International aviation and shipping omitted from Paris agreement – despite their huge CO2 emissions

The Paris talks ended with an agreement, which is regarded by many as encouraging and setting the ground for positive progress in coming years. Others regard the agreement as being weak, setting no dates or targets – and having no actual promises of action by participating governments. International aviation and shipping were omitted altogether from the final 31 page text.  As the two sectors account for around 8% of global CO2 emissions, their exclusion is significant. Without proper regulation, or targets for cuts in their emissions, estimates suggest aviation and shipping could account for as much as one-third of global emissions by 2050 as demand for air travel increases, and as emissions from other sectors such as energy generation are curbed.  Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said it was “crucial” that emissions from shipping and aviation were included in the final text. “Leaving these two highly polluting sectors out of the agreement will call into questions the robustness of any emissions targets.” Some of the strongest criticism has come from renowned climate scientist James Hansen:  “It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. …As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”  


Paris climate summit: Air travel omitted from deal as crucial talks to overrun

Early drafts of the agreement had committed countries to try to limit or reduce emissions from the sectors

Greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping are set to be omitted from a new UN deal to tackle climate change, in a move critics said would make it near-impossible to avert dangerous global warming.

Ministers from more than 190 countries worked through the night again on Thursday into the last formal day of the two-week United Nations climate summit in Paris.

But French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who is chairing the talks, confirmed that the final version of the draft agreement would not be produced until Saturday morning, delaying a deal well beyond the official Friday evening deadline.

A draft text of a new UN agreement, published late on Thursday at talks in Paris, made no mention of aviation and shipping – despite the fact they account for about five per cent of the global emissions that cause climate change. [Their emissions are more like 8% if the non-CO2 impacts of aircraft emissions are also taken into account. AW note].

Early drafts of the agreement had committed countries to try to limit or reduce emissions from the sectors, but this reference was dropped under pressure from emerging economies.

Amber Rudd, the UK energy secretary, and Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate commissioner, had both called for the commitment to be reinstated, but it remained absent from a near-final draft published late last night.

Estimates suggest aviation and shipping could account for as much as one-third of global emissions by 2050 as demand for air travel increases, and as emissions from other sectors such as energy are curbed.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said: “International aviation and shipping emit more carbon dioxide than most countries, so it’s worrying that these sectors are being let off the hook at the Paris climate talks.”

Although the scope of the Paris talks was not intended to set specific targets for aviation or shipping emissions, negotiators had hoped to use the deal to force action through separate UN processes that officially cover the two sectors.

To date, the processes that are supposed to cover emissions “haven’t really delivered much”, Kaisa Kosonen, climate policy adviser at Greenpeace said.

Andrew Murphy, policy officer at campaign group Transport & Environment, said the dropping of the sectors would make it “close to impossible” to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees C, the level above which scientists say the world will see the most severe impacts of climate change.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said it was “crucial” that emissions from shipping and aviation were included in the final text. “Leaving these two highly polluting sectors out of the agreement will call into questions the robustness of any emissions targets,” she said.


See also:

ICAO “welcomes the COP21 agreement” which excludes any measures to regulate aviation CO2

December 16, 2015

The Paris COP21 climate talks produced an agreement, but without any mention of the carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping. The weak paragraph just saying Parties might “pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, working through ICAO, with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions….” was removed. A press release from ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization) says how delighted it is at the outcome of the COP21, and how now: “Every State and every global industrial sector must now redouble their efforts toward achieving substantial progress on emissions reduction if the COP21 legacy is to be achieved, and the civil aviation community is no exception.” Somehow the exclusion of aviation from the Paris agreement is interpreted by ICAO as “a vote of confidence in the progress ICAO and the aviation community have achieved thus far.” That is a pretty incredible statement, bearing in mind ICAO’s record of utterly dismal failure to produce any worthwhile progress over some 18 years. ICAO is meant to be working on developing a “market based measure” (MBM) for global aviation by September 2016. Expectations for how likely this is, or how effective it will be, are very low.


The exclusion of international aviation & shipping CO2 from Paris COP21 deal makes 2°C limit close to impossible

The Paris climate agreement text has now dropped mention of international aviation and shipping. The weak statement that has been removed only said that parties might “pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions” through ICAO “with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.” Even that has gone, so there is no ambition for CO2 regulation. Transport & Environment (T&E) says this has fatally undermined the prospects of keeping global warming below 2°C. The CO2 emissions of these two sectors amount to about 8% of emissions globally. In recent years their emissions have grown twice as fast as the those of the global economy – an 80% rise in CO2 output from aviation and shipping between 1990 and 2010, versus 40% growth in CO2 emissions from global economic activity – and they are projected to grow by up to 270% in 2050. They could be 39% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated. After 18 years of being supposed to come up with measures to tackle aviation emissions, ICAO has done almost nothing – and little is expected of it.

