(Updated in paragraph 3, with adoption of the agreement)
ICAO's executive committee rejected the European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS) late yesterday, tossing out a clause from a resolution that could have allowed the bloc to extend its controversial scheme to the global aviation sector.
Following days of talks at the 38th ICAO general assembly in Montreal, the committee agreed yesterday to develop a global market-based measure scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 2020. The agreement calls on the ICAO Council, a permanent body of 36 member states elected by the assembly, to work out the technical details of such a scheme before the next general assembly in 2016.
The agreement was adopted at a plenary meeting today, the last day of the assembly.
The deal dealt a blow to the EU ETS, which had faced opposition from governments and airlines. Amendments approved by the ICAO executive committee yesterday included the removal of a clause that would allow member states to implement market-based measures that apply to flights to or from third countries that arrive in or depart from airports in those states.
Instead, the agreement now calls for member states to "engage in constructive bilateral and / or multilateral consultations and negotiations" with other states when creating new and implementing existing market-based measures. Member states will also be required to grant exemptions for applying such measures on routes to and from developing countries whose share of international civil aviation activities is below 1% of total revenue ton kilometres of international civil aviation activities, before a global scheme is rolled out.
Reports say member states voted 97 to 39 to drop the clause that would have allowed individual states to launch their own market-based measures.
European Commissioner for transport Siim Kallas said on his Twitter account that the agreement is a "good deal". "If confirmed later today, we'll have a landmark deal on global aviationemissions," he said.
USA-based non-profit organisation Environment Defense Fund (EDF) criticised the ICAO agreement for restricting countries from implementing their own market-based measures before a global solution is launched.
"A bedrock principle of international law is that nations have the sovereign right to limit pollution emitted in their borders. So ICAO took half a step backward with its attempt to narrow the ambit for countries to implement their own market-based measures to cap and cut the burgeoning global warming pollution from international aviation," says EDF's international counsel Annie Petsonk in a statement.
Climate change has been the hot button issue at the assembly, which opened on 24 September and closes today. Member states were pressed to agree on a deal on how best to curb carbon emissions in the aviation industry, after the European Commission "stopped the clock" for a year in November 2012 on implementing the ETS among airlines. Prior to this, the first payments from airlines which exceed their carbon emission allowances under the EU ETS would have been due in April 2013.
When it stopped the clock, the EC warned it could revive plans to implement the EU ETS for airlines if the ICAO assembly fails to reach a consensus.