NGOs call on ICAO not to use REDD+ carbon credits – forests & soils cannot offset aviation CO2
The organisation, FERN* has published a letter signed by around 82 environmental NGOs around the world, calling on the global aviation sector through ICAO to actually reduce carbon emissions, rather than just the proposed use of carbon offsetting. The NGOs say plans to offset most of the sector’s growth in emissions are a significant distraction from real measures to reduce aviation emissions. Under business-as-usual, aviation is projected to increase emissions by between 300 – 700% by 2050, despite only being used by well below 10% of the world’s population. The NGOs are particularly concerned that carbon offsets that are inappropriate and unreliable would be used, as ICAO is considering a carbon offset system called REDD+ (‘Reduce Deforestation from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’). The NGOs say REDD+ credits should not be used, as they do not even meet ICAO’s own standards, and include double counting. REDD+ projects that tackle the real drivers of large-scale deforestation – extraction of oil, coal, mining, infrastructure, large-scale dams, industrial logging and international trade in agricultural commodities – are largely absent. There is also a risk that agricultural offsets would favour large-scale farmers or monoculture farming practices. These are not suitable offsets for aviation.
(* FERN’s website says about them that “Fern is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a Dutch Stichting created in 1995 to keep track of the European Union’s involvement in forests and coordinate NGO activities at the European level. Our work centres on forests and forest peoples’ rights and the issues that affect them such as trade and investment and climate change.”)
Aviation industry’s offset plans distracts from urgent need to reduce emissions
A group of around 80 environmental NGOs has called on the aviation sector to adopt a serious plan to address its impact on climate change, rather than the proposed use of carbon offsetting that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is planning to adopt. The NGOs say plans to offset most of the sector’s growth in emissions are a significant distraction from real measures to reduce aviation emissions.
Aviation industry’s offset plans distracts from urgent need to reduce emissions, say environmental NGOs
4th April, Brussels
As member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the United Nations’ specialised aviation agency, gather in Utrecht to discuss ways to ‘offset’ emissions from the airline industry, 82 environmental NGOs from five continents are demanding that it adopts a serious plan to reduce emissions.
At its assembly in September 2016, the ICAO plans to adopt measures to achieve “carbon-neutral growth” from 2020. It proposes to achieve this through carbon offsetting via a global market based mechanism (GMBM). The statement says plans to offset a significant portion of the sector’s emissions through the GMBM are a significant distraction from the real measures that need to be taken to reduce aviation emissions.
Aviation is one of only two sectors worldwide with no targets to reduce emissions. Under business-as-usual, aviation is projected to increase emissions by between 300 and 700 per cent by 2050, despite only being used by 3-7 per cent of the world’s population.
The meeting in Utrecht on 4 and 5 April is part of ICAO’s Global Aviation Dialogue to consult members on the design of the GMBM. [global market based mechanism]
Monika Lege from Robin Wood, a signatory of the statement, says: “The proposal to offset emissions to achieve Carbon Neutral Growth is unsuitable. German NGOs are instead proposing a global tax on CO2 equivalents that should be introduced globally.”
Since particular interest is being paid to land- and forest-based offsets, the statement emphasises that forests and land do not offset continued fossil fuel emissions. Hannah Mowat, land and climate campaigner from Fern, says: “ICAO’s own standards rule forests and land offsets out from the start, because they need to be permanent emissions reductions, which is impossible to prove for forests because the removals are reversible.”
Furthermore, ICAO’s standards preclude double-counting of offset credits, particularly difficult where forests are concerned as these are typically already included in national greenhouse gas balance sheets, through countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
ICAO standards also require offsets to ‘do no harm’. Given the countless stories of social conflict due to people being denied access to their land and restricting their traditional use of forests, airlines must think twice about the likely damage to communities – and hence their reputation.
“While the aviation industry dithers, the pace of climate change quickens,” adds Isaac Rojas from Friends of the Earth International. “With only six years left until our cumulative emissions put the 1.5-degree temperature target out of reach, proposing to offset emissions is risible. There is real urgency to reduce emissions.”
For more information, please contact:
Hannah Mowat, +32 485 025 432, firstname.lastname@example.org
82 signatory organisations: (in many countries across the world)
The part of the briefing on REDD [‘Reduce Deforestation from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’] says:
“Fraudulent sales of carbon credits as investments have swindled many vulnerable pensioners out of their life savings. As a result of the experience with the CDM as well as controversies and scandals around carbon offset projects in the voluntary carbon markets, the world’s largest offset market, the EU Emissions Trading System, has officially banned the use of offset credits to meet the EU emission targets post 2020.
This will no doubt lead to serious reputational issues since a significant number of offset projects, particularly from offsets that aim to ‘Reduce Deforestation from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’ (REDD+) face local opposition and are challenged over wrongly blaming peasant farming practises and forest use by indigenous peoples for deforestation while being silent about the real causes of large-scale forest destruction.
Forests and soils do not offset fossil fuel emissions
Land-based carbon offsets, such as from REDD+ type projects or from agriculture are particularly contentious, with greater risks for the climate.
By nature, REDD+ projects place restrictions on existing land use – that is how they generate the carbon savings sold as offset credit. Because the large majority of REDD+ projects (wrongly) blames deforestation on small-scale peasant farming, in particular where it involves shifting cultivation, such restrictions have a detrimental impact on peasant livelihoods and forest peoples’ way of life.
By contrast, REDD+ projects that tackle the real drivers of large-scale deforestation – extraction of oil, coal, mining, infrastructure, large-scale dams, industrial logging and international trade in agricultural commodities – are by and large [largely] absent.
With the challenges of counting emissions reductions and distributing offset payments to multiple small-scale farmers, there is a risk that agricultural offsets would favour large-scale farmers or monoculture farming practices, creating one more driver of land dispossession of smallholder farmers, particularly in the Global South.
Offset credits from forest conservation, tree plantation or soil carbon sequestration carry the additional risk of becoming null and void when wildfires, storms or natural decay cause uncontrollable release of carbon stored in the trees, soils or other natural habitats. This is one of the reasons why the CDM excludes all offset categories related to forest or agriculture land use except for afforestation, reforestation and biomass energy projects.
Even then, credits from these tree planting offset projects are sold as temporary carbon credits that need to be bought again in a matter of years because credits from tree planting projects cannot be considered to permanently store carbon.
In short, land-based offset credits are controversial, and experience from REDD+ has shown that certification standards or safeguards cannot prevent conflicts.
We, the undersigned, call on the members of ICAO to ensure measures adopted at the 39th ICAO meeting will make an adequate and fair contribution to the global effort to limit global warming to well-below 2 degrees Celsius. Any measure adopted at the 39th ICAO meeting must make a serious proposal to reduce emissions. It must also exclude land based offset credits, such as REDD+ type projects for the reasons given in this letter.
The statement is available at: www.fern.org/ICAO