UN report shows role for EU ETS in helping to control rising emissions from aviation

 A new report from UNEP looks at the gap between the emissions cuts needed to avoid a 2 degrees C rise in temperature by 2020, and the pledges made. It finds that global aviation (excluding military) produced around 0.63 GtCO2  in 2005 and could rise to 1.16 GtCO2e in 2020. Aviation and shipping together could be 4 – 5.7% of global emissions by 2020 and 10  to 32 % of the total emissions humanity could be producing in 2050, while staying below 2 degrees. Schemes like the EU ETS are very helpful in charging for carbon and cutting its emission.


25.11.2011  (Aviation Environment Federation)

Global aviation emissions have risen by significantly between 2005 and 2010, despite high fuel prices and the economic downturn, and are forecast to continue growing, UN researchers said this week.

They conclude that with the right policy levers in place, technology improvements and the introduction of biofuels could help constrain the growth in aviation emissions, but these are unlikely to be sufficient to keep up with the sector’s growth.

Market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading could, however, offer additional reductions, partly by providing a means to put pressure on other sectors to reduce emissions further. The introduction of Europe’s Emissions Trading System in 2012 could double the emissions reduction from aviation compared with business as usual, the researchers found.

The findings are set out in a report titled Bridging the Emissions Gap, which addresses how to tackle the gap between what governments have committed to do in terms of emissions reductions and the level of action required to ensure emissions do not rise beyond 2 degrees – the level considered to represent a real danger point.

The report underlines the fact that while airlines and politicians continue to argue over the 2012 launch of aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS, there is a clear environmental need for market-based mechanisms or other policy measures to control rising emissions from the sector if we are to have a chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming.

Speaking at the report launch, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Under-Secretary-General, said:

“It is very regrettable that a number of the leading airlines in the world, including some in Europe and some hiding behind other airlines outside Europe, are challenging the EU ETS in a judicial context. The airline industry and its CEOs should actually be champions of this new scheme – it would make the environmental commitments they make in their annual reports much more credible.”



See also other articles by the Aviation Environment Federation on the EU ETS:

Europe must resist attacks on EU ETS »   24.11.2011 

EU ETS to increase ticket prices by just $2 for a transatlantic flight, says EC » 3.11.2011

European Court’s preliminary opinion supports legality of EU law that curbs aviation pollution »   6.10.2011

Airline attack on EU emissions trading system meets powerful opposition »   5.7.2011

Environmental organisations urge EU to resist pressure from US aviation industry over carbon emissions »   5.7.2011

Another airline opposes fair charges and action on climate »   8.4.2011

Europe moves a step closer to bringing airlines within the Emissions Trading System »  14.3.2011

AEF to defend EU climate policy against legal challenge »   27.5.2010



The UNEP “Bridging the Emissions Gap” report:


The UNEP report, released on 23rd November, investigated whether cutting emissions by 2020 to a level that could keep a global, 21st century, temperature rise under 2 degrees C was technologically and economically feasible.

The UNEP  Bridging the Emissions Gap report has involved 55 scientists and experts from 28 scientific groups across 15 countries.  Its purpose is to examine the newest scientific research on the gap between the pledges that countries have made to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and what will be needed if we are to be on track to reach the 2 degree target by 2020.

It has been issued just days ahead of the UN climate convention negotiations in South Africa and 7 months before the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, and provides clear indications that the world already has the solutions to avert damaging climate change.

The report looks at energy use across the board.  It believes that in order to keep global average temperature rise to below 2 degrees C by 2020, there need to be annual cuts in carbon emissions of at least 6 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Maybe as much as 11 or 12 Gigatonnes.

The report cites aviation and shipping as a special but important case, as currently these ‘international emissions’ fall outside the Kyoto Protocol – the emission reduction treaty.

Together international aviation and shipping account for around 5% of C02 emissions and could account for up to 2.5 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) annually, by 2020.

The report looked at emissions sector by sector, and for aviation and shipping it thought there could be emissions cuts of 0.3-0.5 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency and low-carbon fuels, and other measures.

By comparison, Transport (excluding aviation and shipping sectors) might be able to cut emissions by  1.4 to 2.0 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency, adoption of electric drive vehicles, shifting to public transit and use of low-carbon fuels.


