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  • ICAO decides CO2 standard: Airbus and EU credibility on the line

    ICAO’s CAEP (environment) committee meets in Montreal this week to decide on a global CO2 (fuel efficiency) standard for new aircraft. The standard has been 6 years in the making and is intended to require aircraft manufacturers to produce new aircraft after an agreed date in the 2020s with a design fuel efficiency better than that which would have happened without the standard. These design fuel efficiency improvements would generate real “in sector” emissions reductions as opposed to ICAO’s plan to use offsets in its global MBM under development which would see aviation emissions unaffected and the “heavy-lifting” done by other sectors of the global economy.

    The main challenge for the standard is to effectively regulate the duopolist manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, which produce only aircraft weighing over 60 tonnes, which account for over 90% of all aircraft capacity flying and which generate over 90% of global aviation emissions.  Smaller volume manufacturers are involved but their aircraft’s impact on global emissions, while important also to reduce, is minimal. Already commercial imperatives have seen a 60%+ improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency over the past 60 years – the fact being a new less fuel-efficient aircraft will never sell. The objective of the standard is to accelerate this improvement. Improvements are harder to generate these days but the analysis shows it is technically feasible and while there are incremental costs for manufacturers, the fuel burn reductions for airlines (and CO2 emissions reductions) remain compelling.

    Past & extrapolated fuel efficiency NT

    Work on the standard and indeed in CAEP in general is conducted under strict confidentiality rules which can work against good environmental outcomes. If proprietary manufacturer or airline data is needed, there are sensible ways to protect this information without restricting all discussions, many of which are essentially political in nature. It is therefore fortuitous that the public now has access to the various proposals on stringency for the standard being considered by CAEP this week. They are available on the European Parliament’s website (link) as part of a briefing for the European Parliamentary delegation to CAEP whose credentials have been refused because ICAO deems CAEP to be a technical not a political meeting. CAEP has considered 10 stringency options (SO)s from 01 to 10 in ascending effect. Two standards are being considered; one, NT, for completely new aircraft types (e.g. a “Boeing 7M7” or an Airbus A390) and the other, inP, for in-production aircraft (derivative e.g. neo or stretched versions of aircraft flying today; e.g. a B787-10 ultra-long range or A350-1100). The NT standard might apply to all new types certified in 2020 (and therefore flying by say 2024) while the inP standard might apply from around 2024 and first affect new inP around 2028. The stringency options were set on the basis that they would not require technologies more advanced than those already flying on aircraft in 2016.

    Given that CAEP decisions are said to be technical ones, it is surprising to see the very wide range of stringency preferences put forward by the main players in CAEP.

    For NT greater than 60 tonnes:
    The NGO coalition ICSA, of which T&E is a member, opts perhaps not surprisingly for the highest stringency SO10 which equates to technologies flying on aircraft in the 2015 -2025 timeframe.
    The US opts for SO9 which equates to technology already flying on aircraft 2010-2015
    The EU position starts at 7+ whose technology was already seen on aircraft flying in 2001-2007.
    ICCAIA, the manufacturers (Boeing/Airbus etc) opt for SO6, technologies first seen on aircraft flying 1997-2002.
    All this for aircraft that are not expected to be launched before 2024.

    For inPs greater than 60 tonnes, the NGOs are again at SO10.
    The US is at SO8-9 – technology seen flying 2005-2015
    The EU starts at 6+; technologies already flown 1997-2002.
    ICCAIA proposes SO2 which is a technology level first reached in the early 1980s.

    NGOs have already written to the CEO of Airbus objecting to the company’s complete lack of ambition towards the standard, as demonstrated by the ICCAIA position, which has severely weakened the EU’s position and threatens the standard having any environmental impact.

    IATA apparently did not make a specific proposal on SOs, but the parliamentary briefing notes that IATA “criticises the entire economic analysis and opposes a standard for CO2 as a whole”.

    Agreement on a high stringency for NT and particularly for inP aircraft over 60 tonnes which emit over 90% of all aviation CO2 is imperative if the standard is to have any environmental effect. Any other outcome would not constitute a technical decision but a political calamity for ICAO and Europe.

    Position of various states and observers regarding minimum CO2 stringency: