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.
In this letter, NGOs Aviation Environment Federation, Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment tell European ministers for climate and transport that the excessive environmental and climate implications of supersonic flight are beyond doubt. They call on the ministers to make clear that Europe’s commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will require the environmental performance of all new supersonic aircraft to at least meet existing and future environmental standards applicable to subsonic aircraft and so avoid any deterioration in aircraft environmental impacts. Given aviation’s already considerable environmental impact, it is imperative that Europe’s regulators act firmly and without delay to protect European citizens.
A number of companies have announced efforts to bring back commercial supersonic transport. But, as this briefing outlines, the extraordinary negative environmental impact of these aircraft, especially the climate impact, is often overlooked. Such aircraft have very heavy fuel consumption demands and generate extreme non-CO2 effects, far exceeding those of sub-sonic aircraft. Policymakers should therefore be wary of facilitating the return of supersonic commercial flight, and devise measures to ensure that any potential reintroduction does not result in a net increase in civil aviation's climate impact compared to a 'no supersonic' scenario.
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.
Decisions that affect EU environmental legislation need to be far more transparent and open to public discussion. This is the argument at the heart of two legal actions initiated this month concerning a new global CO2 emissions standard for aircraft.
The Dutch government is withholding documents that are important for the future of international aviation. Natuur & Milieu went to court in December to demand that the government make these documents public. The hearing is tomorrow, Tuesday (10 April). The documents contain, amongst other details, calculation methods and climate analyses. These form the basis for, among other policies, the new CO2 emission standards for airplanes.
There are growing calls for a green tax shift to the transport sector, which would help fill a gap in the EU’s budget after the UK leaves. A T&E analysis has found new measures such as a carbon tax on motor fuels, aviation kerosene duty, and ending the VAT exemption for flights within and from Europe would raise more than €50 billion annually. And last week, as EU leaders discussed the looming gap, 17 eminent economists rowed in behind the idea, calling it a ‘once in a decade opportunity’ to create a fossil-fuel contribution to the EU budget.
Transport is Europe’s biggest climate problem, representing 27% of the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to meet its climate targets and avoid the severe impacts of climate change, stronger EU action on transport emissions is needed and fiscal policy has a key role to play – especially in the aviation sector which enjoys fuel tax and VAT exemptions and copious amounts of state aid.