Deal to curb airplane emissions comes closer

The UN is close to reaching a deal that would freeze or even reduce greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation. If adopted, it will be the first ever international mechanism to curb airplane emissions.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency, is holding its triennial assembly in Montreal with over 2,000 government officials from around the world. The meeting, which will run until 7 October, has placed the climate at the top of its agenda as it seeks to ink the first ever international mechanism to freeze or even reduce greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation.

As AFP reports, carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector are not part of the Paris climate agreement aimed at limited global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 compared to pre-industrial levels.

The 191 UN member states are discussing a market-based scheme whereby emissions from aviation in 2035 would be no higher – and perhaps even lower – than the 2019 and 2020 levels. Emissions exceeding this level would have to be offset by all countries with exceptions for developing nations, explains the Guardian.

So far, 63 countries representing 84 per cent of aviation traffic – including the biggest polluters like the US, China and the European Union, have pledged to join the scheme starting in 2021.

Without concrete action, aviation’s contribution to the overall total of greenhouse gas emissions is expected to jump from today’s 1.3 per cent to 22 per cent by 2050.

But environmental groups have warned that the ICAO plan does not go far enough to effectively limit climate change.

Vera Pardee, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “Instead of employing the host of technologies that actually reduce aircraft pollution, the aviation industry has sold us a highly dubious offset scheme that simply passes off its exploding carbon debt to someone else.”

The International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, called the offset scheme a “pragmatic compromise” that will deliver carbon neutral growth from 2020.

Environmentalists disagree, saying there is little need – or time – to wait. A recent study from the International Council on Clean Transportation found that fuel consumption could be slashed by 25 per cent in new aircraft designs, according to the Guardian.


Image credit: Image credit: Simon Huggins, flickr/Creative Commons

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