International aviation emissions now firmly on the post-Kyoto climate talks agenda
Closing Plenary of the AWG KP at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks
Thu 10 Apr 2008 - An attempt by the European Union (EU), supported by nations such as Norway and New Zealand, to include aviation GHG emissions in an international climate change agreement when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 met with resistance from some developing countries at last week’s UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) climate change talks in Bangkok. However, a compromise was agreed in which the matter will be discussed in further meetings set for this year.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, international aviation emissions, along with those of shipping, were excluded from reduction targets to be met by developed countries (so-called Annex I Parties) because of the difficulties in allocating emissions to specific countries. Instead, under Article 2.2, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) were charged with limiting or reducing the growth in, respectively, aviation and shipping emissions.
However, the two transport industries are now very much in the political spotlight. “I think everybody agrees that we have to find some way of addressing emissions from aviation and shipping,” Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, told delegates.
In its submission to the UNFCCC’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG KP), the EU said: “Importantly, the way the rapidly growing emissions from international aviation and maritime transport are addressed in the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol is not effective. The growth of emissions in both sectors, if it remains unchecked, might significantly reduce the effect of the overall efforts in all sectors to prevent dangerous climate change.
“The EU has repeatedly expressed its concern that emissions from international aviation and maritime transport represent one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU calls upon all Parties [to the Kyoto Protocol] to agree clear, meaningful targets for these sectors within the framework of a future global climate agreement for the post-2012 period and urges Parties to work towards stronger leadership by the UNFCCC in this matter, and in particular for enhancing its cooperation with ICAO to develop a more effective approach to address emissions from the [aviation] sector.”
The submission went on to say “that despite some advances of late, especially within the IMO, the progress of work in the IMO and ICAO falls short of our expectations, as we made clear, in the case of ICAO, at its 36th Assembly. Given the tight time-frame for reaching a post-2012 agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, we call for significant steps forward by ICAO and IMO to be reported at the December 2008 UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan.”
In a presentation to an AWG workshop at the Bangkok conference, the EU’s delegate, Jakob Graichen, set out two main options that could be considered for addressing aviation emissions – either by including them in national totals or through a ‘sectoral’ approach in which operators are directly responsible. The EU favours the second of these and is already making moves to include aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme in 2012.
Graichen said that international aviation and maritime transport had the potential to generate up to $40 billion a year through mechanisms such as emissions trading that could be used towards financial resources in helping reduce emissions globally.
In their own submissions to the AWG, both Norway and New Zealand said they supported in principle emissions trading schemes. Saudi Arabia said emissions trading was a good means of achieving mitigation objectives provided it was limited to Annex I Parties and was non-sectoral, but, to prevent “spillover effects”, it should not be applied to developing countries. “Unilateral regional action will not contribute to international sustainable development and should not be allowed under AWG”.
Other opposition to the EU stance came from countries such as Thailand, Australia and China, who believed any regulation on the international air transport infrastructure could adversely impact their economies and the matter should continue to be handled by ICAO. However, Graichen said the agreement to discuss international aviation and maritime emissions at the next two sessions of the AWG was “a major step forward”.
He told GreenAir: “Yes, it is a compromise, but not a bad one.”