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Fact Sheet: 191 Countries Reach a Global Climate Deal for International Aviation

October 06, 2016

Today, in Montreal, Canada, 191 countries decided to adopt a global market-based measure to reduce carbon emissions from international aviation at the 39th Assembly meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Today's action builds on last year's historic Paris Agreement and demonstrates continued American leadership and global momentum behind ambitious action to address climate change.

This global agreement addresses a growing source of global emissions that was not covered by last year's Paris Agreement. Countries agreed in Paris that the targets and policies they submitted under the Paris Agreement would not include emissions reductions from international flights. While international aviation today represents only 2 percent of global carbon emissions, the sector is forecasted to grow at around 5 percent each year beyond 2020, translating into approximately 3.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions for the period from 2020 to 2035. Without coordinated action, this growth in emissions threatens the international community's ability to meet the Paris Agreement's ambitious temperature goals and combat global climate change.

This new measure changes that. The world's nations have now agreed to an ambitious yet pragmatic approach to using market principles to constrain emissions from the international aviation sector. This measure results in a net peak at 2020 levels for covered international aviation emissions. Specifically, the peak will be achieved by setting a price on carbon emissions from the aviation sector, allowing airlines to either reduce their emissions or offset them through crediting, and allowing countries to begin participating in the effort in a staged approach. Over the life of the measure, up to 80 percent of international aviation emissions above the 2020 level would be offset with the possibility for increased coverage with additional participation. By 2027, nearly all countries with major international airlines will be included in this measure and will offset their emissions above 2020 levels.

The innovative, market-oriented nature and industry support of today's global agreement reflect a pragmatic and economically efficient approach to reducing emissions from this sector. In fact, Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, last week expressed support for this global measure because it avoids a fragmented regulatory approach and offers stability and certainty to its airlines and the entire global industry.

Today's outcome also delivers on the request in bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2012 for the Administration to conduct international negotiations to pursue a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions.

Key Elements of the Global Market-Based Measure

•      Reducing or Offsetting international aviation emissions: Starting in 2021, airlines covered by the measure will purchase emissions offset credits to account for their growth in emissions above 2020 levels.

•      Participation: The measure is designed to encourage the broadest participation possible, while providing flexibility by giving countries the option to participate from the beginning in 2021, or waiting until 2024 or 2027 for countries that have limited capacity or that need technical assistance to participate. Already, a diverse range of over 65 countries representing over 85 percent of global air traffic have decided to participate starting in 2021 – reinforcing the wide agreement that combatting climate change requires universal action from all countries.

•      Review: The measure will be thoroughly reviewed every three years to consider improvements based on experience implementing the measure.

•      Incentive for action: By putting a price on carbon emissions from aviation, this market-based measure will provide an incentive to further technology improvements, air traffic efficiency improvements, and the development and use of sustainable alternative fuels.

The decision to adopt a global market-based measure provides for the world's airlines to purchase carbon offset credits for any international growth in carbon emissions above 2020 levels. This builds on efforts being undertaken by ICAO and in the United States to reduce emissions from aviation, including the development of new technologies, such as experimental aircraft intended to dramatically reduce fuel use, emissions, and noise [hyperlink to NASA], more efficient air traffic operations, and the development of sustainable alternative fuels. The measure complements the adoption earlier this year of international CO2 standards for aircraft developed at ICAO, which set a technology standard for new and in production aircraft.

Barack Obama, Fact Sheet: 191 Countries Reach a Global Climate Deal for International Aviation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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