Paris: Don’t leave out planes and ships

February 18, 2015

This blogpost was first published in EurActiv.The UNFCCC negotiating text took an important step forward last week with the inclusion in the text of wording calling for the setting of emission reduction targets for international shipping and aviation, in the context of the objective of the agreement – which is to limit any temperature increase to 2 degrees.

The coming months represent an opportunity for a dialogue between parties on why this wording should be included in the Paris Agreement at COP 21.

The importance of this development is clear. Shipping and aviation each account for nearly 3% of annual global CO2 emissions. After taking account of non-CO2 indirect aviation impacts, cirrus cloud formation and nitrogen oxides (NOx), these two fast growing sectors almost account for 10% of the global warming problem.

Recent estimates have stated that business-as-usual emissions will increase by up to 250% for shipping and 270% for aviation by 2050. These would account for one-quarter of all allowable emissions under a 2-degree scenario in 2050 and one-third under a 1.5-degree scenario.

Despite this reality, United Nations bodies, IMO [International Maritime Organisation] and ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation], have a long record of inaction.

IMO don’t even have discussions of a target on the agenda and have refused since 2011 to advance discussions on a market-based measure. The IMO’s one step – an energy efficiency standard for new ships introduced in 2013 (the so-called EEDI) – will require a generation before it impacts the whole fleet.

ICAO has promised to agree by 2016 the details of a measure to deliver carbon neutral growth in 2020. But progress is slow and the “jury remains out” as the negotiations for agreeing a global deal among ICAO’s 190+ member states are being held by a small group of states in total secrecy.

If agreed, any ICAO measure will depend heavily on the quality of offsets used and in any case carbon neutral growth will be insufficient to meet a 2-degree scenario.

A key concern of parties to the UNFCCC is to ensure that any measures adopted by IMO or ICAO conform to their view of an appropriate application of the principles they hold dear.

The text proposed doesn’t prejudge this – it merely requires each organisation to identify an emission reduction pathway, and leaves it for parties to each organisation to ensure that any measures adopted are done so in a way that is fair and equitable.

Transport & Environment (T&E) is convinced that solutions exist for emission reduction measures for aviation and shipping that can respect and reconcile the principles held by parties to the relevant UN bodies.

Workable proposals to address differentiation and incidence have been advanced for both sectors, including ‘route-based’ differentiation for aviation, and for shipping a financial mechanism that ensures that revenue from any carbon price or levy is allocated in a manner that differentiates between developed and developing countries, in accordance with their capabilities, responsibilities, and circumstances, particularly for SIDS [Small Island Developing States] and LDCs.

As discussions continue, the wording may need to be strengthened and improved. However, its intent is clear – all sectors must play their part and all emissions sources must be covered.

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