In late 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) made headlines, reaching a long-awaited multilateral agreement on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to regulate carbon emissions from civil aviation. This was hailed as a ‘historic achievement’, with 65 countries responsible for 85% of emissions working together to protect the global climate. Importantly, the speed of negotiations was greatly catalysed by the European Union, which was set to reinstate its own unilateral aviation emissions trading scheme on 1 January 2017 should the ICAO fail to reach an agreement by the end of the previous year (Regulation 421/2014). In the nick of time, at its 39th meeting, ICAO reached an agreement on a global MBM, known as the ‘Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation – ‘CORSIA’. It was clearly hoped that this would prevent the Union from proceeding with its unilateral approach. However, in its recent Proposal for a regulation amending the EU ETS, the Commission appears reluctant to immediately relinquish its leverage, raising political tensions and important legal questions regarding the compatibility of the two schemes.
While the consequences of climate change have activists up in arms, the international community’s response has been fraught with stagnation, and remains somewhat disillusioning. After a series of disappointing Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), all hopes are set on the Paris summit to be held later this year. In the midst of this stalemate, the EU has been profiling itself as a protagonist of the global climate, with an ambitious Climate and Energy Package. In its latest move, the EU has adopted Regulation (EU) No. 2015/757 (‘the Regulation’), which came into force on 01 July 2015, and lays out a monitoring, reporting and verification scheme (MRV) for ships. The MRV requires ships to monitor their CO2 emissions according to a verified monitoring plan, and report the results to the Commission. This step has been on the EU’s agenda for over five years, and forms the first concrete phase of the inclusion of maritime emissions in the Union’s own reduction commitment. While according to the EU, the scheme would bring ‘momentum for international agreement’, the shipping industry reacted coolly, warning that the EU initiative risked putting multilateral negotiations ‘in jeopardy’.