Going the Distance: Action Needed from IMO and ICAO

2 June 2015

International shipping and aviation generates approximately 5% of global CO2 emissions. Massive growth rates in carbon pollution are anticipated for both sectors (50-250% for shipping and 270% for aviation by 2050). Without strong mitigation action in these sectors, we may lose any chance of staying below the 2°C goal. Whilst almost all other sectors and countries are discussing their commitments to the effort to keep global warming below 2°C, international aviation and shipping’s commitments are nowhere to be seen. What ECO heard from the IMO in SBSTA today does not comfort us that either sector is acting ambitiously enough or fast enough.

International shipping is the only sector that does not even acknowledge the need for absolute emission reductions or have a process in place to agree on such a target. In fact, only last month, the IMO turned down a proposal by the Marshall Islands to begin such a process. Its review of this suggestion took just 90 minutes, even though the Marshall Islands has the third largest shipping registry in the world. The message on climate impacts from the Pacific Islands is a wakeup call for all—except for the IMO.

At least the aviation sector is in the process of developing a new market-based mechanism, with the aim of using offsets to limit its emissions to 2020 levels. And yet, bearing in mind that we have a remaining carbon budget of less than 1000Gt CO2e, ICAO’s target is deaf to the science. There is also currently no process in place to discuss future aviation emissions reductions. So in the end, both ICAO and IMO’s submissions to SBSTA were more rainbows and unicorns than reports of adequate climate action.

The dire situation with both ICAO and IMO means that preserving and improving on the language in the UNFCCC Geneva text must be a priority. It is, after all, the only place where there is any discussion of having a levy on these sectors “to provide financial support for the Adaptation Fund”, which could be an important source of new and additional climate finance.

It is also the only place where these sectors have been linked to a real climate objective—limiting global average temperature increases to 2°C. ECO joins many vulnerable countries in thinking  even that limit is not enough, and that the proper upper limit is 1.5°C.

Going the Distance: Action Needed from IMO and ICAO

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