January 21, 2015
By Andrew Murphy, Transport & Environment’s aviation policy officer
The latest round of climate talks concluded in Lima last month with a sense that some of the basics have been agreed to set the foundations of a global agreement in Paris next year.
While the final outcome fell short of expectations, all parties seem to have accepted in principal the need to curb their emissions to keep an increase in global temperature below 2C.
However, the two international sectors, aviation and shipping – the emissions of which have not been allocated to parties – seem to be the exception. Together, international aviation and shipping emissions account for 5.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions – equivalent to being the sixth largest nation state CO2 emitter. A failure at Paris to recognise the need for these sectors to contribute to keeping within the 2 degree target would be remarkable.
Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were unable to reach agreement on how to address emissions from these sectors, and instead delegated responsibility to the UN agencies responsible – the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for shipping and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aviation. Progress by both bodies since then has been painfully slow. ICAO is working to a 2016 target date to agree a global market-based measure (MBM) based on carbon neutral growth to take effect in 2020. The IMO has agreed a design efficiency standard for new ships but has no overall reduction target and is not even discussing one. In this regard, two developments at Lima may be significant.
The first is that countries re-iterated that by, March 2015, they all should ideally submit an INDC (Intended Nationally Defined Contribution) – which would include information on how each country will limit its greenhouse gas emissions. All 190 countries that are part of the UNFCCC process are encouraged to outline what action they will take. We can then compare these commitments – developed and developing – with what the ICAO and IMO has pledged to do.
The second is that the annex of the negotiation text for a new climate deal includes a reference to net zero emissions of carbon by 2050. This proposal was supported by many countries. It is uncertain if this reference will survive negotiations over the final text to be agreed in Paris, but it sends a clear signal to businesses and governments about the path we are on.
So far aviation and shipping commitments fall well short of complete decarbonisation by 2050: international shipping is expected to increase its emissions by up to 250 per cent by 2050, according to its own report released earlier this year. Discussions at the IMO on any MBM have been frozen for three years and the organisation and industry seem to think they have a licence to grow their emissions.
International aviation is growing three to four per cent per annum and could see its emissions increase 400 per cent between 2006 and 2050. The global MBM that ICAO is discussing will at best offset emissions above a 2020 baseline but whether such offsets represent real emissions reductions is a fundamental question hanging over the whole process. A major gap seems to be developing between the ambition of the UNFCCC and its 190 members on the one hand, and the IMO and ICAO on the other hand.
Though international aviation and shipping managed to escape serious attention in Peru, a number of states called for their inclusion by requiring the Paris agreement to cover all global GHG emissions. Member states in both ICAO and IMO should recognise that momentum is shifting behind a meaningful agreement in Paris and they should act to ensure the ambition of the aviation and shipping sectors matches that of the rest of the world.transenv