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Elephants in the room – time to trumpet the need for emissions cuts from aviation and shipping

Despite being major sources of emissions, international aviation and shipping are remaining below the radar of many negotiators in Paris – they are the elephants in the room. This is a shame, as together they account for around 5% of global CO2 emissions and have massive growth rates in emissions anticipated (50-250% by 2050 for shipping, and 270% for aviation).

Written by Katherine Watts, International Climate Policy Advisor at Carbon Market Watch

Transport emissions have been included in the mandate of the UNFCCC from the beginning, with the Convention itself requiring  – in the glorious prose of international diplomacy – promotion and cooperation in the development, application, diffusion, including transfer, of technologies’ including in the transport sector.

The Kyoto Protocol made a more explicit call for action on climate change by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), but this didn’t lead to much in the way of measures to reduce emissions.

In the February Geneva text, there were two references – one calling for ICAO and IMO to play their role in meeting the “2C objective”, the other to have them “develop a levy scheme to provide financial support for the Adaptation Fund”. By the latest iteration of the text, the explicit link to the temperature goal had evaporated (too much global warming already?) and the levy text had similarly disappeared. It is extremely important that the international climate community to have this link reinstalled, and to have the clarity on all global emissions in the UNFCCC, it is also important that ICO and IMO  clean about what their respective sectors’ actual emissions are each year.

There are still countries willing to fight for these textual inclusions, but will these two elephants in the room be called upon to clean up their stinking messes and to actually contribute fairly to the global imperative to limit average temperature increases to below 1.5C? Only time, and the importance negotiators put on this issue with all else at stake in Paris, will tell.


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