COP 21 and Aviation – looking to ICAO

Following the remarkable international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, attention is now turning to the practical implications and challenges of the deal.

One common criticism of the deal is that aviation and shipping were excluded from the deal.

But as my colleague Richard Gale wrote last week, aviation has its own UN-based organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), leading very specific technical discussions designing and developing market based mechanisms for reducing aviation emissions:

This agreement would be the first of its kind for the Aviation industry – ever since ICAO was designated responsibility to tackle Aviation emissions by the Kyoto protocol in 1997.

Whilst progress since then has been at time slow, the positive progress made over the last 3 years means the Aviation industry is confident of a historic deal this time next year.

Including aviation in the COP 21 deal would have duplicated more advanced ICAO efforts while distracting delegates from other areas requiring negotiation (ie should there be legally binding commitments for countries such as China and India).

Also, as the FT points out, the Paris deal provides an internationally agreed framework within which all countries operate: it is deliberately designed to be “a work in progress” that binds us all to the same goals:

Inevitably, the deal remains a work in progress….The commitments beyond 2020 are vague.

Paris is not the end of the matter. It is not even the beginning of the end. The problem will not be solved for years to come. The treaty does however provide a sensible foundation for international co-operation. This opens the door to greater ambition over time. Now a viable path lies before them, countries must show the courage and foresight to take the next crucial steps.

In this context, the ICAO process for aviation should then be seen as a significant step in the wider effort to reduce emissions.