Following the Paris Agreement, 2016 will be another crucial year for climate as countries are set to adopt the first ever agreement on limiting the emissions of the aviation sector. So far however, the proposal is far from being ambitious. It is up to the civil society to raise awareness on this issue and hold decision makers and industries accountable
Aviation, a major source of carbon emissions
Emissions from international aviation grew by over 75% between 1990 and 2012. In 2014, the sector emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere than the combined emissions of the 129 lowest emitting countries. This is equivalent to 4.9% of global yearly greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country its emissions would put it well into the top 20. With a business as usual scenario, aviation emissions are expected to grow by up to 300% by 2050!
Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to present “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets” and to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This objective can only be fulfilled if the aviation industry, a top ten global polluter, contributes its fair share in reducing emissions rapidly.
Proposals to cap aviation’s emissions
In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol called for aviation emissions to be limited and reduced. However, over the past 18 years, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), charged with overseeing emissions in commercial aviation, has never adopted a binding solution to aviation emissions. ICAO finally decided to act and chose to address emissions largely through a global market-based mechanism (GMBM).
In October 2016, countries are expected to agree on a climate goal that should ensure a cap on aviation emissions at 2020 levels, termed carbon neutral growth 2020 (CNG2020). While this is achieved through many measures including biofuels and aircraft improvements, aviation will grow faster than emissions can be cut. A large part of emissions above 2020 levels will have to be offset in other sectors, and this is the primary function of the GMBM.
Many challenges to come!
As it currently stands however, ICAO’s proposal is far from being ambitious and may result in a global greenwashing agreement sponsored by the aviation industry. There are, thus, important challenges to be tackled.
Our biggest priority is to ensure that this agreement is a very first step towards more ambition in the coming years. Similar to the Paris agreement, it is crucial that countries provide opportunities to increase ambition over time by agreeing on a ratchet mechanism. We also want to ensure that offsetting projects deliver real, additional, permanent and verified reduction and advocate for the banning of projects that have proven ineffective or even dangerous for local populations and the climate (such as the Barro Blanco project – see here ).
You can make a difference!
The ICAO process is notoriously secretive and non-transparent. The past years also show that Parties and private stakeholders are very reluctant to push for any significant effort. As a consequence, civil society organisations have a key role in demanding that ICAO do more! How? By raising awareness on this policy process among the population, by calling out national governments and airlines to act for an ambitious agreement.
Carbon Market Watch is currently looking for allies at the national level. Read our Action Toolkit for more information (see here) and write to email@example.com to know what you can do!
By Kelsey Perlman, Policy Researcher – Aviation & Land Use
Click here if you want to read the other articles of our Watch This! Newsletter