ICAO Assembly forges a path forward
Some major decisions were reached during the 41st ICAO General Assembly, the result of meticulous planning and hard work.
In total, the 41st ICAO Assembly featured 2,573 delegates from 184 Member States, 1 non-Member State and 56 observer delegations. Over two weeks, they covered agenda items on safety, technical, economic and legal and policy matters, holding meetings from morning into the late evening most days.
An incredible 602 working and information papers informed the debates. Notably, for the first time in the history of ICAO, the Assembly was presided over by a woman, Poppy Khoza, the Director of Civil Aviation at the South African Civil Aviation Authority who managed the discussions to successful conclusion.
The big decision was the approval of a Long-Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) for international aviation (see separate article). CANSO’s Programmes Director, Michelle Bishop notes that “this was a carefully constructed deal” as it had to get buy-in from various countries at different levels of capability.
It was also an important outcome for the air traffic management industry, as agreements on aviation’s decarbonisation will require air navigation service providers to minimise system inefficiencies that increase fuel burn and emissions.
Ultimately, the Assembly approved a resolution encouraging ICAO and its Member States “to work together to strive to achieve a collective long-term global aspirational goal for international aviation (LTAG) of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in support of the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal”. The latter aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Less well publicised but equally important was the agreement to establish the baseline for the Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) at 85% of 2019 traffic levels.
CORSIA requires airlines to purchase carbon credits to offset growth in emissions. Countries must volunteer in the programme’s initial phase to 2026 – and 118 had done so by November 2022 – and then from 2027 the scheme will become mandatory. There are some exclusions, such as developing countries and small island States, but these countries can still voluntarily participate.
CORSIA is aimed at enabling the aviation industry to achieve net emissions reductions while the ramp up in production of sustainable aviation fuels and new technologies come online. The programme is due to last until 2035 but will be under regular review.
CANSO was extremely active during the Assembly, most ostensibly supporting its Complete Air Traffic System (CATS) vision and roadmap. Bishop notes that the “working paper from CANSO, which outlined our Industry Roadmap for future skies (WP356), was well received and the actions proposed in the paper were accepted, ensuring ICAO attention on key items essential to the achievement of the CATS Global Council future sky vision”.
In addition, CANSO’s Director General, Simon Hocquard, had a number of successful side meetings involving discussions on future opportunities for collaboration with ICAO Member states and membership of their ANSPs in CANSO.
Aside from the landmark agreements on climate issues, the 41st Assembly might also mark a watershed moment in the way the triennial Assembly works.
It was a hectic two weeks with considerable time constraints and an ICAO report suggests preparatory processes can be improved and new measures such as electronic voting are under consideration.
It was also the first hybrid Assembly, with 13% of participants joining virtually. Annual or biannual virtual sessions for technical or administrative, time-consuming matters are being considered for the future, with plenary sessions maintained only for key high-level governance and strategic issues.