Australia calls for UNFCCC to sidestep ICAO and set emissions reduction targets for international aviation
UNFCCC climate change talks in Bonn
Fri 12 Jun 2009 – Australia has become the first country to formally propose that international aviation and shipping emissions be controlled under a global sectoral agreement by the UNFCCC rather than its sister UN agencies ICAO and IMO. The call was made yesterday during UNFCCC climate talks taking place in Bonn. Both ICAO and IMO have been criticized for failing to agree on a mechanism to deal with international aviation and maritime greenhouse gas emissions since being tasked to do so back in 1997. Last week, the group appointed by ICAO to come up with an action plan recommended non-binding, aspirational fuel efficiency goals.
It is understood the text of the Australian delegation’s proposal reads: “The parties should pursue a collective reduction of [x per cent] below [year xxxx] for emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from international aviation bunker fuels … [and then similar text relating to maritime].
“The parties should commence negotiations on two global sectoral agreements to address, respectively, international aviation and maritime emissions in 2010 with a view to concluding by COP 17 in 2011, taking into account work already done in ICAO and IMO.”
According to Reuters, a spokeswoman for Australia’s Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, said it was the first time the UNFCCC had been urged to directly set reduction targets for the two sectors instead of through ICAO and IMO. “To help meet these targets, we have proposed that new global sectoral agreements be negotiated under the UNFCCC. Both ICAO and IMO also have an important role to play in delivering these sectoral agreements. These proposals are designed to ensure that the international aviation and maritime sectors play their part in reducing carbon pollution and that this is done in a fair and effective way.”
Environmental groups have welcomed the move and called on the European Union to support it. A joint statement released in Bonn by Transport and Environment (T&E), WWF, Germanwatch, Seas at Risk and Sustainable Population Australia, said that Australia was effectively calling for ICAO and IMO to be stripped of their responsibility for developing and implementing reduction targets.
“Reading between the lines of Australia’s measured statement, the meaning is clear: industry-dominated ICAO and IMO have manifestly failed to deliver progress in the last 12 years and now it’s time for environment ministers to take over ahead of the Copenhagen climate deal. They should set genuine reduction targets and take real action for these two fast-growing sectors,” said Bill Hemmings of T&E.
“The inclusion of emissions from international aviation and shipping in the Copenhagen agreement can be a crucial source of funds to protect vulnerable countries from the consequences of climate change,” said Peter Lockley of WWF. “Australia must also think about how it can address the concerns of the most remote and vulnerable countries.”
Oxfam Australia’s Climate Policy Advisor, Julie-Anne Richards, said Pacific nations such as Vanuatu and Fiji depended heavily on air and sea links, while emitting only a miniscule fraction of the emissions of Australia. She said it was good that Australia acknowledged international shipping and aviation as a major and rapidly-growing source of emissions but a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to climate change was not appropriate.
“Poor islands such as Fiji, set to experience worse storms, cyclones, floods and disease if global warming continues at the present rate, should not be treated in the same way as wealthy, polluting countries such as Australia,” she said.
“Shipping and aviation links are a lifeline for small island states. They must be exempt from schemes that will place undue costs on their importation of basic foodstuffs, and increase costs to the tourism industry which provides vital income for provision of health, education and other essential services.
“Developed countries, which created the climate crisis, have a responsibility to use the money raised from the regulation of aviation and shipping emissions to help the world’s poorest countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.”
In an interview in today’s The Times, the CEO of British Airways, Willie Walsh, said airline passengers should pay a global tax on carbon and accept an increase in the cost of flying for the sake of the environment. The airline is the first in the world to propose that all airline passengers should pay an additional sum which would be likely to rise steadily over time. BA is proposing that the tax should raise at least $5 billion a year to be used to combat tropical deforestation and help developing companies to adapt to climate change.
According to the article, Peter Lockley of WWF responded: “We are pleased that BA is taking a lead on this issue. We may not agree on all the details of how to design an emissions trading scheme but it’s a welcome political signal.”