Carbon Market Watch

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Media Statement: International aviation could meet climate commitments using only high quality emission reductions, new report shows

22 Oct 2015

Brussels, 22 October 2015. A new study by Oeko-Institut analyses for the first time potential carbon offset supply for a global market-based mechanism for international aviation emissions to be adopted in 2016. The study estimates that the entire demand could be met by carbon offsets from existing projects registered under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism.  Even if applying exclusion criteria for contentious project types, such as coal power and other non-additional projects, the supply would still be sufficient for eight years.

 The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is developing a global market-based mechanism (GMBM) with the aims of flat-lining the industry’s net emissions at 2020 levels. The projected emission growth of around 3% per year can only currently be achieve by buying offsets. A decision about what offset programmes and eligibility criteria will be applied by the mechanism is expected in the run up to the tri-annual ICAO general assembly in October 2016.

Airlines are concerned that there will be insufficient credits available to meet demand, especially if supply will be further limited by environmental quality restrictions” commented Dr. Kat Watts, Carbon Market Watch’s Global Climate Policy Advisor “The Oeko Institut research importantly dispels the myth that there are supply constraints even when using only high quality credits.”

 The study compares expected aggregated demand over the expected first trading period from 2021 to 2035, which amounts to 3.3 Gt, to the accumulated offset supply in the same period. The study finds that the CDM could supply a volume of some 6.5 Gt of carbon offsets in the period of 2021 to 2035 overall.

Because of concerns about the quality of offset credits, which is measured by their “additionality”, the research organization deemed fossil energy supply, large hydro (>20MW), most industrial gases, land use, land use change and forestry, biomass and wind as contentious, and recommended to exclude them from the list of eligible project types.

When excluding project types which are considered contentious, the study finds that CDM’s offset supply would be enough to meet the mechanism’s demand for eight years. If wind projects were eligible, the supply could fully cover the demand until 2035 even if no new projects are registered.

“There is a real danger that ICAO will deem certain crediting mechanisms eligible, even if strong concern exists about the quality of particular project types within each scheme. Without a so-called “negative list” of project types that can’t be used in the ICAO global market based measure, there is a real danger that airlines will effectively be subsidizing fossil fuel industries by buying credits from ‘cleaner’ coal, or for switching to other fossil fuels with lower emissions, rather than helping to support the transition to a 2050 zero-carbon world” Dr. Watts concluded.

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Typo correction: “The Oeko Institut research importantly dispels the myth that there are supply constraints even when using only high quality credits.”