Ex-EU climate chief’s warning on aviation emissions deal

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’.

Last year’s agreement at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s assembly is ‘a tentative first step’ towards tackling aviation’s contribution to climate change. The agreement says that aviation, the fastest growing means of transport in terms of greenhouse gases, must stabilise emissions at 2020 levels by requiring airlines to buy permits to offset aircraft emissions against reductions in other sectors.

 

Hedegaard, a Danish politician who was climate commissioner from February 2010 to October 2014, says the agreement ‘needs to be much more ambitious to make sure that aviation plays its role in addressing climate change’. But she says transparency must be at the heart of forthcoming talks to establish the rules that will govern the agreement.

 

Hedegaard writes: ‘To put it simply – how can you be sure these reductions are not also being counted toward other climate targets? Moreover, some ‘offset credits’ have been shown not to represent real emission reductions. How can you be sure that the credits airlines buy meet minimum quality standards?

 

‘Transparency must be the overriding principle to address these concerns. Consumers who fly, and therefore pay for these offsets, need to know whether their airline is complying with international rules; whether the emission reductions promised are actually delivered; and whether those same emission reductions have been pledged to anyone else.’

 

She says transparency will not be difficult to achieve. All it needs is for all airlines to declare their total emissions each year, declare which emission-reduction projects are being used to offset any emissions above 2020 levels, and guarantee that these projects are not being ‘double counted’ by being used for another offset scheme. She says the Kyoto Protocol and California Cap & Trade schemes have relied for their credibility on transparency.