Occasional Paper Series: Sustainable International Civil Aviation

The following Occasional Papers have been prepared by a group of scholars associated with the Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) at McGill University. They are the result of a collaborative effort between the IASL and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL). They are designed to be part of a book prepared by authors from both groups which will eventually be published by the Cambridge University Press under the title Sustainable International Civil Aviation.

As the title of the book suggests, bringing together these various scholars and papers is the central theme of the sustainable development of international aviation. In particular, the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the primary United Nations body tasked with regulating the environmental aspects of international aviation, and the provisions of the Chicago Convention which lays down powers of the Organization and the fundamental rules of international air law, form the primary focus of this collection.

As the 39th Triennal ICAO Assembly approaches in late 2016, ICAO has the ambitious mandate to finalise a global scheme to limit CO2 emissions from international aviation. The issues and discussions contained in the articles below are of immediate relevance to the discussions due to take place at ICAO. It is hoped that these papers will contribute to the work of the Assembly and that informed readers and delegates participating at the ICAO Assembly will have constructive comments to share with the authors.

The papers were edited by Prof Armand de Mestral (CISDL/IASL, McGill University, Canada), Prof Dr P Paul Fitzgerald (McGill University, Canada) and Prof Dr Md Tanveer Ahmad (North South University, Bangladesh), with research support from Mr Michael Jourdan J Navarro (CISDL).


Table of contents


Occasional Paper III: Seeking Global Environmental Harmony in Aviation

by Paul P. Fitzgerald

Up-gauging as a solution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation: Is up-gauging a viable tool in reducing GHG emissions in aviation?

The Issue:

  • Whether up-gauging is a possible commercial option for airlines?
  • Whether up-gauging can pass anti-combines and anti-monopoly legislations?

Its importance:

  • Engineers are promoting new aircraft designs that would fly more people at one time and be up to 70% more fuel efficient than current aircraft. However, without legal changes in favor of up-gauging, the market conditions, which promote high frequency with small aircraft, will prevent the emergence of such new technology.
  • On many long-established routes over the past 20 years, airlines have down-gauged their aircraft by roughly 30% so that three flights in 2012 carried roughly the same number of passengers as two flights did in 1992.
  • If up-gauging could be adopted on a wide-spread basis, this might boost the business case for aircraft such as the Large Aircraft for Short Ranges (LASR)

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Occasional Paper IV: Settlement of Dispute at ICAO and Sustainable Development

by Mathieu Vageois, under the direction of Armand de Mestal

Settling a dispute involving an issue on Sustainable Development before the ICAO: How will the ICAO resolve the dispute?

The issue:

  • Whether the mechanism and procedure for the settlement of disputes within the Chicago Convention could be adapted to address a potential dispute dealing with issues of sustainable development and environmental protection, should there be a failure to implement a global Market-Based Measure further to the 39th ICAO Assembly.
  • If yes, how will the ICAO resolve the dispute?

Its importance:

  • Any measure comparable to the EU’s unilateral implementation of an Emissions Trading Scheme would most likely be challenged by States in all fora, possibly including a dispute before the ICAO.
  • ICAO has jurisdiction to settle legal disputes pertaining to the interpretation and the application of the Chicago Convention.
  • Any dispute has to be cast as an alleged violation of the Chicago Convention or other binding treaty.
  • Environmental protection is one of the five strategic objectives of ICAO.

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Occasional Paper V: International Civil Aviation and Sustainable Development: The Application of WTO Law

by Emilie Conway and Armand de Mestral

Application of the principle of sustainable development in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute: Could the principle of sustainable development be invoked to justify the European Union (EU) Directive 2008/101 extending the Emissions Trading Scheme to include the aviation industry (the “Directive”) or a similar measure reintroduced after October 2016?

The issues:

  • Whether a comparable measure could be challenged before the WTO?
  • Whether the principle of sustainable development may successfully be invoked to justify Directive 2008/101 under WTO law?

Its importance:

  • Any measure comparable to the EU’s unilateral implementation of an Emissions Trading Scheme would most likely be challenged by States in all fora, possibly including a dispute before the ICAO.
  • ICAO has jurisdiction to settle legal disputes pertaining to the interpretation and the application of the Chicago Convention.
  • Any dispute has to be cast as an alleged violation of the Chicago Convention or other binding treaty.
  • Environmental protection is one of the five strategic objectives of ICAO.

Please click here to download the paper.


Occasional Paper VI: Sustainable Flight Management and Aviation

by P. Paul Fitzgerald and Md. Tanveer Ahmad

Airspace sovereignty and environmental protection: How is the concept of State sovereignty under the Chicago Convention becomes a barrier to sustainable flight management?

