phases’ of the scheme are expected, allowing continued and limitless growth in aviation emissions. Furthermore, the current proposals are plagued by a large number of unacceptable exemptions that are pegging back ambition.
EU Transport Ministers attending the ICAO Assembly have a duty to make sure the global market-based mechanism is robust enough to deliver on the commitments made in Paris.
This means, firstly, ensuring the ambitions of the scheme remain dynamic, and under constant review. It is essential that the scheme includes guarantees on the environmental integrity of offsets, and that it prohibits double-counting and provides transparency on the offsets used. Secondly, the scope of participation must be sufficiently wide-ranging, and the wealthiest countries must take responsibility for their historical burden and pledge to do more to reduce emissions.
Finally, allowing regional blocs such as the EU to take further measures to curb aviation emissions is an essential part of enabling them to honour the commitments they made in Paris, especially if ICAO fails to deliver. Under EU law, international flights to and from the European Union will once again fall under the block’s emissions trading scheme from 2017. It is vital, therefore, that there are no attempts to water down this mechanism.
While the ICAO compromise is too weak to deliver what is necessary to keep temperature increases below dangerous levels, it does have the potential to deliver significant action if certain clauses are strengthened and the widest possible political engagement is secured.
This is why we must all increase the pressure on our governments to make sure they reach an agreement in Montreal that is as ambitious as possible and finally shakes aviation from its parallel universe, forcing it to take a stake in efforts to tackle our common challenges. With a Paris deal coming into action, the world cannot afford a failure in its first global attempt to put words into action.