Today, the first ever global agreement on aviation and climate change was decided upon in Montreal. The impressive achievement in forging an agreement between 191 nations should not overshadow the fact that aviation emissions remain effectively uncapped. Today’s agreement is only that growth in aviation emissions after 2020 should be offset. The EU must continue to push the international community to greater ambition, as well as look at how to strengthen its own Aviation Emissions Trading System (ETS). This should include setting a declining aviation emissions cap within the EU.

The launch of the EU’s Aviation Emissions Trading System (ETS) in 2012 forced the international community to address aviation emissions. ICAO’s new “Market-Based Measure” means aviation emissions growth will now be, for the first time, offset after 2020, within a global framework of monitoring, reporting and verification. However, real aviation emissions remain uncontrolled and spiralling upwards.

Even if the billions of carbon offsets that the system will use can be shown to be truly additional, the target of ‘Carbon Neutral Growth from 2020’ is not remotely in keeping with the Paris Agreement, which will come into force next month at COP22 in Marrakech.

ICAO’s new system has other problems. It is initially voluntary until 2027, although a large number of countries have pledged to join from 2020, including China and the USA.

The best hope for the system is its three-yearly review clause. Once the system is established, ICAO must increase its ambition, moving from Carbon Neutral Growth to real reductions in aviation emissions.

Following the ICAO announcement, Europe must act:

  • the EU must continue to push ICAO for greater action on international aviation;

  • the European Commission must come forward in December with its expected proposal to maintain and strengthen its internal aviation carbon market, whilst also working to improve this new international system.

  • the EU aviation carbon market must be made more stringent by lowering the cap on emissions: the European Parliament should accept nothing less.

Phil MacDonald, Analyst at Sandbag, commented:

“Without the EU taking the first step, we would never have had this global agreement on aviation. For now, it is only a carbon offset system, but the aviation industry needs to deliver real emission reductions if it is to play its part in the Paris Agreement. Business as usual is no longer an option for any industry.  

Now the EU must stick to its guns. It must strengthen its own aviation carbon market, continuing to push the international community to turn the global scheme into a climate policy with teeth.”