Highlights from COP28: showcasing ICAO’s achievements in climate change

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Every year the Conference of the Parties (COP) brings together representatives from States that have joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The UNFCCC is an international treaty aimed at addressing climate change and its impacts, COP meetings are held to measure progress and negotiate multilateral responses to climate change.

COP meetings play a crucial role in shaping global climate policy and agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. They provide a platform for countries to set emissions reduction targets, share information on climate-related initiatives, and work towards international cooperation on climate change. The decisions made at COP meetings have a significant impact on the global response to climate change.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UNFCCC, was held from 30 November to 13 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emi. ICAO participated in COP28 to showcase the results of the Third ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) that was also held in Dubai on the week prior to COP28.

During CAAF/3, the international aviation sector took a massive leap to accelerate its decarbonization, just one year after the Long-term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) of Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050 was adopted in 2022 by the ICAO Assembly, in support of the Paris Agreement temperature goal. For a summary of CAAF/3, click here.

COP28 provided a tremendous opportunity for ICAO to engage with and outreach the international community and stakeholders working on climate change, regarding the recent achievements made by ICAO and its Member States in addressing emissions from international aviation towards its clean energy transition en route to Net-Zero 2050.

Envoy of ICAO Secretary-General to UNFCCC COP Ms. Jane Hupe delivering ICAO statement at SBSTA

On 30 November 2023, at the opening session of the Plenary of the Fifty-ninth session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 59), ICAO provided its Statement under the SBSTA Agenda item on “bunker fuel” (emission from international aviation and maritime transport), highlighting the historical outcomes of CAAF/3.

The Statement was delivered by Ms. Jane Hupe,  Envoy of ICAO Secretary-General to UNFCCC COP, and is shared here. ICAO also provided its written Submission for consideration by the Conference, which later agreed to continue the consideration this agenda item in future sessions. ICAO’s Submission to SBSTA59 is available to download here.

On 2 December 2023, the President of the ICAO Council, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, participated in the COP28 High-level Presidency Roundtable on Energy Transition, which was held as part of the World Climate Action Summit. Sciacchitano informed the leaders on the outcomes of the CAAF/3, particularly the adoption of an ICAO Global Framework for Aviation Cleaner Energies

President of the ICAO Council, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, participated in the COP28 High-level Presidency Roundtable on Energy Transition

“The adoption of the Global Framework sends a clear signal to the international community on the continued leadership of ICAO in addressing emissions from international aviation. ICAO remains fully committed in leading the sector’s efforts towards supporting the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement”, expressed ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano in his remarks to the High-level Roundtable.

President Sciacchitano further explained to high-level participants that the Framework provides clarity, consistency and predictability to governments, public and private investors, industry and fuel producers, on policies, regulations, implementation needs, and investments required to scale up the development, production and deployment of aviation cleaner energies.

Also that day, ICAO organized a side-event in partnership with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) with panelists from States and industry stakeholders together to address the theme of “Innovation and clean energy for international aviation and shipping”. President Sciacchitano opened the event with introductory remarks presenting the release of the ICAO Video on Aviation’s Clean Energy Transition highlighting the results of CAAF/3, as well as the launch of the ICAO Special Report on International Aviation Clean Energy Transition.

COP28 High-level Presidency Roundtable on Energy Transition

This ICAO/IMO/IRENA joint side-event presented how policies developed through ICAO and IMO as two specialized agencies of the United Nations. They explained how they are promoting the clean energy transition for international aviation and shipping sectors, in support of the Paris Agreement temperature goal.

The side-event highlighted how the development and deployment of cleaner energy, and the associated implementation support to States and green financing, will define the pathway towards reducing carbon and GHG emissions from these two sectors.

The side-event was moderated by Jane Hupe, who also provided an overview of the recent achievements made by ICAO in addressing carbon emissions from international aviation.  Progress in decarbonisation in international shipping was presented by a video message of IMO Secretary General, Mr. Kitack Lim, and by IMO Technical Officer Mr. Camille Bourgeon.

Roland Roesch of the IRENA highlighted the technology and innovation pathway for the achievement of the transitions in both sectors based on IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook.

The side-event was also complemented by industry and civil society perspectives, with presentations from Mr. Haldane Dodd, Executive Director, Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), Mr. Nelson Mojarro, Head of Innovation and Partnerships, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Mr. Dan Rutherford, Director of aviation and marine programs, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). A recording of this event is available for on-demand viewing by clicking here with the presentations are also available by clicking here.

On 5 December during the “Energy Day” of the COP28, ICAO partnered with the Government of Kenya to host a Side-event titled “Clean Energy and Capacity Building to Support Aviation’s Journey towards Net-Zero 2050” at the Kenya Pavilion.

This side-event presented the concrete actions taken by ICAO and its Member States through the ICAO Assistance, Capacity building and Training for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (ACT-SAF) Programme, which provides tailored support to States on SAF development & deployment, partnerships for production facilitates, and cooperation on aviation clean energy under ICAO.

