Debunking the aviation target

8 June 2015

The aviation industry is still trying to pass itself off as a climate leader with its target of “carbon neutral growth”from 2020 onwards.

But ECO wants to pull back the curtain on this tricky target. In fact, the industry is proposing to allow emissions to grow freely until 2020 and from 2020 onwards. This will continue to grow emissions while offsetting the increase over its 2020 levels.

In other words, the aviation industry is proposing a free ride to pollute until 2020, and then a “license for continued unlimited growth”, to be addressed through potentially dodgy offsets. Obviously, such a target is well short of what we need to keep temperatures under a 2°C, much less the 1.5°C limit that we need. In fact, with a projected growth of 270% by 2050, aviation emissions could account for up to 15% of all global CO2 emissions.

To make matters worse, these aviation emissions are predominantly due to travel by those who are better off. Yet, it will inflict an increasingly negative climate impact on the most vulnerable countries and people. How can we ensure that the aviation debt is repaid? Make the aviation sector pay an adequate contribution to adaptation and loss and damage finance mechanisms. There are a lot of ways to achieve this. The current text encourages the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to introduce a levy on international aviation, designed in a way that takes into account the needs of developing countries. This suggestion makes sense when you consider that fuel for international aviation is tax free, thanks to deals made between industry and governments more than half a century ago. One estimate indicates the global airline industry’s tax exemption is as much as €60 billion per year. A global levy could capture part of this windfall and channel it more equitably.

We should also keep an eye on ICAO’s proposed market-based mechanism to enforce 2020 carbon neutral growth. An option under consideration is to introduce a levy on offsets or allowances purchased under the scheme. This could be used for adaptation finance, to support loss and damage, to facilitate developing countries’ ability to track and report their aviation emissions, or some combination of the above.

The time has come for an agreement that calls for ICAO (and IMO, the maritime equivalent) to set targets in line with a 1.5°C scenario. This long overdue agreement would pave the way for aviation to compensate for the undeniable climate damage that it has and will continue to inflict on the most vulnerable.

Debunking the aviation target

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