Paper by Dr Alice Bows Larkin on need for air travel demand management to limit growth in aviation CO2 emissions
In a paper in the journal, Climate Policy, Dr Alice Bows Larkin looks at the problem of rising emissions from the international shipping and aviation sectors, and their special treatment. While all sectors face decarbonization for a 2C temperature increase to be avoided, meaningful policy measures that address rising CO2 from international aviation and shipping remain woefully inadequate. Dr Bows Larkin concludes that the more simply structured aviation sector is misguided in pinning too much hope on emissions trading to deliver CO2 cuts in line with 2C. Instead, the solution to aviation playing its part in achieving the 2C target remains controversial and unpopular. It requires demand management for air travel. Or perhaps biofuel, which seems unlikely. She asks: “Should aviation, which in a global context continues to be dominated by relatively affluent leisure passengers, take priority over other sectors for the use of sustainable biofuels in preference to less popular policies aiming to curb or even cut growth rates? ….The highly constrained carbon budget commensurate with 2 C does not permit any further delay in rolling out mitigation policies for aviation and shipping.”
In the Journal “Climate Policy”
All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy
(Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research & School of Mechanical
Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Oxford Road,
Manchester M13 9PL, UK)
Published online: 06 Dec 2014.
Abstract: All sectors face decarbonization for a 2 C temperature increase to be avoided. Nevertheless, meaningful policy measures that address rising CO2 from international aviation and shipping remain woefully inadequate.
Treated with a similar approach within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), they are often debated as if facing comparable
challenges, and even influence each others’ mitigation policies. Yet their strengths and weaknesses have important distinctions.
This article sheds light on these differences so that they can be built upon to improve the quality of debate and ensuing policy development. The article quantifies ‘2 C’ pathways for these sectors, highlighting the need for mitigation measures to be urgently accelerated. It reviews recent developments, drawing attention to one example where a change in aviation mitigation policy had a direct impact on measures to cut CO2 from shipping. Finally, the article contrasts opportunities and barriers towards mitigation.
The article concludes that there is a portfolio of opportunities for short- to medium-term decarbonization for shipping, but its complexity is its greatest barrier to change. In contrast, the more simply structured aviation sector is pinning too much hope on emissions trading to deliver CO2 cuts in line with 2 C. Instead, the solution remains controversial and unpopular – avoiding 2 C requires demand management.
……… Just the conclusions copied below:
International aviation and shipping are distinct from other sectors in terms of governance arrangements to curb their CO2 emissions. They have also had similar CO2 growth rates since 1990, above the global average. Nevertheless, allowing the debate around these sectors to be too closely linked (as in the instance highlighted in the UK) could hamper opportunities for developing targeted measures to cut CO2 emissions in the short to medium term. There is a huge divide between the potential for mitigation in shipping compared with aviation. In short, the shipping industry has many technological and operational options that could cut emissions in the short to medium term. Aviation does
not. Nevertheless, despite many options on the horizon for shipping, its complex organizational nature is a major barrier to change.
In aviation, the limit to technical and operational change has led the industry towards a preference to use a global emissions trading scheme to provide net emission cuts. In other words, the sector expects CO2 savings will generally be made in other sectors of the economy to enable aviation related CO2 to grow or be cut by less. Yet, even with trading, a target of a 50% net CO2 cut is not sufficient to meet the 2 C goal. Ironically, by comparing aviation with shipping, it becomes clear that if there were mitigation options available to the air transport sector, its relatively simple institutional set-up, with its small number of manufacturers, fewer markets and actors, as well as a lower number of major national players, would make incentivizing change practical.
Instead, with emissions trading disconnected from the 2 C challenge, demand-management and biofuels offer the only feasible ways of cutting CO2 in the timescale compatible with the available CO2 budget.
Yet, both raise interesting ethical and moral issues. Should aviation, which in a global context continues to be dominated by relatively affluent leisure passengers (Williams, 2007), take priority over other sectors for the use of sustainable biofuels in preference to less popular policies aiming to curb or even cut growth rates?
The highly constrained carbon budget commensurate with 2 C does not permit any further delay in rolling out mitigation policies for aviation and shipping. All opportunities for urgent change need to be harnessed. Immediate CO2 cuts in the shipping sector could be delivered, at least in waters around port states, through regulations or incentives at a sub-global scale that further encourage and maintain the recent shift towards slow-steaming, better ship efficiency, and the retrofit of low-carbon technologies.
For aviation, pinning so much hope on emissions trading to meet the 2 C challenge is misguided.
Ultimately, an uncomfortable and familiar conclusion for aviation remains: a moratorium on airport expansion at least in wealthy nations is one of the few options available to dampen growth rates within a timeframe befitting of the 2 C target.
To cite this article: Alice Bows-Larkin (2014): All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy,
Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2014.965125
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2014.965125
More about Dr Alice Bows Larkin