Last year was the one in which it became plain for everyone to see that transport had turned from being the grey sheep to the black sheep in Europe and the world’s efforts to improve the environment.
While the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) continued its essential work to develop a global market-based mechanism to cut the sector’s emissions, by far the biggest highlight of 2015 was the Paris COP21 summit.
The Paris ‘Conference of the Parties’ 21, the most important climate conference since the failed Copenhagen one of six years ago, is nearing an outcome. The dramatic 13 November events in the city has surely added grit to France’s determination to succeed, and has forged some unusual alliances. There is some hope that the spirit of togetherness – not just against terrorism but also to tackle that other global threat which the COP is about – will help in forging a transformative deal.
EU approval of Ireland’s €42.5 million in state aid to small regional airports has been criticised for allowing public money to prop up underutilised infrastructure with questionable social and economic benefits. Four airports will receive the grants over the next four years – while the Irish government faces calls to address ‘chronic’ underinvestment in low-carbon public transport.
The EU is facing calls to work with the US government to ensure global standards being developed to regulate aviation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are effective – after the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) finding last month that emissions from aircraft endanger human health.
Environmentalists have warned Europe’s policymakers that they need to ensure the environmental integrity of the current EU ETS for aviation is not abandoned in return for nothing from the global aviation industry. The caution followed comments by the airline trade association, IATA, that a global market-based mechanism to tackle aviation’s carbon emissions won’t be ready by 2016 as agreed.
A ruling by a branch of the British legal system could have far-reaching implications for the future of emissions trading for aviation. An adjudicator has dismissed an appeal by a non-EU airline which refused to report on its emissions from intra-EU flights under the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). T&E says the impact of the decision is likely to be small, but the implications could be significant.
Further decarbonisation of transport through a shift to alternative fuels and electro-mobility forms a major part of the European Commission’s strategy for an ‘energy union’, unveiled last week. With transport being responsible for more than 30% of EU energy consumption and a quarter of emissions, the Commission said legislation on ‘decarbonising the transport sector, including an action plan on alternative fuels’ would be put forward in 2017.