Aviation is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions which is a small part of the major problem of climate change.

Environmental responsibility is a top priority for Airlines together with safety and security. To ensure that aviation is a truly sustainable economic activity, aviation needs to further curtail its CO2 emissions.

In 2013, the 38th ICAO Assembly concluded a resolution on climate change. In Assembly Resolution A38-18, the 191 Member States of ICAO formally decided to develop a global market based measure for international aviation, effective 2020.

The Assembly requested that in order to advance the work, the ICAO Council set up an ad hoc group, the Environment Advisory Group (EAG). At the request of the EAG, ICAO’s Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) also established the Global MBM Technical Task Force (GMTF).

While the EAG focuses on the political aspects of a global MBM, the GMTF is dedicated to technical questions and analysis in support of discussions in EAG.     

ICAO ‘s proactive climate action has three global goals, namely,

  • Improve the fuel efficiency of the world fleet by an average 1.5% per annum from 2009 to 2020.
  • Stabilise net aviation CO2 emissions at 2020 levels through carbon neutral growth.
  • Reduce aviation’s net CO2 emissions by 50% by the year 2050 to what they were in 2005.

These goals have been underpinned by action across the aviation transport sector by a four-pillar strategy in the following key areas:

  • Technology (including sustainable alternative fuels)
  • Operations
  • Infrastructure
  • A Global Market based measures

Although the first three pillars of the industry strategy, namely, technology, operations and infrastructure improvements will go a long way to meet the CNG2020 goal, some form of market based measure (MBM) is needed to bridge any emissions gap in the short term in line with the four pillar strategy.

It is believed that a single global carbon offsetting mechanism would reliably bring environmental benefit (or environmental integrity) by being the fastest to implement, the easiest to administer and the most cost-efficient.

To this end, ICAO is developing a certification standard for CO2 emissions from aircraft. The standard will set limits to the CO2 emissions from aircraft in relation to their size and weight. The aim is to reach an agreement on a fully developed standard at the next plenary meeting of ICAO’s Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection in 2016.


ATAG – Air Transport Action Group

ATAG is an independent coalition of member organisations and companies throughout the global air transport industry, representing the entire aviation sector, namely, airlines, airports, air traffic management organisations and makers of aircraft and engines.

It co-ordinates common industry positions on the sustainable future of air transport and has developed the industry -wide climate goals.

IATA – International Air Transport Association

IATA was founded in Hague in 1919 and was called International Air Traffic Association. In 1945 the name was changed to International Air Transport Association.  

IATA is a private organisation promoting cooperation among the world’s scheduled airlines to ensure a safe, reliable and economic air services. It now includes 280 airlines from 130 countries which handle over 95% of the world’s scheduled air traffic. IATA also formulates industry policy on critical aviation issues.

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation

ICAO is a United Nations specialised agency established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention of 1944)

CAEP – ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection

CAEP is assisting in finalising the recommendations for new aircraft emissions standards; it is also trying to find consensus on aircraft carbon dioxide (CO 2) and non-volatile particulate matter (nvPM) Standards and is conducting the technical work required in support of an international aviation Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM).

The aircraft CO2 and nvPM standards will be reviewed and adopted under the 36 State ICAO Council during one of its sessions in 2016, whilst the full aviation GMBM proposal will be considered by all 191 ICAO member states at the UN aviation agency’s 39th Assembly during September 2016.

EAG –  Environmental Advisory Group

Consists of 17 ICAO Council Representatives. It was established by the ICAO Council to assist in the development of a Global Market Based Measure(GMBM) scheme.

GMTF –  Global MBM Technical Task Force

Supports EAG on the technical and analytical work.   

Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs)

The ICAO Assembly through Resolution A38-18 agreed to develop a Global Market Based Measure (GMBM) scheme for international aviation and also requested the Council to organise seminars and workshops on a global level for international aviation.

The Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) are therefore part of ICAO’s outreach to member states on the process to develop a global market based measure (GMBM) to be agreed at the ICAO Assembly in September 2016.

The objectives of the GLAD’s are to:

  • Share information regarding MBMs and their role in a basket of measures adopted to address CO2 emissions from international aviation
  • Provide up-to-date information on the work of ICAO on the development of the global MBM scheme
  • Serve as an opportunity to receive feedback from Member States and relevant organisations on the development of the global MBMs.

The first round of dialogues was conducted in 2015 in Lima, Nairobi, Cairo, Singapore and Madrid. The second round of dialogues took place in Cairo, Dakar, Denpasar, Utrect and Mexico City in 2016.

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change                        

UNFCCC is an international environmental agreement on climate change


COP 21 Climate talks is the 21st annual Conference of the Parties on climate change.


Carbon neutral growth from 2020 (chg2020)

The goal to keep net carbon emissions from international aviation at the same level from 2020 is referred to as the “carbon neutral growth from 2020” or “CNG2020”   

Carbon off-setting

An offset in general terms is a compensation equivalent. As an activity it can mean to balance, cancel out or neutralize the activity.    