The issue:

  • Whether improvements in flight management create environmental benefits;
  • Whether the concept of airspace sovereignty is a barrier against sustainable flight management;
  • Whether the concept of airspace sovereignty should be circumscribed by the mandate to protect the environment.

Its importance:

  • Operational improvements alone cannot significantly reduce the environmental effects of aviation. Nonetheless, this environmental measure should not be ignored since, inter alia, no single environmental measure alone can effectively ensure sustainable aviation;
  • Currently, the lack of cross-border air navigation service (ANS) is causing more GHG emissions as aircraft are made to take indirect or less-than-direct routings.

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Occasional Paper VII: Environmental Sustainability Measures for Airports  

by Maha Mousavi Sameh & Juliana Scavuzzi

Socio-economic benefits and environmental costs of airports: How can governments achieve a balance between the economic and environmental considerations involving airports?

The issue:

  • What are the primary environmental issues associated with the operation of airports?
  • What are the solutions available in addressing those environmental issues?
  • How can the government balance airport growth and the environment?

Its importance:

  • Airports play a vital role in local and national economies.
  • Airports create significant environmental costs and impacts to the locality where they are built.
  • Community opposition prompted by the environmental concerns brought about by airports may hinder the latter’s full development.

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Occasional Paper VIII: Exporting Environmental Values through Open Skies

by Kuan-Wei Chen

Promotion of sustainable development in aviation through bilateral/multilateral relations: How does the European Union (EU) export its policies and regulations on environment through air transport agreements?

The issue:

  • Whether the EU has been able to make other States adopt its policies and regulations on environment through air transport agreements

Its importance:

  • Aviation is the most rapidly growing mode of transportation.
  • Together with the rapid growth of aviation is the pollution that it brings, such as noise and, more importantly, greenhouse gases.
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has yet to come up with a concrete global measure that will address aviation emissions.

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Occasional Paper IX: Sustainable Development Initiatives in the Aviation Industry in Latin America: Focus on Brazil

by Juliana Scavuzzi & Maha Mousavi Sameh

Flight management in Latin America and the Brazilian experience with its sustainable solutions to airport operations: What is the Latin American approach to sustainable airport operations?

The Issue:

  • How does Latin America implement flight management?
  • How does Brazil address environmental issues related to airport operations?

Its Importance:

  • Aviation is responsible for 1.2 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • These numbers will increase since the aviation industry is rapidly growing: passengers are expected to triple by 2030.
  • This growth will also have impact on the environment, and may adversely affect the region.

Please click here to download the paper.


Occasional Paper X: Getting to Global Cooperation: ICAO and Climate Change

by Alejandro Piera

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as solution for climate change: Is ICAO suitable to address climate change issues given its constitutional framework and representation?

The Issue:

  • Whether the lack of a specific reference to “environmental protection” in ICAO’s constitutional framework diminishes its effectiveness in addressing climate change issues?
  • Whether ICAO’s governing structure facilitates or inhibits participation by its Member States?
  • Whether ICAO has made concrete progress in addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation?

Its Importance:

  • Together with its unyielding growth rates, concerns over the environmental impact of the aviation industry has risen.
  • The Kyoto Protocol has tasked ICAO to reduce GHG emissions from the aviation industry.
  • ICAO is instrumental in laying down standards and recommended practices among its members.

Please click here to download the paper.


Occasional Paper XI: Global Civil Aviation Emissions Standards – from Noise to Greener Fuels

by Md. Tanveer Ahmad

Current global civil aviation emissions standards: Are the current emissions standards sufficient to ensure sustainable development in the aviation industry?

The Issue:

  • Whether a legally binding emissions standard for international civil aviation is in place?
  • Whether the current emissions standards are sufficient to cover all greenhouse gases?
  • Whether ICAO’s basket of mitigation measures to address environmental concerns of aviation, at their current state, can effectively curb emissions from international civil aviation?

Its Importance:

  • Securing sustainable development of aviation requires initiatives from the aviation industry to lessen environmental impacts of aviation while ensuring smooth growth of the industry
  • Emissions from civil aviation is a great environmental concern since such emissions pollute the environment, exacerbate climate change and global warming, occur at upper atmosphere, and are rapidly increasing with the rapid growth of aviation industry

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Occasional Paper XII: Technology Developments and Renewable Fuels for Sustainable Aviation

by David W. Zingg and Ömer L. Gülder

Technological Improvements in Aviation: How promising are the developments in technology in promoting a sustainable and environmentally conscious aviation industry?

