MEPs voted today to limit the exemption from the EU ETS of flights to and from Europe until 2021, pending further information regarding the UN aviation body ICAO’s global offsetting measure known as ‘CORSIA’. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes this vote as essential to safeguarding European climate goals. MEPs also endorsed a number of reforms to aviation’s inclusion in Europe’s emissions trading scheme which will start to cut back on the sector’s special treatment on climate policy.
Aviation is responsible for 5% of global warming and its rapid growth puts it on track to consume a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. There is a way to avoid this outcome but we need to act fast, a green transport NGO has said. By driving out the use of fossil kerosene fuel through carbon pricing and requiring aircraft to switch to synthetic fuels, the climate impact of flying can be reduced dramatically, according to a new report by Transport & Environment (T&E).
Aviation is already a major and growing emitter. In Europe its emissions have doubled since 1990, and globally they could, without action, double or treble by 2050. The sector will have a substantial fuel demand well into the 2030s, 2040s and beyond, the period when our economy needs to increasingly decarbonise. This report puts forward measures to limit that fuel requirement, but ultimately the remaining and substantial fuel demand will need to have its carbon content eliminated. The process of cutting and then decarbonising that fuel demand is the focus of this report.
A UN scheme being set up to tackle the climate impact of flying will credit airlines that use fossil fuels that have been declared to be ‘green’. The extraordinary concession was pushed through by Saudi Arabia, with the backing of the United States, and means that, for example, airlines burning kerosene could be rewarded with reduced obligations to buy carbon offsets simply because the refinery producing the oil was running on renewable electricity.
T&E has obtained letters from six EU countries informing the UN aviation agency ICAO that they may pull out out of a global carbon offsetting scheme for aircraft emissions if its environmental safeguards are weakened any further. In separate letters, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland and Norway state that if sustainability rules governing the use of offsets and alternative fuels are watered down any more in negotiations, they will reconsider their participation. The letters are available to download here. T&E has also seen documents that suggest six other EU countries have similarly told ICAO that they will pull out of the scheme, known as CORSIA.
France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland and Norway have said they may pull out out of a global carbon offsetting scheme for aircraft emissions if its environmental safeguards are weakened any further, documents released to Transport & Environment (T&E) show. In separate letters to the UN aviation agency ICAO, the six governments state that if sustainability rules governing the use of offsets and alternative fuels are watered down any more in negotiations, they will reconsider their participation. T&E has also seen documents that suggest six other EU countries have similarly told ICAO that they will pull out of the scheme, known as CORSIA.
As delegates fly and equipment is shipped to another climate conference in Bonn, the question of who is responsible for the resulting emissions arises. The conventional wisdom is that they are covered not by the Paris agreement but by the two UN agencies which were established to regulate these sectors – the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Three years ago this may have made sense. Until the Paris agreement was finalised at the end of 2015, the major climate agreement in force was the Kyoto Protocol which tasked developed countries to work through ICAO and IMO to cut emissions.
As the rule book for the Paris Agreement is finalised, T&E produces a paper which proposes the full inclusion of emissions from international shipping and aviation in national climate targets, known under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). States should pursue decarbonisation of these sectors through a combination of measures adopted at international and national level.
The UK cannot enjoy its current access to the EU air transport market after it leaves the EU unless it also commits to respecting EU aviation rules, a new report by T&E says. The report examines how to safeguard efforts to reduce the environmental impact of aviation after ‘Brexit’, and concludes that everyone stands to benefit if the British government adheres to EU rules on emissions trading and state aid.
The Dutch government’s refusal to publish documents about a controversial CO2 standard for aircraft, among other issues, is being challenged in court by T&E member Natuur & Milieu. It’s alleged that, by continuing to withhold decisions and research about the CO2 standard, emission trends, biofuels and offset rules – all of which were drafted or developed behind closed doors at UN aviation agency ICAO – the Netherlands is in breach of EU law.