I must confess that the detail of aviation environmental policy is not my area of expertise. Nevertheless, it’s a substantial subject and one of immense importance. It’s best to note that environmental policy advances at international, regional and national level. To be truly effective the framework for environmental policy must be adopted within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
This year is an important year for ICAO. It’s an Assembly year. Every 3-years an Assembly comprised of all Member States of ICAO meets in Montreal. During the first 75 years of its existence, ICAO has made an indisputable contribution to the development of worldwide civil aviation. However, at previous Assemblies, ICAO has had immense problems reaching a consensus on environmental issues.
In the European Union (EU) its agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) actively contributes to the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) which develops and maintains the international standards for aircraft noise and emissions.
With Brexit looming, it remains to be seen what, if any role the UK will have in the future in the development and maintenance of environmental standards for aviation. That said, there’s more to aviation environmental policy than technical standards. There’s a useful European Aviation Environmental Report that explains the various mechanisms that are being worked on with respect to aviation environmental policy.
One of the most controversial, for obvious reasons is that of market-based measures. Market-based measures are mechanisms designed to tackle the climate impact of aviation, beyond what operational and technical measures or sustainable aviation fuels can achieve.
In October 2016, the 39th Assembly of ICAO States reconfirmed the objective of stabilising CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels. From November 2018, 76 ICAO States volunteered to offset their aviation emissions from 2021 and this represents three quarters of the international aviation activity.
In Europe, the approach has been to adopt an Emissions Trading System (ETS). ETS and offsetting schemes both address aviation emissions but differ in how they work. Currently, only flights between airports located in the European Economic Area are included in the EU ETS legislation. For the UK, the implication being that, post-Brexit it will no longer be covered by such EU legislation.
The UK Government is proposing statutory instruments, or secondary legislation on ETS before the exit date of 29 March 2019. In the event of a disorderly (“No Deal”) exit from the EU, the UK would not have an agreement in place to continue participating in the EU ETS. The UK would therefore leave the EU ETS on exit day. The UK’s future approach to carbon pricing is to consider a range of options, including continuing to participate in the EU ETS, a UK ETS (linked or standalone) or a carbon tax. If the far-right UK Conservative European Research Group (ERG) further get their hands on power there may be no measures on climate change at all.
This lack of clarity and direction are not helpful for aviation operators who need to plan. With all the time that has passed since the vote it’s sad that all we know is the date of exit and even that is in question.