• EU proposes global aviation and shipping targets for Copenhagen

    The EU has proposed a specific global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and shipping, but it has stepped back from committing the money that could be the key to making it happen. Last month, EU environment ministers agreed to put forward a proposal to cut emissions from aircraft by 10% and from shipping by 20% over the next 10 years (relative to 2005). The proposal, which has been approved by EU heads of government, is now a negotiating mandate for next month’s international climate change summit in Copenhagen.

    The proposal was worked out as part of difficult discussions within the 27 member states on what the EU’s negotiating position should be in Copenhagen. Despite the agreement on aviation and shipping targets, finance ministers failed to find enough finance for developing countries for a meaningful successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be achievable. Developing nations have made it clear they will only agree to a new treaty if the developed world pays for their costs of reducing emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change.

    In a worrying sign, EU finance ministers failed to agree to the kind of levels of finance likely to be required for a post-Kyoto agreement. They were also unwilling to say income from financial instruments used to reduce greenhouse gases from aircraft and ships – which could be up to €40 billion a year – should mainly be used for developing countries.

    T&E gave a cautious welcome to the agreement, but condemned the low levels of ambition and stressed the need for climate finance to be part of the proposals. ‘We question why aviation and shipping are still being given special
    treatment,’ said T&E policy officer Bill Hemmings. ‘The 10% and 20% reduction targets will still allow emissions from the two sectors more than one third above 1990 levels, while the EU says it will reduce emissions from other sectors by 20%, and possibly even 30% if a global agreement is reached at Copenhagen.’

    The EU’s support at Copenhagen for global agreements on aviation and shipping is significant, but there are still many obstacles to be overcome before such an agreement becomes a reality. One is that the Kyoto Protocol required emissions cuts only from developed nations, something the developed world says must be extended to all countries because aviation and shipping are global sectors.

    Germany’s environment minister Sigmar Gabriel said, ‘We have from the environment Council a complete negotiating mandate for Copenhagen, except for the finance.’ But with finance likely to be the key, the news that the EU is unlikely to be able to find the level of money needed to placate the developing nations could be a serious blow to the chances of a global agreement.

    Even within the EU, there have been protests from nine of the poorest members of the 27-nation bloc, saying their economies cannot withstand a major contribution to developing nations. Many of the nine have significant numbers of surplus emissions rights called Assigned Amount Units which they want to sell, but western European nations fear there are so many of these that they could undermine the whole EU emissions commitment.

    Hemmings added, ‘In this context, the potential of a global emissions trading scheme could be important, if revenue from the sale of emissions permits could be used to fund investment in low-emissions technology. Without financial help, the poorest nations will never agree to cutting aviation and shipping emissions at Copenhagen.’

    Aviation and shipping together generate over 5% of total global carbon dioxide, but the figure is rising quickly. The two sectors are not covered by the Kyoto emissions reduction targets, and NGOs are keen to get an agreement at Copenhagen to avoid the International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Maritime Organisation being given continued responsibility for emissions reduction, as no agreements have been reached to reduce these emissions since the Kyoto summit 12 years ago.