Aviation Sector Emissions and Impacts on South Asia

Vositha Wijenayake
Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator
CAN South Asia

The emissions from aviation have become a key concern for most states currently, including those of South Asia as they contribute to around 2.0-2.5% of the current total annual global CO2 emissions.

Emissions from aviation in developed countries (domestic and international) account for approximately 3.5% of their total emissions. A rough estimate indicates that 62% of the total emissions from the aviation sector are generated from international flights. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reported that international aviation emissions from developed countries rose by 65.8% between 1990 and 2005 (based on inventory data reported by countries). Although the growth in the aviation sector in developing countries will continue to increase, the demand for aviation will be especially strong in China, India and the Middle East.

Given the above data, it is obvious that we cannot remain ignorant of that is happening in the aviation sector. As India plays a key role in the regional emission reduction, as well as the regional politics in terms of climate change action, it is important to reach agreement on how to move forward in promoting aviation emission caps that would not be adverse to developing states, as well as beneficial in solving the issue of harmful emissions.

Furthermore it is known that to limit the increase in temperature to 2 ˚C would require reductions in all sectors, including aviation. While capping pollution from the aviation sector is important and urgent, reductions in other sectors too need to be scaled up significantly.

The two key principles that could be considered to be at the heart of discussion on finding a way forward to address GHG emissions from international aviation are:

(i) UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability (CBDR & RC); and,

(ii) The laws and regulations for the operation of aircrafts as well as airports and other charges should be applied without distinction amongst national and foreign aircrafts. This is commonly referred as the non-discriminatory principle.

Furthermore, “rather than focusing on the importance of finding the appropriate forum to address emissions from international aviation, it is important to address the key concern of developing countries on the following aspects, to find a solution irrespective of the forum.*”

To facilitate outcome under the ICAO, the UNFCCC should adopt a decision requesting ICAO to develop measures to address GHG emissions from the aviation sector and reiterate that any approach used under ICAO will not prejudice outcomes under the Ad hoc Durban Platform on a new agreement for the post-2020 regime. It should also be reassuring that countries will not resort to unilateral trade measures.      

*Reference to speech made by Mr. Sudhir Sharma at the side event on Aviation Emissions organized by Bread for the World during the UNFCCC session in Bonn, June 2013.

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