COP18 & international transport

UNFCCC Conference Doha 2012There was no progress on international transport at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 18 / CMP 8 at Doha, Qatar. No decision was taken on addressing emissions from international aviation and maritime transport, and no specific reference was made to innovative financing from them. Sectoral approaches, including emissions from international transport, were one of the many issues discussed at the Conference, but proved to be an area in which the positions of the major developed and developing countries were too distant to find a compromise.

The AWG LCA track where international transport has been discussed since 2007 has now been terminated. The work program on Long-Term Finance (LTF) was extended for one year, and thus potential financing from international transport may be discussed there. Addressing emissions from international transport may be discussed under the ADP track at some stage, in particular to raise the pre-2020 emission reduction ambition.
In 2013 further discussions on this topic are expected in the respective dedicated organizations, namely at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), including through the ICAO’s High-level Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (HGCC). Progress in the ICAO would likely help achieve progress in a similar debate in the IMO. However the gap between the Parties’ positions is significant and cannot be underestimated.
We participated actively in the conference, and held an official side event on the Rebate Mechanism (RM).

Conference key details, and acronyms

    The UN Climate Change Conference 2012 in Doha, Qatar was held from 26 November to 8 December 2012, and comprised:
  • the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 18);
  • the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8);
    as well as meetings of five subsidiary bodies:
  • the thirty-seventh session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37);
  • the thirty-seventh session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37);
  • the second part of the seventeenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17);
  • the second part of the fifteenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 15); and
  • the second part of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP 1).

The decisions adopted are available at the COP 18 / CMP 8 web page.
For more details see a summary of the Conference published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Outlook for carbon pricing of international transport

No decision was taken on the sectoral approaches and international transport at Doha, while the AWG-LCA was terminated after being extended three times (it was established in 2007 for two years), alongside the AWG-KP. Given the uncompromising positions of the developed and developing countries on sectoral approaches, it seems unlikely that this topic will be negotiated separately and successfully closed in the near term at the UNFCCC. However, international transport can be discussed under the ADP negotiations at some time, in particular regarding raising mitigation ambitions in the pre-2020 period.
Both the IMO and ICAO will very likely continue to work on various approaches to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international maritime transport and aviation, including carbon pricing. However, the lack of progress at Doha, and in particular the lack of signal on whether and how to address the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC convention in the area of international transport may negatively impact discussions in both organizations. However, given that the debacles at both organizations on global approaches to address GHG emissions intensified last year, if greater political will is shown by major countries, progress can be made in 2013.
In the IMO, the resolution on technical co-operation relating to energy efficiency of ships has not been completed over the last two sessions of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) – some solution is likely in 2013, and the discussions on market-based measures could then proceed.
More progress may occur at the ICAO in 2013, given the recently established HGCC . This group aims to find a political way forward, including on carbon pricing of international aviation and on the controversy around the inclusion of international aviation in the EU ETS in 2013. Progress in the ICAO would likely help achieve progress in a similar debate in the IMO.

Our activities at Doha

At Doha our focus was to advance the understanding and political acceptance of how to operationalize equity between different countries through compensatory transfers or rebates, as proposed in the Rebate Mechanism (RM); in particular regarding the generic RM add-on option that may be integrated with any type of proposal for carbon pricing of international shipping (and aviation).
In addition to various in-depth discussions, we held a well attended official side event entitled “Ensuring fair and effective carbon pricing of international transport” on November 27, 2012. At the event the recent additional analytical work on RM was also presented and debated, including on impact of long trading distances.