What Does Britain’s COP26 Plan Mean For The Aviation Industry?

As the host of COP26, the United Kingdom is trying to bring countries together in an International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition. Its aim would be to limit aviation emissions to levels compatible with the Paris agreement and consolidate positions ahead of the ICAO Assembly next year. While such a deal would not be legally binding, it could serve to psuh governments to help facilitate the development of emerging technologies.

Britain COP 26 aviation impact
The UK is gathering support for an international aviation climate coalition ahead of COP26. Photo: Getty Images

Many believe that COP26 will be the last chance for nations to get their acts together to keep climate change under relative control. With the event in Glasgow fast approaching, Britain yesterday announced a plan to raise ADP for ultra-long-haul, framed as a form of carbon emissions taxation policy. However, this is not the only aviation-related measure the UK has in its sights, as it seeks sector-specific commitments at the upcoming conference.

Pushing for 2°C

According to a draft document obtained by Reuters, the UK is asking COP26 participating countries to push for a global target to cut aviation emissions to levels compatible with the Paris Agreement.

This means that emissions would need to be curtailed enough for temperatures not to rise more than 2°C by the end of the century (or in the best-case scenario, aiming for 1.5°C). The Paris Agreement makes no provisions for specific sectors. As such, if the UK can get enough signatories to its proposed aviation coalition deal, it would be a first.

The COP26 host is pushing for states to join an “International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition.” Its purpose is to strengthen resolve and coordination ahead of the ICAO’s Assembly coming up in 2022. Signing the deal would mean that countries would commit to supporting ICAO climate goals compatible with net-zero emissions by 2050.

China southern A380 crosses a bridge in front of the setting sun
Chinese carriers are expected to push against forceful climate targets at the ICAO Assembly next year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Searching for signatures

The ICAO is not a regulatory body. However, its norms are generally respected by national aviation administrations. Furthermore, an official target may prove a good bargaining chip when convincing governments to provide incentives for investment in emerging technologies and sustainable aviation fuel.

The UN’s Secretary General, António Guterres, is pushing for the ICAO to adopt stricter climate measures at its 41st Assembly set to take place next year. However, there are fears of pushback from China as its airlines wanted to see net-zero by 2060 rather than 2050 when IATA recently announced its industry-wide mid-century target. A source familiar with the UK’s planned COP26 aviation deal told Reuters that,

“If Brazil, Russia, India, or China signed on to it, that would be a very big deal. It would make it far more likely to get a good deal at the (ICAO) assembly.”

Rolls Royce, Trent 1000, Sustainable Aviation Fuel
A signed agreement from COP26 and the ICAO could push states to invest more in SAF and other emission-reducing technologies. Photo: Rolls-Royce

The draft document did not specify which countries would be joining the coalition. A response from the EU27 is expected later this week, and the US has also engaged in talks. Furthermore, the document stated that “a broad range of states in other world regions have been contacted to sign the declaration, with some positive responses.”

What do you think the UK’s proposed coalition could achieve? Will China sign it? Leave a comment below and let us know.