Thu 8 Oct 2015 – References to international aviation and shipping have been left out of the newly slimmed-down draft agreement for negotiation at the UNFCCC COP21 climate talks in Paris that start at the end of next month. The previous 83-page draft, now down to just 20 pages, had text calling for global CO2 emission reduction targets be set for the two sectors as well as a levy scheme to be applied to each that would provide funding towards climate adaptation for poorer nations. The omission will be welcomed by sister UN agency ICAO, which has long warned that a levy on top of the global carbon offsetting measure to cap the net growth of international aviation emissions that is expected to start from 2020 could drain financial resources from the sector. NGOs, on the other hand, have called the exclusion irresponsible as it leaves the two high-growth emitting sectors free from fuel taxes and climate targets.
ICAO Member States were urged through the A38-18 climate resolution passed at their last Assembly in 2013 “to express a clear concern on the use of international aviation as a potential source of climate finance for other sectors in a disproportionate manner.”
Just last week, speaking at the aviation industry’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, ICAO President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu reiterated the Organization’s emissions reduction goals required adequate finance.
“In this regard, both ICAO and industry have been strongly united in our position on any proposed use of international aviation as a potential source for mobilisation of general revenues to finance climate programmes in other sectors,” he said. “Reliable air services are too fundamental to local and regional development priorities, and States must consistently be made aware of the negative impacts which aviation taxes and fees can have on their longer-term, broad-based and sustainable economic prosperity.”
Echoing Dr Aliu’s call, Michael Gill, Executive Director of the cross-sector coalition Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), warned at the conference that using aviation as a source of climate finance would cause concern for those countries heavily reliant on air transport for their connectivity and economy, particularly developing and small island states, which would be hit hard by rising costs of flying.
“Such a blunt instrument will not have any measurable environmental benefit,” he told delegates. “Therefore, we will continue to insist that a global market-based measure (MBM) developed through ICAO is a way to not only ensure fair distribution of responsibility, but also environmental integrity and financing to climate projects all over the world.”
However, Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) contends it was the least developed countries that had proposed aviation and shipping should contribute to climate finance, backed by the IMF and World Bank.
With international emissions from both sectors not covered by national targets in the Paris agreement, exempting them from targeted CO2 emission reductions – currently forecast to grow by up to 250% by 2050 – also makes attempts to limit global warming to 2⁰C “all but impossible,” argues T&E.
“International aviation and shipping have climate impacts equal to Germany and South Korea respectively, yet they are tax-free on their fuel and now set to be target-free on their emissions,” said T&E Aviation Manager, Bill Hemmings. “It’s a betrayal of future generations and a sad reflection on the way the UN has become beholden to special interests. Paris needs to think again and quickly.”
The revised draft will be scrutinised once more when the UNFCCC resumes pre-COP21 talks on October 19.
During the Geneva conference, ATAG’s Gill said it was vital for the industry’s carbon-neutral growth goal and the ICAO MBM – which would require access to approved emission credits – that the Paris agreement both continued with and strengthened international carbon market systems.
“It is a necessary tool in the future climate regime and is absolutely imperative for aviation’s plans to be realised,” he said. “The linkages between systems and an ability to track credits across national borders is good not only for use in an aviation context, but is important for climate responses throughout the private and public sectors.”
According to Carbon Pulse, mention of carbon markets has largely been left out of the new draft core agreement and leaving the issue to be dealt with at a later date, before the agreement enters into force in 2020. The online publication says that of the nearly 150 climate pledges submitted so far – termed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – at least 70 countries have said they intend to use or explore the use of market-based mechanisms to help meet targets or raise funds for mitigation activities for the post-2020 period, with many more sellers than buyers.
“Such plans may face years of uncertainty if there is no language or provisions for international carbon trading in the Paris agreement, but with the growing number of national and sub-national governments turning to CO2 markets, observers are confident emissions trading will remain a key approach to reducing GHG emissions,” it comments.
UNFCCC – COP21 Draft Agreement
ICAO – Dr Aliu’s speech at Global Sustainable Aviation Summit
ATAG – Michael Gill’s speech at Global Sustainable Aviation Summit
Transport & Environment
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