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.
Aviation emissions are responsible for 5% of global warming and shipping makes up almost 3% of global CO2. These sectors have a CO2 impact equal to the UK and Germany and are continuing to grow rapidly – by up to 270% in 2050, by which time they could account for almost 40% of all emissions. Such emission growth will undermine reductions efforts by all countries and other sectors, effectively making the 1.5/2°C objective impossible to achieve.
‘Any increase beyond 2 degrees is a death warrant for our countries,’ the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, Tony de Brum, has warned after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sidelined his country’s plea for a global CO2 target for shipping.
Speech delivered by Jos Dings, T&E director, at the European Parliament Transport Committee’s hearing on the White Paper on Transport on 17 March 2015.
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.
In the final years of negotiations for the new climate agreement, it’s still not clear if it will include the fastest growing emissions sources — international aviation and shipping, also known as bunker fuels.
The latest round of climate talks concluded in Lima last month with a sense that some of the basics have been agreed to set the foundations of a global agreement in Paris next year. While the final outcome fell short of expectations, all parties seem to have accepted in principal the need to curb their emissions to keep an increase in global temperature below 2C. However, the two international sectors, aviation and shipping - the emissions of which have not been allocated to parties - seem to be the exception.
In October 2012 the European Commission launched a public consultation on 'Review of existing legislation on VAT reduced rates'. T&E has been campaigning to abolish the reduced rates for international passenger transport for years due to the harmful competitive distortions caused by those rates and the implicit subsidy it provides for passenger transport, especially in the aviation sector.
The Commission should make a meaningful proposal this year for the EU to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from maritime transport. That is the message delivered by 15 NGOs to the EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard and five other commissioners in a letter dated 23 March, which specifically offers help in drawing up a proposal.