UNEP Executive Director says airlines must agree on cutting their carbon emissions
Achim Steiner, who is the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has written an op-ed in the China Daily and in China.org. He says that airlines need to cut their carbon emissions. “If the world is to head off dangerous climate change and somehow keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsus, we need all hands on deck. That includes airlines.” Aviation is responsible for some 5% of humnanity’s impact on the climate.” He adds: “Air travel is not only the fastest growing form of transport. It is also the most carbon intensive” and that a global agreement on a market-based measure is needed – through ICAO – to take effect by 2020, or soon after. That needs to be agreed at ICAO’s meeting this September. Achim says: “In order to realize the future we want, and need, economies must urgently begin decoupling economic growth from natural resource use, including fossil fuels. Airlines must be part of that transformation. This can be the year when ICAO departs the runway and plots a course for a low carbon future. The first stop is a global deal in Montreal.”
Aviation op-ed* below by Achim Steiner in the China Daily.
Airlines must reduce their emissions
13.6.2013 (both in China Daily and in China.org)
By Achim Steiner
(Exective Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP http://www.unep.org/about/executivedirector/)
If the world is to head off dangerous climate change and somehow keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsus, we need all hands on deck. That includes airlines.
Air travel is not only the fastest growing form of transport. It is also the most carbon intensive.
Few if any holidaymakers and business people boarding their flights know that the kerosene fuel powering their airliner is tax-free.
This gives air transport an unfair advantage over rail and road, and offers less incentive to aircraft designers and operators to accelerate a transition to ever-more fuel-efficient planes. Long-standing efforts to end this anomaly have failed.
A recent attempt to require aircraft flying to Europe <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/invest_europe.htm> to pay for their CO2 emissions under the European Union’s Emissions Trading System triggered fierce opposition from many non-European countries.
The EU has suspended its plan for a year, putting the ball back in the court of the International Civil Aviation Organization and its 191 member states to find a solution.
This is the ideal place for aviation to begin cutting the 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions it now accounts for.
A global agreement would level the playing field so that all airlines pay the same fuel levy, so reducing the risk of “freeloaders”.
But there is a deadline to the opportunity for helping aviators get a handle on their CO2 emissions by 2020. And they must flip them soon after.
In September a triannual decision-making ICAO assembly will meet in Montreal with a vote likely on whether a global market-based measure will be adopted to drive the industry to meet its responsibilities. If no decision is taken, the next assembly may not convene until 2016.
The world has waited long enough for aviation – and indeed shipping – to join international efforts to bridge the emissions gap.
Increased engine efficiencies, alternative fuels, air traffic management reform and technological enhancements can help, but are unlikely on their own to deliver the emissions reductions needed and at the speed required. Question marks also remain over how such investments would be paid for.
Seizing the moment to put in place a market-based structure to catalyze the low carbon innovations the industry needs – and guarantee its sustainable future – is thus both logical and desirable.
The resolution on the “Implementation of the Aviation Carbon-Neutral Growth Strategy” adopted at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting earlier this month could prove to be an important step in the process.
A clear signal from industry that it supports a global market-based mechanism to be agreed at this year’s ICAO Assembly has been one that governments have been waiting for.
Climate change remains an over-arching challenge not just for future generations, but also for those living with its early consequences today.
Impacts in the last 12 months, consistent with scientific projections, include: the largest melting of Arctic sea ice on record, a “once in a century” drought that hit the US Mid-West, followed by a once in a century hurricane that hit New York, the wettest-ever summer in the United Kingdom, followed by one of the coldest-ever springs.
As ever, the greatest tragedies have been suffered by those with the least resources to cope. But whether we are talking about floods in India, or droughts in east Africa, a climate crisis is emerging of profound proportions.
The complexity of the Earth’s systems and feedback mechanisms prevent predictions being made with 100 percent certainty. But the risk assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underline that humanity is playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with our life support systems.
There are many encouraging actions underway from the rise of renewable energy investments to cuts in deforestation in countries such as Brazil.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States have fallen to 1994 levels according to recent estimates, and China is scheduled to invest over $1 trillion in clean energy, energy efficiency and other climate mitigation measures over the next five years.
Many other nations, large and small, rich and poor are building on the outcomes of last year’s Rio+20 Summit to devise and define pathways to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.
Yet despite many positive developments, the world has yet to turn the corner. Emissions into the atmosphere hit a new record high last year of over 35 billion tons – 58 percent above 1990 levels.
In order to realize the future we want, and need, economies must urgently begin decoupling economic growth from natural resource use, including fossil fuels.
Airlines must be part of that transformation. This can be the year when ICAO departs the runway and plots a course for a low carbon future. The first stop is a global deal in Montreal.
The author is UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Programme.
UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Acting on the nomination of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN General Assembly in 2006 unanimously elected Achim Steiner as the Executive Director of UNEP for a four-year term. He became the fifth Executive Director in UNEP’s history. At its 83rd plenary meeting in 2010, the UN General Assembly, on the proposal of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, re-elected Mr. Achim Steiner as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme for another four-year term.
The Secretary-General also appointed Mr. Steiner as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), where he served from March 2009 to May 2011. UNON provides the administrative, conference, security and logistics services to the UN family in Kenya, hosts offices and projects of more than 60 UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, and over 5,000 staff.
Before joining UNEP, Mr. Steiner served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006, and prior to that as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams. His professional career has included assignments with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations in different parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. He worked both at grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international policy-making to address the interface between environmental sustainability, social equity and economic development.
Mr. Steiner, a German and Brazilian national, was born in Brazil in 1961. His educational background includes a BA from the University of Oxford as well as an MA from the University of London with specialization in development economics, regional planning, and international development and environment policy. He also studied at the German Development Institute in Berlin as well as the Harvard Business School.
Mr. Steiner also chairs two UN system wide entities:
- HLCP – High-level Committee on Programmes of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB); and
- EMG – United Nations Environment Management Group.
He serves on a number of international advisory boards, including the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED).
An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often mistaken for opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board.