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What has been removed from the draft Paris agreement:

The weak text, [ bracketed ]  (ie. not agreed, and so could be removed) from an earlier Paris draft agreement is copied below:

Paris draft text on aviation or it could be removed entirely

Paris climate deal is agreed – but is it really good enough?

12.12.2015 (New Scientist)

History has been made in Paris – but perhaps not the kind of history we hoped. The climate summit in Paris may come to be remembered as the moment when the world’s leaders let the last hope of limiting warming to 2 °C slip away from us.

The Paris agreement, which covers the period 2020 to 2030, is a better deal than many expected, and if countries stick both to the spirit and the letter of the agreement, it could give us a good chance of limiting global warming to under 4 °C and perhaps even under 3 °C.

But this is far from certain. The Kyoto Protocol was hailed as a dramatic turning point when it was agreed in 1997 but most now regard it as a failure.
Many scientists have welcomed the stated aim in the Paris agreement not just of trying to keep warming under 2 °C but endeavouring to limit it to 1.5 °C – a more ambitious goal than expected before the summit. However, they point out that what is in the agreement does not go nearly far enough to achieve these aims. The strongest criticism has come from renowned climate scientist James Hansen.


“It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises,” Hansen said today. “As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

It has long been clear that what countries were offering to do as part of a deal was not nearly enough to keep us under 2 °C. In the lead-up to Paris, this was not only been acknowledged but stressed by many involved in the process, including UN chief negotiator Christiana Figueres.

This has not changed. “The emissions cuts promised by countries are still wholly insufficient,” says Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia, who studies global emissions.

However, the agreement does contain a “ratchet mechanism”. Countries will have to say every five years what they are doing tackle climate change review – what will now be called their nationally determined contribution. Each successive NDC “will represent a progression beyond” the country’s previous one. This wording did not appear in earlier versions of the agreement, in which the language was weaker.

The idea is that this will ensure countries rapidly “ratchet up” their ambitions. But the gulf between what is being done and what is required is huge, and nothing in the deal compels countries to make much greater efforts required. While the deal is being described as legally binding, countries can withdraw from it without consequences, as Canada did from the Kyoto Protocol.

Now or never
And time has nearly run out for limiting warming to 2 °C. “If we wait until 2020, it will be too late,” climate scientist Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre in the UK told New Scientist on Friday. “It’s a very small window.”

As for 1.5 °C, it would take nothing less than “a true world revolution”, according to Piers Forster of the University of Leeds. “We need renewable energy, nuclear power, fracking, zero-carbon transport, energy efficiency, housing changes,” he said. “Even international aviation and shipping that were excluded from this report will need to be tackled within the next few years.”

Few regard this as a realistic prospect, not least because no politician would be prepared to take the drastic and costly measures required. “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5 °C is simply incompatible with democracy,” Michael Grubb of University College London told The Daily Telegraph yesterday.

But unless such drastic action is taken in the next few years we are headed for a very different world, one in which seas will rise by more than 5 metres over the coming centuries, and one in which droughts, floods and extreme heatwaves will ravage many parts of the world.

There has been much praise for the way the French have organised the summit and handled the negotiations.

The deal in Paris may well have been the best deal possible. But the protesters outside the summit are right when they say it will not save the planet.

“The bureaucrats have a better grasp of what is politically possible, and the protesters of what is physically necessary,” says Anderson. “What do you want to bet on, science or politics?”



The Polluters the Paris Treaty Ignores

International shipping and aviation emit as much as entire wealthy nations, but they’re not bound by the COP21 deal.



Image Reuters / Tim Shaffer
Reuters / Tim Shaffer


With the Paris climate talks coming to a close, participating nations are hashing out the details of how to hold each other to their carbon reduction goals and finance the whole transition to a cleaner world. Non-state actors are present, too; 400 cities signed a Compact of Mayors to set and track climate goals. And financial institutions have made big commitments to shift investment away from fossil fuels and better disclose climate-related business risks.

But there are two particular industries that must factor into any plan to cut carbon and yet aren’t directly represented in the current COP21 talks: international shipping and aviation.

They’re both big. International shipping produces 2.4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to all of Germany. Meanwhile total aviation yields about 2 percent of global GHGs, and international flights account for 65 percent of that figure. These emissions won’t be covered by reductions being discussed at COP21, because they don’t happen within the boundaries of any specific countries. They’re also projected to rise dramatically by 2050.

Two major obstacles stand in the way of resolving emissions from international shipping and aviation. The first is procedural: those industries are not bound by the Paris climate deal. The second is practical: the world currently lacks a promising technology to replace carbon-based propulsion systems, as well as a promising alternative to carbon-based fuel.

