By John Parnell
There are fears that major emerging economies are pressing to make commitments to tackle emissions from the aviation sector voluntary.
Brazil, South Africa, India and China – also known as the ‘BASIC’ countries, released a joint statement from a meeting last Saturday stating that any deal must involve “voluntary participation”.
Talks to establish a global agreement to cut emissions from aviation are ongoing. The sector accounts for less than 5% of global emissions buts its contribution is rising.
The EU backed down from applying its own system to all airlines at the end of 2012, following immense pressure led by China and India.
“I wouldn’t say they are steering toward a necessarily weak outcome, but towards an outcome that is on their terms,” WWF aviation expert Mark Lutes told RTCC.
“In any negotiation parties, especially these parties, take a tough and uncompromising starting position that leaves them space to show flexibility on some aspects as the negotiations evolve,” he added.
Aviation and shipping emissions were shifted from the UN climate talks (UNFCCC) to their respective UN bodies, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Developing countries, including the BASIC group are not opposed to sector-specific approach to emission reductions, but have been negotiating hard on the issue of aviation.
Following a meeting of environment ministers from the four major emerging economies, their statement reiterated their position on aviation.
“The discussion on market based measures in ICAO, even if these market based measures are undertaken within the national jurisdiction, should be based on the principles of the UNFCCC, environmental integrity, voluntary participation and not prejudge the outcome of the negotiations in the UNFCCC,” it read.
This final line also appears to suggest that no globally inclusive emissions deal should occur for the sector prior to the establishment of the broader agreement negotiated through the UN.
The Durban Platform set of negotiations are scheduled to conclude in 2015 with a global deal to come into force in 2020. This condition would leave an aviation deal on greenhouse gases way behind the EU deadline at the end of this year.
The EU has said it will resume the inclusion of international airlines without the ICAO deal, which could lead to serious trade disputes if nations opt not to comply.
After almost 10 years of discussions at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the EU included all airlines in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in August 2012.
Any flight landing or taking off from EU airports was required to account for 15% of its emissions with ETS credits. The inclusion caused uproar and was revoked in November 2012 on the condition that a legally binding global deal was agreed through ICAO.
The EU was accused by the of negotiating “with a gun on the table” by Andrew Herdman, director general of the Asia Pacific Airlines Association following the announcement that it would stop the clock on international airlines’ inclusion in its own scheme.
The EU insists it only wants to see an effective deal in place as soon as possible.
”We need to move beyond the voluntary and aspirational into something concrete that demonstrates real commitment to address this issue,” an EU spokesperson told RTCC.
The ICAO General Assembly, which meets every three years, will be held in September and is the last opportunity to fix a deal within the EU timeline.
Developing countries are afforded some protection be the UNFCCC’s founding principles which ensure that climate action is proportionate to each nation’s ability to respond and their responsibility for historical emissions.
The BASIC group’s statement also reiterated the need to maintain the differentiation between rich and poor nations during talks in 2013 and repeated calls made at the Doha summit for a roadmap from to chart how the 2020 climate finance target of $100bn a year will be met.
14th BASIC Joint Statement in full