Shipping & Aviation: Elephants in the Room

1 December 2015

The sense of momentum that kicked off the COP Monday seems to have left out two major sources of emissions: international aviation and shipping. Emissions from these sectors fall outside national targets and are therefore separate from the INDCs submitted to-date. So, while most countries have come forward with pledges, these sectors are not included in those contributions.
If aviation and shipping were a country, they would be a top ten emitter, with their emissions expected to grow a whopping 270% by 2050. This would undermine efforts made by states and other sectors, whilst making the 1.5/2 degrees C objective almost impossible to achieve. This should not be an option. These sectors also pay zero tax on their fuel. This is a fossil fuel subsidy that is partly responsible for driving their emissions growth.
Two UN agencies are responsible for regulating emissions from these sectors–the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for shipping and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aviation. Since Kyoto tasked them with limiting or reducing emissions from these sectors, their emissions grew instead of decreased–80% between 1990 and 2010, compared to 40% for the rest of the global economy.
The Paris Agreement needs to provide ICAO and IMO with the momentum and ambition that they are so woefully lacking. It should require them to set emissions targets in line with their fair share of the 1.5/2 degree target. It should ensure these targets and efforts are subject to the same review processes that will be created to review national efforts. Ending their tax-free fuel status is also a no-brainer. It can provide climate finance while at the same time driving efficiency gains in these sectors.
Later today, ICAO and IMO will present their failed efforts to SBSTTA. It will be another recital of green washing, excuse making, and inaction. Let’s make this the last COP where ICAO and IMO turn up without doing their homework. They are the climate “elephants in the room”. Let’s use the agreement to end their special (polluting) status.
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Shipping & Aviation: Elephants in the Room

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