Jan 11 2013 - by Dr. Armand de Mestral, McGill University
Of all the members of the international community the members of the EU have been the first to take up the challenge of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For some years the EU scheme excluded civil aviation - said to be responsible for 3% of all emissions, but in 2008 the EU acted to extend the scheme to civil aviation; after waited a decade for ICAO to adopt a global ETS scheme, the EU proceeded unilaterally on January 1, 2012 to impose a scheme applicable to all civil aviation in and out of EU territory.
Even before the scheme entered into force, cries of indignation were heard around the world. Opposition reached a crescendo with the adoption of a 27 state declaration in early 2012, strong statements of opposition from India and China in the same year and the adoption of legislation in December by the US Congress prohibiting participation by US airlines. In the face of all this opposition Commissioner Hildegard announced in December 2012 that the EU was "stopping the clock" temporarily in oder to give ICAO a chance to develop an international scheme.
The controversial ball is now in ICAO's court. ICAO has announced the formation of a "high level working group" to review possible approaches to the planning of a global ETS scheme. Several approaches are reported to be under review: 1) a Global Mandatory Offsetting Scheme, 2) a Global Mandatory Offsetting Scheme with a Revenue Generating Mechanism, 3) a Cap-and-Trade System, and 4) Baseline and Credit Systems.
The first practical deadline will be the convening in late September 2013 of the triennial ICAO Assembly of its full membership of 192 states.
Seldom has the EU's position as an international actor been put to a more severe test as the EU purports to be fulfilling its mission to be a good environmental citizen of the world by respecting the Kyoto Protocol. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the EU, as a non-state actor, cannot be a member of ICAO, even though it has become the principal regulator of civil aviation in Europe and, as such, the second most important regulator of civil aviation in the world.
The next months will be a crucial test both for ICAO and for the environmental diplomacy of the EU.
Dr. Armand de Mestral is Emeritus Professor and Jean Monnet Professor of Law at McGill University in Montreal. For his more in-depth analysis please contact him via email.
Dr. de Mestral is part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, within the Economic Cooperation and Competition research group of the Canada-EU Transatlantic Dialogue.