Top economists urge UN aviation body to deliver global emissions deal

A group of 40 leading international economists has said the UN aviation body, ICAO, must develop a market-based measure that forces air transport to pay the full costs that its emissions cause to global society.

The 40, which include four Nobel prize winners and economists from emerging economies like Brazil, India and China, have written to ICAO saying if aviation is to claim some of the earth’s remaining atmospheric capacity for emissions, it must show it is doing everything it can to create incentives for emissions reduction in the air transport sector.
The open letter, addressed to representatives of ICAO’s council, recognises that alternatives to liquid carbon fuels for aircraft are several decades away, but that the urgency and seriousness of global warming means ‘every amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere should reflect the expected cost of these emissions to society as a whole, taking into account the risks that they create’. This is what economists refer to as ‘the social costs of carbon’.
Developing their argument, they say ICAO would fail in its task to agree a market-based measure by 2016 if it produced an option for airlines ‘to buy emissions offsets in order to meet an already weak 2020 carbon neutrality target’. It says such a policy would ‘fall short of being a meaningful policy’ and ‘set a bad precedent’.
The letter comes shortly after the EU’s decision to drastically scale back its emissions trading for aviation to intra-EU flights only, a move that has been widely criticised by environmental groups. The economists note the decision and say it should provide impetus for ICAO to develop a measure to reflect the social costs of carbon. The letter ends with: ‘Time is running out to decelerate humanity’s growing contribution to climate change, and to ensure aviation is given a licence to operate in the future.’