In the context of addressing climate change concerns offsetting is an action by companies or individuals to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions. The offset can be equivalent in part or in whole to the associated emissions by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere.

There are many different ways to achieve CO2 reductions that can be used as offsets, many of which bring other social, environmental and economic benefits related to sustainable development.

There are several ways of offsetting carbon emissions ranging from purchasing carbon allowances from a cap-and-trade scheme to using carbon credits from unregulated or regulated carbon offset projects.

Offsets can be purchased by countries, companies or individuals to reduce their net carbon emissions. Offsets can either be bought from within the international compliance system under the Kyoto Protocol or in the voluntary market.

Common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)   

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities CBDR was first adopted at the RIO Earth Summit in 1992. It calls on Parties to the UNFCCC to protect the climate system “in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

In terms of this principle “the developed country Parties should take the lead in combatting climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”

Application of this principle directly led to the distinction in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol where in terms of Annex 1 (industrialised) countries were set specific greenhouse gas reduction targets while other countries were not.

Emissions trading  

Emissions Trading is a government mandated, market -based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions or pollutants and mitigating climate change.

A central authority (usually a governmental body) allocates or sells a limited number of permits to discharge specific quantities of a specific pollutant per time period. Polluters are required to hold permits in amount equal to their emissions. Polluters who want to increase their emissions must buy permits from others willing to sell them.

Cap and trade is meant to provide the private sector with the flexibility required to reduce emissions while stimulating technological innovation and economic growth.

There are active trading programs in several air pollutants. For greenhouse gases, which may cause dangerous climate change, permit units are often called carbon credits.

European Union emissions trading scheme (EU ETS)

The largest greenhouse gases trading program is the European Union Emission Trading Scheme which trades primarily in European Union Allowances (EUAs).

Amongst other problems it is considered to have extra-territorial application and therefore is not the preferred mechanism.

EU energy efficiency directive (Directive 2012/27/EU)

EED is a Directive that was adopted by the European Union to improve its energy efficiency in order to achieve the objective of saving 20% energy consumption by 2020.        

Market Based Measures (MBM) / Global Market Based Measure (GMBM)

A market based measure is a measure that applies market principles in order to provide incentives to mitigate emissions.

ICAO is developing a certification standard for CO2 emissions from aircraft that will be considered fair, effective and robust. The standard will set limits to the CO2 emissions from aircraft in relation to their size and weight. The aim is to reach an agreement on a fully developed standard at the next plenary meeting of ICAO’s Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection in 2016.

This standard is the Global Market Based Measure (GMBM) and is a single global carbon off-setting scheme.

Such a GMBM will make all other schemes, including the EU ETS, addressing the same emissions from international aviation, redundant. The aim is to avoid the same emissions being regulated and paid for multiple times over.

Moreover, emissions trading is far more complex than carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting, can to a greater extent be done using existing infrastructure and protocols. Carbon offsetting offers an environmentally effective and politically feasible solution for an industry with the global nature such as aviation.    


Kyoto Protocol –   The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was adopted in December 1997 and came into force on 16 February 2005. Recognising that developed countries are principally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed countries under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) –  was a convention that was adopted at the RIO Earth Summit in 1992 and which entered into force on 21 March 1994. All 197 countries have ratified the Convention. Its aim is to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system by developing synergies in activities of mutual concern.

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.  It states that “such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. The onus is put on developed countries to lead the way by reducing their emission and by providing financial support to developing countries to action climate change. The reason being that developed countries were the source of most past and current greenhouse gas emissions as they were industrialised for over 150 years.      

Paris Agreement 2015 – this is a legally binding agreement adopted at COP21 in December 2015 in Paris. This Agreement will replace the regime established by the Kyoto Protocol from 2020.

The Paris Agreement’s aim is to combat climate change and to intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future by keeping a global temperature rise in this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To reach these goals appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put into place to support developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDPs) or commitments and will have to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. There will also be a global stocktake every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.

The Paris agreement does not mention emissions from international transport (aviation and maritime) and emissions from the aviation sector has been left to ICAO to manage as the UNFCCC has no mandate over ICAO.


  • National Environmental Management Act No 107 of 1998
  • National Environmental Management Amendment Act 62 of 2008
  • South African Civil Aviation Act and Regulations (Tenth Amendment of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2015)
  • Draft Carbon Tax Bill
  • Draft South African State Action Plan (for Aviation)


  1. – 2015 Global Aviation Dialogues(GLADs)
  2. ICAO September 2015 – Fact Sheet: GLOBAL AVIATION MBM FAQs
  3. ICAO September 2015 – Fact Sheet: CLIMATE CHANGE
  6. -Kyoto Protocol
  7. background/convention/items/6036.php  – The first steps to a safer future: The Convention Summary
  8. htpp:// – Paris Agreement
  9. http://www, -protection/Pages/market-based-measures.aspx -Market Based Measures
  10. IATA Position Paper on the implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive(“EED”) 24 July 2015
  11. – Kyoto v Chicago: ICAO debates how to apply the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities to aviation.