All aboard: don’t leave out airplanes and ships

13 February 2015

Climate negotiators spend much more of their lives on airplanes than they would no doubt wish for. Perhaps there is some kind of psychological repression that makes them want to forget about airplanes as soon as they arrive at the negotiations. But we can’t meet our climate objectives if we don’t include the large and fast-growing emissions from aircraft and ships travelling between countries, which are not included in national targets.

The negotiating text took an important step forward this week with the inclusion of text calling for setting emission targets for shipping and aviation, in the context of a 2 degrees C objective. The coming months are an opportunity for a dialogue between Parties on why this step is so crucial to an ambitious deal, and addressing any concerns raised.

The importance of this step is clear. Shipping and aviation account for about 6% of global emissions. Indirect impacts of these sectors, like cirrus cloud formation and black carbon, likely add several percent to these impacts. The IMO and ICAO have stated that BAU emissions will increase by up to 250% for shipping and 270% for aviation by 2050. They would account for one-quarter of all allowable emissions under a 2 degree scenario and one-third under a 1.5 degree scenario. A credible deal cannot exist without a role for IMO and ICAO, and an understanding of the contribution these sectors are prepared to make.

A key concern of Parties is to ensure that any measure adopted by IMO or ICAO conforms to their view of an appropriate application of the principles they hold dear. The text proposed doesn’t prejudge this–it merely requires each organisation to identify an emission reduction pathway, and leaves it for Parties to each organisation to require that any measures adopted are done so in a way that is fair and equitable.

ECO is convinced that solutions exist for emissions reduction measures that respect and reconcile the principles of the relevant bodies. Workable proposals to address differentiation and incidence have been advanced for both sectors. These include “route-based” differentiation for aviation. and for shipping, a financial mechanism that ensures that revenue from any carbon price or levy is allocated in a manner that differentiates between developed and developing countries, in accordance with their capabilities, responsibilities, and circumstances, particularly for SIDS and LDCs.

As discussions continue, the wording may need to be strengthened and improved. However, its intent is clear–all sectors must play their part and all emissions sources must be covered.

All aboard: don’t leave out airplanes and ships

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