Kenya Side-event: “Clean Energy and Capacity Building to Support Aviation’s Journey towards Net-Zero 2050”

The event further showcased how the ACT-SAF programme, already involving over 140 States and International Organizations, is supporting several initiatives on clean energy for aviation, such as knowledge-sharing, best practices, training, policy development, and SAF feasibility studies.

The side-event also promoted and enhanced understanding, knowledge, and awareness on the recent developments in the on-going ICAO capacity-building and assistance activities, including the project in Kenya.

The event was complemented with the presentations on Kenya’s pioneer work on SAF by Mr. Francis Mwangi, Kenyan member and Vice-Chairperson of the ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), and by Mr. Christoph Wolff, Professor Economics & Social Sciences at University of Cologne. You can download the presentations by clicking here.

In addition, ICAO highlighted on 5 December the 40th anniversary of CAEP, ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, celebrating the successful achievements made by the Committee since its establishment.

CAEP is a technical committee of the ICAO Council established in 1983. It assists in formulating new policies and adopting new Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) related to aircraft noise and emissions, and more generally to aviation environmental impact.

The achievements of the Committee are globally recognized for their high quality, relevance, and for the innovative nature of its work. CAEP develop its recommendations in an open, transparent and participative environment, where more than 600 worldwide experts from States, industry, civil society, research and academia bring their best contributions.

European Union Side-Event “Fuelling the future: the role of sustainable aviation fuels in greening aviation”

On 6 December during the “Transport Day” of the COP28, ICAO participated in several panels and events, such as the COP28 Presidency Flagship Transport event titled “Putting Transport & Mobility on Track for a 1.5°C Future”, where ICAO took the opportunity to highlight the outcomes of the ICAO 2022 Assembly, the implementation of the LTAG, the outcomes of CAAF/3, and the significant role of the cleaner energy transition for the international aviation sector.

ICAO participated in the European Union Side-Event Aviation Panel titled “ Fueling the future: the role of sustainable aviation fuels in greening aviation”, held at the EU Pavilion, where experts shared their insights into the challenges and opportunities linked to the use of SAF in reducing aviation emissions.

The experts reflected on promising technologies, the role of various stakeholders, as well as recent developments at multilateral level (ICAO) and at a Regional level (ReFuelEU Aviation).

ICAO also shared its recent developments at the SAF Panel organized by GenZero, held in the Singapore Pavilion, where experts from both public and private stakeholders discussed ways to accelerate the adoption of SAF in order to decarbonizing aviation.

Panellists of the GenZero side event: “Decarbonizing aviation – Accelerating the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel”

As expressed by GenZero, the SAF Panel highlighted that “policies that incentivise and/or mandate the use of SAF will be helpful in providing ecosystem players greater clarity and assurance on demand” and that “partnerships and collaboration with the right partners in the relevant industries can provide the critical unlocks needed to accelerate this transition”.

ICAO also participated in ATAG’s Global Sustainable Aviation Forum at COP28, which showcased the latest innovations and developments in the field of aviation climate action, providing an opportunity for aviation stakeholders to outline the collaboration needed with governments, the finance sector and energy industry to reach its net zero carbon by 2050 goals.

Views to explore strategies for scaling up SAF production in the coming years were also discussed at side event hosted by Topsoe in the COP28 Business Pavilion.

Finally, ICAO took part in a side-event organized by Google, where both parties announced a new collaboration focused on sharing expertise around methodologies for calculating carbon emissions and the broader decarbonization of the aviation industry.

Under the scope of the new agreement, the two organizations will work together to identify opportunities for collaboration and improvement on the respective methodologies. This will empower the general public, industry stakeholders, and regulators to make informed, environmentally sustainable and science-based choices related to air transport.

Currently, a wide range of independently produced aviation carbon calculators provide very diverse emissions estimate results for a given aircraft and flight. This is largely due to different sets of data being employed, simplifications in the related methodologies, and scientific uncertainty. ICAO’s new partnership with Google should result in much more reliable results for passengers and shippers everywhere.

Google side event: “emissions without borders – How the travel industry can come together to bring more transparency in emissions reporting, and help users choose more sustainable options.

The ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator is the only calculator of its type to be approved by aviation regulators, and is presently used extensively by consumers, business, governments, international organizations, non-profit organizations, and UN system organizations.

Google’s Travel Impact Model is a publicly accessible methodology for estimating flight emissions at the individual passenger level. Today, the Travel Impact Model helps people choose lower emitting flights by providing the carbon emission estimates on Google Flights and other online travel platforms, through Google’s collaboration with Travalyst.

ICAO and Google’s collaboration will provide greater integrity and consistency in reported greenhouse gasses inventories, and more accurate carbon footprint estimations.

For an overview of ICAO’s participation and outreach activities at COP 28 in Dubai, UAE, along with the associated documentation and presentations, please consult the following ICAO COP28 webpage.