Some extracts from the report are below:

There are two very clear and scary charts on Pages 12 &13 (fuzzy copy of page 13 chart below)  showing the amount of carbon being emitted by humanity by 2020 if we follow a “business as usual” route – 56 Gigatonnes per year.  And the level we need to keep to to stay below a 2 degree centrigrate warming – 44 Gigatonnes.   And it shows the amounts each sector need to cut by, to get this size carbon cut.

Biofuel (page 43 of http://www.unep.org/pdf/UNEP_bridging_gap.pdf)

(Road transport  The report says that emissions cuts potential for transport (excluding aviation and shipping) is as follows:  on-road: 0.4 GtCO2e; biofuels: 0.15 GtCO2e; modal shift: 0.8 GtCO2e; activity reduction: 0.25 GtCO2e. )

Biofuels for aviation. Low-carbon alternatives to aviation kerosene may include biofuels, although associated indirect emissions must be considered.  Lifecycle reductions of up 80% have been claimed (IATA, 2009); the emissions associated with land-use change vary significantly but may reduce carbon-savings or even lead to an increase (Stratton et al., 2010). This chapter, however, follows IPCC guidelines in accounting for indirect emissions elsewhere, i.e. we assume biofuels deliver a 100% reduction in aviation (and shipping) CO2 emissions.

The contribution of biofuels has been estimated by CCC (2009) to be ≤2% by 2030 under what was described as a “likely” scenario, ~3% for an “optimistic” scenario, and 5% for a “speculative” scenario. Similarly, a 2% market penetration of biofuels by 2020 was deemed feasible by Novelli (2011).

(page 40)  Aviation. Baseline emissions of CO2 from aviation in 2005 were 0.74 GtCO2e, using International Energy Agency data on kerosene fuel sales, which includes civil and military uses (IEA, 2009).  Civil (only) aviation emissions in 2005 are likely to have been approximately 0.63 GtCO2  (ICAO, 2010a) and were 2.1% of global emissions of CO2.

(page 41) Aviation. Projections of emissions of CO2 through to 2050 are available from the IPCC Special Report on “Aviation and the Global Atmosphere” (IPCC, 1999), the
CONSAVE27 project (Berghof et al., 2005), the QUANTIFY project (Owen et al., 2010), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (MODTF/FESG, 2009). These projections / scenarios deal with the 2020 timeframe in different ways, and the data are illustrated in Figure 9.

Projections of civil aviation emissions range from 0.62 to 1.16 GtCO2e in 2020.  Broadly, these projections vary principally with growth assumptions and are variations of BAU scenarios of the future.  Some individual scenarios include particular assumptions regarding technologies, or technology targets, but for the most part, assume no specific policy intervention.

(Page 42)   If aviation and shipping emissions are combined, and if they progress according to any scenario, from the minimum to their maximum, they account for an increasing share of total emissions.  In 2020, aviation and shipping (combined) emissions are expected to range from 1.74 to 2.50 GtCO2e, representing 4.0 to 5.7% of the median total emissions in 2020. In 2050, aviation and shipping (combined) emissions are
expected to range from 2.09 to 6.77 GtCO2e, representing 10.0 to 32.5% of the median total emissions in 2050.

(Page 46)  How do aviation and shipping contribute to narrowing the emissions gap in 2020?  And what is the potential for reducing their emissions and contributing to bridging the gap?
Under BAU (business as usual) type scenarios, combined global aviation and shipping emissions could add up to 1.7–2.5 GtCO2e in 2020, according to projections available in the literature, where most of the differences are attributable to different assumed rates of growth of the sectors. This can be compared with the total gap in 2020 between pledged
emissions and the 2°C target of 6 to 11 GtCO2e (Chapter 3). As to the potential to reduce emissions, we saw previously (Section 4.3.3) that a first estimate of this potential in the global aviation sector was about 0.1 GtCO2e in 2020. For the global shipping sector this figure was approximately 0.2–0.4 GtCO2e. Therefore, the twosectors together could help narrow the gap by around 0.3–0.5 GtCO2e. These potential reductions represent a significant fraction of projected emissions from these sectors under BAU conditions.And there is much, much more ………..


 Copies of the report can be downloaded from : http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/bridgingemissionsgap/

The first report in the series, “The Emissions Gap Report”, can be downloaded from: http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgapreport/pdfs/The_EMISSIONS_GAP_REPORT.pdf