International transport can no longer dodge climate responsibility
Two important climate meetings – on international aviation and shipping – will take place in March. International transport is not included in countries’ national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement. The task to address the massive climate impact of these sectors lies with the responsible UN agencies (ICAO and the IMO).
Three years ago, ICAO agreed to establish an offsetting scheme for aviation, CORSIA, which will start in 2021. Next week, the 36 member countries of ICAO’s decision-making body Council will take a landmark decision on which programmes will be eligible to sell offsets to airlines under this scheme. The decision could make or break the credibility of CORSIA, while we shouldn’t forget that ICAO itself is not doing anywhere near enough to deal with aviation’s soaring pollution.
Some countries and industry representatives are pushing for ICAO to give a blank cheque to all offset programmes, including the controversial UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). They claim that otherwise there will not be enough credits for the airlines to buy. This is nothing but scaremongering. As our recent analysis shows, the existing number of credits from the three voluntary programmes alone (without the CDM) would be enough to cover CORSIA demand until 2025. It is therefore of utmost importance that the ICAO decision is based on ensuring that only high-quality credits from new projects will be eligible under CORSIA.
While ICAO deals with the pollution from planes, the IMO is trying to find a solution for that of ships. Two years ago, the shipping agency agreed to cut carbon pollution from ships by 40 per cent of 2008 levels by 2030, and to at least halve the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Since then, nothing has moved. The IMO seems incapable of agreeing on short-term measures such as simply slowing down the speed of ships that would bring tangible and immediate climate benefits.
When things are not moving at the international level, regional action is needed. The EU plans to include international shipping under its carbon market. Members of the European Parliament are proposing to do it this year already, as part of an on-going reform of rules for monitoring shipping emissions. They are also considering binding efficiency targets for the sector as well as setting up a maritime decarbonisation fund. While not enough to curb the sector’s soaring emissions at a global level, these are big steps in the right direction to make the shipping industry clean up its act. They will, hopefully, also inject some much-needed urgency into the impending international talks.
- Article: CORSIA: supply, demand and scaremongering
- Publication: What will airlines buy to offset their pollution?
- Article: High time the maritime sector sailed into the EU carbon market
- Video: In Rough Seas – tackling carbon pollution from ships
- Article: EU carbon market state aid rules moving in the right direction