The issue:

  • Whether and to what extent are developments in Technology progressing towards the reduction of the environmental impact of aviation?

Its importance:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from aircraft engines directly affect climate change and have a lifetime of 50 to 200 years.
  • Nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions from aircraft engines indirectly affect climate change by causing changes in ozone and methane concentrations through chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
  • Contrails and aviation-induced cirrus clouds can cause a net warming effect.
  • It is estimated that the number of commercial aircraft in the world will double in the next two decades, reaching 40,000.
  • Economic measures that limit the environmental impact of aviation merely decreases the amount of air travel and do not address the growing demand for it.

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Occasional Paper XIII: Sustainable Aviation and the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technologies to Africa: Paradoxes, Barriers and Prospects

by Damilola S. Olawuyi

Sustainable Aviation in Africa: What are the legal and institutional barriers?

The issue:

  • What are needed to promote sustainable aviation in Africa?
  • What hinders the development of sustainable aviation in Africa?

Its importance:

  • Sustainable aviation will improve the quality of life in Africa as it reduces pollution and noise from airports
  • Promotion of sustainable aviation in Africa will create sustained in-flow of infrastructural investments in the aviation sector.

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Occasional Paper XIV: Inspirations from Sustainable Maritime Development

by Jeffrey J. Smith

Environmental protection in the global shipping industry: What are the lessons that can be applied in the aviation industry?

The issue:

  • What are the historical roots of sustainable development in the maritime industry?
  • What is the role of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in environmental protection?
  • How does IMO address the problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Its importance:

  • The aviation industry can gain lessons from the experience of the Maritime Industry on the reduction of GHG emissions.
  • The aviation industry can also learn international regulatory framework present in the Maritime Industry.

Please click here to download the paper.


Occasional Paper XV: Aviation and Sustatinable Development: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific

by Jae Woon Lee, Benoît Mayer and Joseph Wheeler

Sustainable Development Solutions in the Asia-Pacific: What are the developments from this region that can potentially provide a global solution in reducing emissions from international civil aviation?

The issue:

  • What is the reaction of Asia-Pacific region to the European Union’s (EU) Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)?
  • What are the different models of national approaches to mitigating aviation emissions?
  • What lessons can be learned from the Asia-Pacific region?                                           

Its importance:

  • The Asia-Pacific region will experience the highest growth in passenger traffic at 5.8% per year until 2025.
  • The rapid growth of passenger and freight traffic in the Asia-Pacific region has come in hand with greater environmental concerns.
  • As a significant driver of air transport demand and capacity, the Asia-Pacific region’s particular characteristics have become a necessary reference for the development of sustainable aviation policies and regulations in the coming years.

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Occasional Paper XVI: Catastrophic aviation emissions: The Namuhs meet the Humans

by Richard Janda and Juan Pinto

As the ICAO General Assembly deliberates upon proposed measures to address aviation impacts on climate change, there will inevitably be a chorus of self-congratulation about the landmark nature of the the new engine emissions and carbon offset standards. This paper, which is written in the form of a parable, seeks to highlight the catastrophic nature of aviation emissions when cumulated with those from other sectors, and the inadequacy of the measures ICAO is about to be adopt.

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Occasional Paper XVIII: Sustainable Tourism and the Impact of Climate Change on the Caribbean
by Nicole Gonzales

The Issue:

  • What is the relationship of climate change and the tourism sector for the Developing States in the Caribbean?
  • What is the importance of aviation to the Caribbean tourism sector?
  • What is the effect of international aviation climate change mitigation measures on the Caribbean tourism sector?

Its Importance:

  • Tourism is an extremely significant global source of revenue and employment, worldwide indirectly creating 1 out of every 11 jobs and contributing to 5% of global GDP and US$ 1.260 billion in international tourism receipts.
  • The direct environmental impact of climate change to the Caribbean may include such phenomena as a rise in sea levels, an increase of frequency and intensity of extreme storms, warmer temperatures, and changes in marine biodiversity, negatively affecting the tourism sector.
  • In 2015, 54% of all international inbound tourists worldwide arrived at their destination by air. For the Caribbean, this amounted to a total of 23.9 million international tourist arrivals in 2015.
  • The UNWTO estimated that greenhouse gas emissions contributed by tourism transport, accommodation and activities combined amounted to 5% of global CO2 in 2005, of which most was accounted for by air transport (40%).
  • The CO2 emissions from tourism may grow by about 135% to 2035, totaling approximately 3059 Mt, based on a Business As Usual scenario for 2035, which would make tourism an increasing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the medium- to long-term future.

Please click here to download the paper.