ICAO agrees on net-zero emissions by 2050, India secures concessions

India and other Afro-Asian countries secured a significant concession as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) adopted a resolution on net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While the ICAO general assembly on Friday approved a resolution on the long-term aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero, member states also recognised that special circumstances and capabilities of each country will influence the outcome. These factors will determine the ability of a country to achieve the target within its own national timeframe. States also supported the call for financial and technical support to developing countries for accelerated use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Both these concessions were pushed by India with the support of other countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia etc.

“Countries have achieved some tremendous and very important diplomatic progress at this event and on topics of crucial importance to the future sustainability of our planet and the air transport system which serves and connects its populations,” said ICAO secretary general Juan Carlos Salazar in a press release.

According to ICAO, the net-zero targets will rely on the adoption of new aircraft technologies, streamlined flight operations and the use of SAF. The net-zero resolution also calls for the establishment of a climate finance initiative and voluntary technology transfer for developing SAF.

While European countries stressed on net-zero by 2050, India stressed on the principle of equity. India argued that the aviation sector in developing countries will be seeing high growth whereas in developed countries it has already peaked or is very near to peak levels leading to very slow growth. Given the importance of aviation to GDP growth, developing countries should be allowed carbon space to achieve growth. India also said the LTAG should not lead to non-tariff barriers on international routes

In May civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia met representatives of ICAO member states in Canada to convey India’s stance and rally support. The minister also highlighted ongoing pilot studies in SAF and carbon reduction mechanisms at airports in India. Further discussions were held on the sidelines of the general assembly and these helped broker a resolution.

“By grouping with other Afro-Asian countries, India managed to build a counterbalance to Europe,” an official quipped.

At the ICAO general assembly states also carried out a review of the aviation carbon offsetting mechanism. The review was necessitated due to a 60 per cent drop in emissions in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The baseline for emission calculation and offset targets have been revised due to changed circumstances.

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