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Letter to EU Environment and Transport Ministers on aviation emissions

Dear Minister,

2015 is a key year for global efforts to combat climate change and keep warming under 2ºC. Aviation, which currently accounts for 5% of global warming and is the most carbon intensive and fastest growing transport mode, must play a central role. Its CO2 emissions, approximately equal to those of Germany, are predicted to grow by up to 270% between 2010 and 2050. Its fossil fuel consumption is set to double by 2036, greatly undermining efforts to decarbonise the global economy.

Since 1997, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have failed to take any measures to reduce emissions, which more than doubled over that period. However, ICAO is currently considering an offset mechanism, which we consider deeply inadequate because of its likely minimal environmental effect. ICAO’s Dialog on market based measures in Madrid on 27-29th April aims to expand the scope of the discussion and engage more people in the development of this market mechanism and is an opportunity for Europe to address the mechanism’s inadequacies.

Aviation emissions must be reduced through rigorous technical and operational measures complemented by fair market-based mechanisms. Such mechanisms may also offer an important source of new public climate finance. Aviation’s tax-free fuel and VAT status works at cross purposes to emissions reduction and must be phased out in Europe. There is no place for a proliferation of subsidies to non-viable regional airports or for legalising operating aid to airlines serving them in a vain attempt at profitability. The SES must be properly implemented by member states.

European effectiveness at ICAO is being undermined by a lack of common purpose. The EU must establish a common position on the key environmental and framework issues and work proactively and in tandem to achieve them. In the context of Europe’s own 40% emissions reduction commitment by 2030, member states have the choice of pressing for greater global ambition or implementing further measures at the European level.

European legislation requires that should ICAO fail to produce an outcome as environmentally effective as the ETS, then the original ETS scheme will return in full force in 2017.  Any intra-EU system must not be based on offsetting.

We therefore request that you:

  • Ensure that at the forthcoming Madrid Dialogue ministries dealing with both transport and carbon market issues are represented, to facilitate inter-ministerial understanding and cooperation, and a genuine focus on the environment. Europe has too often taken a passive position.
  • Propose that ICAO agree ambitious, legally binding, emissions reduction carbon budgets for 2030 and 2050 consistent with limiting global warming to well below 2ºC and work to agree implementing measures
  • Preserve EU language on international aviation and shipping emissions in the UNFCCC negotiation text is preserved and strengthened in the Paris Agreement at the end of this year
  • Instruct EU representatives to work to ensure an ICAO CO2 standard for new aircraft that has a real effect. Current plans will effectively have no environmental impact for a generation.

We hope that you share our concerns on the need to address international aviation emissions and look forward your response. Further information is included in the attached briefing.

Yours sincerely,

Aviation Environment Federation (AEF)

Amigos de la Tierra España

Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland

Carbon Market Watch

Climate Concept Foundation

The Civil Affairs Institute (INSPRO)


Leave it in the Ground Initiative (LINGO)

Levegő Munkacsoport – Clean Air Action Group
Natuur en Milieu (N&E)



Réseau Action Climat France (RAC-F)
Transport & Environment (T&E)

WWF European Policy Office

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