The rising scepticism about a global measure to partially offset aviation emissions was underscored this month with MEPs demanding a review in 2019 of the UN’s voluntary scheme, known as CORSIA. The European Parliament environment committee’s call for the review highlights Europe’s need to maintain an environmentally meaningful and strengthened regional measure, T&E said. The committee also voted to strengthen the EU emissions trading system’s (ETS) provisions on aviation.
The former EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard has warned that the proposed agreement to stabilise emissions from aircraft will only work if all the details are transparent. Writing on the Climate Home website, she said without transparency there is a risk that airlines will offset their growing greenhouse gas emissions against projects that either don’t do enough to combat climate change or are being ‘double counted’.
Carbon offsets are not working, according to a study by the European Commission. This measure allows polluters to pay others to reduce their emissions, so they can continue to pollute. The research found that 85% of the offset projects used by the EU under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) failed to reduce emissions.
A new study into the potential of biofuels to reduce aviation’s environmental impact has said that even advanced biofuels will not decarbonise aviation. The findings from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) come just four months after the EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said biofuels were the ‘best choice’ to start decarbonising air transport. The findings also support what T&E and four other NGOs told Bulc in January.
By Bill Hemmings, aviation and shipping directorWHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: 2015 ended with big promises from the UN aviation and shipping bodies, ICAO and the IMO, that they’d finally act to rein in their sectors’ substantial and growing climate impact. It has been almost 20 years since they were first tasked with doing so by the Kyoto Protocol, and 2016 would be their last chance.
More than 65 countries have signed up to offset, but not reduce, aircraft emissions from international flights, starting in 2021. However, participation in the scheme until 2027 is voluntary and its coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by UN aviation body ICAO and industry. The European Commission will now examine the agreement and decide what action to recommend be taken in light of the current suspension of the emissions trading system’s (ETS) coverage of flights into and out of Europe.
A Portuguese regional airport that was expanded with large amounts of EU funding has announced plans to turn itself into an aircraft parking facility because demand for the airport has fallen badly short of predictions. The case highlights T&E’s call for greater scrutiny of public money being used to prop up carbon-intensive, underutilised infrastructure with questionable social and economic benefits.
Long-haul flights to and from Europe will continue to be excluded from the EU emissions trading system (ETS) after MEPs voted last month to accept a compromise brokered with EU governments. The agreement means that, until 2017, only flights between EU airports will be regulated – a 75% cut in emissions covered compared with the original ETS.