ICAO still very far from any effective means of limiting aviation CO2 to be in line with Paris Agreement
Operating without fuel taxes, VAT, legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements or limits on its CO2 emissions, the aviation sector operates in something of a parallel universe. ICAO will have an opportunity to finally take a step forward on climate action. ICAO will discuss the impact of the Paris Agreement on the sector, and specifically the next steps for an aviation carbon offsetting scheme currently under negotiation. Their earlier response to the Paris Agreement was to try to give the impression that the sector is making huge progress. In reality, industry lobbyists succeeded in preventing an explicit reference to aviation in the text. But the globally-agreed goal of striving to limit global warming to 1.5C does apply to aviation. All ICAO Parties are also Parties to the Paris Agreement. If they let aviation off the hook, the target 1.5 degree, or even 2 degree, global target will simply be impossible to reach. The aviation sector will have to act – rapidly and radically – on climate if the Paris goal can be achieved. But ICAO’s current proposals are a very inadequate first step, and the industry plans for up to 300% growth by 2050. Even their modest goal of buying carbon permits to offset aviation carbon is not ambitious enough, as proposed exemptions for airlines of less developed countries amount to about 40% of global aviation CO2.
UN aviation talks: time to come down to earth?
The International Civil Aviation Authority is unjustifiably smug about its climate record; it must play its part in efforts to limit warming to 1.5C
The BBC is showing a documentary series about modern aviation titled “City in the Sky”. The other-worldly name seems somehow appropriate to the sector’s approach to the challenge of climate change over the last two decades.
Operating without fuel taxes, VAT, legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements or limits on its CO2 emissions, the sector operates in something of a parallel universe.
Next week the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the sector’s global regulator, has an opportunity to finally take a step forward on climate action.
ICAO will discuss the impact of the Paris Agreement on the sector, and specifically the next steps for an aviation carbon offsetting scheme currently under negotiation.
How will global aviation respond to the new momentum for action on climate change?
Early signals were not good. ICAO’s official response to the Paris Agreement managed to be both incorrect and smug 1, noting, “with satisfaction, that international aviation is not covered under the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement and its associated decision text”.
The hubris continued with the assertion that, “the [ICAO] Council viewed [this] as a vote of confidence in the progress that ICAO and its Member States are achieving.”
The truth is that while industry lobbyists may have succeeded in preventing an explicit reference to aviation in the text, the globally-agreed goal of striving to limit global warming to 1.5C does apply to aviation.
All ICAO Parties are also Parties to the Paris Agreement. If they let aviation off the hook, the target will simply be impossible to reach.
In short, aviation must act – rapidly and radically – on climate if the Paris goal of “striving to limit warming to 1.5C” is to be achieved.
As for the ‘progress’ made by ICAO, the organisation’s Council really does have its head in the clouds if it thinks what is on the table deserves a vote of confidence. The current proposal is nothing more than a tentative, and very late, first step.
A key question ICAO member countries need to ask is how an anticipated growth rate of up to 300% by 2050 is compatible with any scenario for reaching the Paris 1.5C goal, even taking into account offsetting.
The industry’s goal is to limit future emissions to their 2020 levels, offsetting anything above that. But even this modest goal will not be reached, if the exemptions currently under discussion are accepted. These could undermine the objective by up to 40%.
Fundamentally, the 2020 goal is inadequate to address the climate crisis. ICAO must agree to ratchet up the effort every three years so that the sector is required to keep innovating in order to bring itself in line with a global carbon budget consistent with the 1.5C goal.
Another major concern is the failure to address the climate change impacts of aviation beyond CO2 emissions. Provisions are needed to address aerosols, contrails and nitrogen oxides.
And, as with any offsetting scheme, effectiveness rests on the quality of credits. The sector should not be able to buy its right to pollute above the 2020 level by funding investments in fossil fuel power and extraction, nuclear, large hydro and industrial gases.
These kinds of projects do not foster sustainable development, and fail to deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions, two criteria agreed in Paris. These credit types should be ineligible from day one.
It is also essential that one credit cannot be used towards multiple climate commitments, for example aviation sector commitments and national emissions commitments. Double counting like this has already undermined global progress on climate change. It must stop.
While ICAO’s carbon offsetting mechanism could be a significant opportunity for meaningful climate action from the aviation sector, the devil will be in the detail.
Success risks being undermined through bad choices on opt outs, credit quality and accounting that cover up the real pollution being pumped into the atmosphere. It’s time the city in the sky came back down to earth.
Katherine Watts is a senior policy advisor at Carbon Market Watch
Airlines accused of backsliding on climate commitments
3.6.2016 (Climate Home)
This week leading air carriers claimed they would support a new market-based scheme to curb emissions – but many remain unconvinced
Airlines reaffirmed their support for a global carbon offsetting scheme at a meeting in Dublin on Thursday.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to adopt plans at a September summit to neutralise the sector’s emissions growth from 2020.
Yet the trade body’s resolution does not align with the Paris Agreement on climate change, campaigners warned, accusing it of backtracking.
What is more, its intervention skews in favour of rich countries, threatening to upset delicate negotiations over who pays what.
Absent from the document was any mention of the international goal agreed in Paris to hold global warming below 2C or 1.5C.
That made it weaker than the outcome of recent UN aviation talks in Montreal, which proposed to periodically review the mechanism against that goal.
Nor was the industry’s target to halve greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050 mentioned.
Andrew Murphy, campaigner at Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment, told Climate Home: “They are walking away from their own commitments, they are walking away from the Paris Agreement, they are walking away from what was agreed in Montreal. It is pretty incredible, really.”
He also criticised IATA’s insistence there should be no need for regional or national measures to supplement the international mechanism. The EU, for example, has sought to make airlines pay for climate pollution through its emissions trading system.
“If they want to reduce the risk, the best solution is an ambitious global market-based measure that aligns with Paris. It is in their hands,” said Murphy.
At the International Civil Aviation Organization, countries are agreed on the need to address emissions, but divided over who bears the cost.
In a rerun of UN climate negotiations, China argued the split should reflect historic emissions while the US said it should be based on growth rates after 2020.
The EU is supporting a compromise under which airlines pay based on the sector-wide growth rate, which does not penalise rapidly expanding Asian carriers.
Couched in jargon and qualifications, IATA appears to lean towards less differentiation between rich and poor countries.
James Beard, aviation expert at WWF, warned: “That is going to be difficult for developing countries to swallow…
“When it comes to this point in the negotiations, it is really time to start finding where the middle ground is.”
Transport & Environment’s claims about the resolution drew the following response from IATA director of aviation and environment, Michael Gill, who said the industry remains fully committed to a long-term 2050 goal.
“The ICAO process is different from the Paris Agreement and it is important that this is the case. However, the whole aim of the resolution is precisely to support the ICAO discussions which explicitly state that implementation of the GMBM ‘should support the achievement of the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement’, it cannot therefore be ‘weaker’ than the ICAO talks,” he said.
“The resolution does not favour one approach over another when it comes to distribution of obligations”, said Gill, adding it was one of the key political challenges that remains in the ICAO process and the industry believes that it is up to States to determine how this is resolved. “To say that this is a ‘developed’ versus ‘developing’ set of discussions misses the nuances of the debate and does not fairly represent the detailed discussions which have taken place on this issue in the process so far,” he said.