The Commission will need to cast a critical eye over the offsetting programme agreed by ICAO, which so far lacks clear rules on both the quality of offsets that will be recognised and how they are accounted for.
‘Double counting’ – when two or more individuals or organisations claim ownership of specific carbon offset projects – is one major problem with such programmes. Governments must also ensure the offsets bring carbon reductions that are additional – i.e. that would not have happened anyway.
EU lawmakers must also consider how aviation will contribute to meeting the bloc’s CO2 reduction targets. As the agreement only requires aircraft operators to offset their emissions above 2020 levels, carbon emissions from aviation can grow without restriction until then.
Questions will also be asked of how the deal helps Europe meet its 2030 CO2 reduction targets. Only about 20% of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 will be offset, according to estimates.
Andrew Murphy, T&E aviation policy officer, said: ‘The agreement reached by ICAO in Montreal says airlines can emit increasing amounts of CO2 so long as the carriers pay for offsetting projects in other sectors. That shifts the burden onto other sectors to do more and does zero to shift passengers to less polluting ways of travelling such as rail. The EU’s next move must be to ensure aviation does its share of carbon reductions in Europe at least.’
T&E called on ICAO and the aviation industry to finalise and implement robust criteria for offsets and then develop further measures if the world is to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
It said that large historical emitters like Europe and the US must introduce additional measures to close aviation’s emissions gap, such as strengthening the EU ETS and stripping aviation’s harmful privileges regarding taxation and subsidies.
T&E aviation director Bill Hemmings said: ‘Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal won’t reduce demand for jet fuel one drop. Instead offsetting aims to cut emissions in other industries.’
Aviation is currently responsible for an estimated 5% of global warming. Aircraft CO2 alone is projected to quadruple and will potentially account for 22% of all CO2 emitted globally in 2050.
Bill Hemmings concluded: ‘This deal is not mission accomplished for ICAO, Europe or industry. The world needs more than voluntary agreements. Without robust environmental safeguards the offsets won’t cut emissions, leaving us with a deal that amounts to little more than adding the price of a cup of coffee to a ticket.’
ICAO’s aviation offsetting deal is a weak start – now countries must go further to cut CO2
A deal was finally agreed by ICAO on 6th October. It was progress, in that there had never been any sort of agreement on global aviation CO2 emissions before. But it was not a great deal – and far too weak to provide the necessary restriction on the growth of global aviation CO2. It came in the same week that the Paris Agreement crossed its crucial threshold to enter into force, but the ICAO deleted key provisions for the deal to align its ambitions with the Paris aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees C. Tim Johnson, Director of AEF and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said in relation to the UK: “But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act. With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”
Report shows EU’s ‘imperfect’ ETS still outperforms draft UN aviation deal on aviation CO2
When in April 2014 the EU agreed, reluctantly, to “stop the clock” on its inclusion of aviation in the ETS (Emissions Trading System) it was on the condition that this limiting of the scheme would be re-assessed in 2017, depending if ICAO had come up with an effective scheme to restrict aviation CO2 by then. Currently the EU ETS only includes carbon from flights within, (not to and from) the EU. But the deal that ICAO is likely to sign up to next month looks as if it will fail, by being too small in its scope, voluntary not obligatory, and depending on unknown biofuels and technologies in future, no environmental safeguards, as well as unreliable carbon offsets which may not in practice cut CO2 emissions. It will not meet ICAO’s stated goal of “carbon neutral growth” from 2020. Therefore, as the ICAO scheme does not meet the requirements of the EU, in order to suspend its ETS, the EU may find it necessary to revert to its full ETS system, to include flights out of (maybe also into) the EU as well as flights within the EU. The EU needs to ensure it gets agreement through ICAO that it can continue to include aviation in its ETS. The ETS scheme had its faults, but used emissions allowances instead of dubious offsets, was binding instead of voluntary, and include all CO2 emissions. To be fully effective, the cap on aviation carbon in the EU scheme needs to reduce each year. A new report “Aviation ETS – gaining altitude” sets out the details of how the ETS could work in future.