Bunker fuels and the Kyoto Protocol: How ICAO and the IMO failed the climate change test

June 4, 2009

Report describing the twelve-year failure of ICAO and the IMO to cut greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping.

Emissions from aviation and marine ‘bunker’ fuels form a significant part of the global climate problem – almost 10%. The Kyoto Protocol assigned responsibility for reducing bunker greenhouse gas emissions to developed countries working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO), both United Nations agencies.

Studies and discussions have followed for almost 12 years but neither organisation has agreed one single binding measure to control emissions. ICAO has actively ruled out the most obvious measures. The IMO has focused on technical discussion around standards. Debate in both organisations is now deadlocked over whether any measures should be global or differentiated. Developed countries want global measures so as to avoid competitive distortion.

NGOs are maintaining pressure on ICAO and the IMO to act now as they are the expert bodies to deal with matters which involve complex industrial issues with a potentially significant economic impact. But if these efforts fail – and chances don’t look good – NGOs will press for action to be taken at Copenhagen.

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