The Not So Smooth Start Of ICAO’s HLG

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All bets are off if the second meeting of ICAO’s High-Level Group (HLG) will start tomorrow (Jan. 29) without major hick-ups. As if the European Union did not cause enough international commotion with its unilateral imposition of including flights in its Emissions Trading Scheme, it managed to create a new hullabaloo by being present at the group’s first meeting last December.

The EU has only observer status at ICAO - much to its annoyance; it has been lobbying since years to become a contracting member - and it was not invited to be part of the High-Level Group, which is tasked with developing recommendations for applying market based mechanisms on climate action. Yet, owing to some creative political manoeuvring the EU managed to have Jos Delbeke, Director General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action, present AND participate in the group’s Dec. 12-13 meeting in Montreal. How so? The EU convinced Belgium to appoint Delbeke to head its delegation instead of the country’s Director General of the CAA. Delbeke is Belgian, so where is the problem the EU must have reasoned.  

But there was a problem. Delbeke’s attendance did not sit well with many officials that form the group. The 17-nation HLG is formed by representatives of all the major aviation nations, including representatives of the “coalition of the unwilling” that steered international opposition against the EU ETS such as India, Russia, China and the U.S. India very vocally protested Jos Delbeke’s nomination to the group and the first meeting was delayed for hours.  

Will this week’s meeting be less tense? And will there be an update on the legality of Delbeke and the EU’s participation of the ICAO HLG?

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