The limits of COP21

The acronym-laden gathering of 196 nations in Paris is administered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s the organization created in 1994 to rein in greenhouse gases before they caused dangerous climate interference. The UN agencies charged with overseeing the environmental impacts of international transport are the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization(IMO).

The latest draft text for the Paris treaty doesn’t contain the words “shipping” or “aviation.”

The ICAO has said that next year at its assembly the group will decide on a global market-based measure to reduce carbon emissions.

(Meantime airlines have acted on their own; in 2009, the International Air Transport Association industry group pledged to improve fuel efficiency 1.5 percent each year until 2020, when emissions will peak, and to halve 2005-level emissions by 2050.) And the IMO has set an energy efficiency requirement for ships built in 2025, but not an overall carbon emissions target.

The parties at COP21 could include language to direct those organizations to cut emissions from international shipping. But, as Politico reports, that requires a delicate balancing act: many of the maritime nations most threatened by rising sea levels also rely on shipping and air travel for their economic health. As of Thursday evening, the draft text for the Paris treaty did not contain the words “shipping” or “aviation.”

Technological challenges

Even if world leaders could determine carbon cuts for these industries, significant advances in technology and deployment would need to happen to make them possible.

Electric cars are growing cheaper and more accessible by the day, but electric propulsion doesn’t seem likely for international transit. When you’re out at sea or up in the air, you can’t stop to plug in and recharge your batteries. Additionally, air travel is extremely sensitive to the weight of an aircraft, and the batteries needed to power a long flight will weigh too much for the foreseeable future.

The industries can cut some emissions by looking at fuel efficiency, but not a lot. Airlines already did the more attainable upgrades in that regard during the fuel price spike of 2008, says environmental consultant Suzanne Hunt, president of Hunt Green LLC. Fuel prices impose the largest cost airlines face (up to two-fifths of total costs), so they have a strong incentive to trim their demand wherever possible.

The shipping industry doesn’t face the same pressures, because in most cases the company hiring a ship to transport cargo pays for the fuel required, says Galen Hon, who manages the shipping efficiency operation at the Carbon War Room, a D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates market-based ways to reduce carbon emissions. That means the ship owner doesn’t feel financial pressure to improve efficiency, unless customers start factoring in environmental qualities when they select a transporter (Carbon War Room developed a tool to do just that).

In both shipping and aviation, then, the most significant carbon reductions will come from adopting different fuels or propulsion technologies.


there is then a section on biofuels…..

It concludes: 

“It’s really, really hard to make large quantities of sustainable biofuels for aviation,” Hunt says. “The industry is very much in its infancy and very capital intensive and it’s competing against the most powerful industry on the planet, oil.”


then there is a section on possible carbon cuts for shipping ….



The first hurdles

Since international transportation is, well, international, any policies to clean it up need to be global in scope. If the European Union passes a strong law for lowering emissions from international flights, airlines could just divert air travel to other places with more lenient approaches to carbon. And a patchwork of different policies in different nations will make global travel exceedingly complicated.

A worldwide carbon tax could go a long way to driving cleaner performance from ships and aircraft and increasing market pressure for alternative fuels. Michael Gill, director for aviation environment at the International Air Transport Association, says the aviation industry supports the ICAO developing a global, market-based regulation to cut carbon from flying, but they’re wary of a carbon tax: that might constrict the growth of the industry. Instead, he’d like to see a carbon offset scheme that includes incentives for switching to cleaner fuels.

If nations do want to act on their own, they could do a lot worse than ending subsidies for fossil fuels. A working paper by researchers at the International Monetary Fund estimated global post-tax subsidies for energy—mostly coal, natural gas, and oil, with a tiny sliver going to electricity—at an astounding$5.3 trillion for 2015, or 6.5 percent of global GDP. Stopping direct budgetary support for fossil fuels would be a logical place to start.

“Getting rid of subsidies for mature industries would be something you’d think would be palatable for liberals and conservatives alike,” Hunt notes.

It’s still possible, if unlikely, that some language about international transportation will make it into the final Paris treaty. Even if it doesn’t, there can still be progress. A successful deal at COP21 will generate political momentum for the ICAO’s next meeting in September 2016, says Gill. And the IMO will work on reducing emissions at a meeting in April, says Hon.

Environmentalists may well say that timeline isn’t fast enough. But that sounds like more of a testament to just how quickly the COP process has accelerated in the last few years. As recently as 2009 the question was: “Will the world ever forge a meaningful climate treaty?” Now we’ve advanced to asking: “Once we get the deal, how soon can international transit follow suit?”