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Aviation Industry to Governments: We want a global cap on aviation climate pollution adopted this year

Jake Schmidt

Posted June 3, 2013 in Solving Global Warming

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The aviation industry just endorsed an agreement that they “strongly encourage” governments to adopt a single global market-based measure to cap aviation’s climate pollution at this year’s meeting of the U.N. body tasked with managing international aviation. This statement is a clear signal that airlines around the world want governments to adopt a global approach to cap aviation’s climate change pollution this year. Now it is time for governments to heed the call and act decisively to control aviation’s carbon pollution this year.

The statement from the airlines comes at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association – the global association of airlines that represents over 84 percent of the world’s air traffic. At the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO) meeting this September, countries can adopt such a global measure to cap aviation’s carbon pollution or they could accept that a global patchwork will emerge. A number of environment, development, community and science groups from around the world sent a letter to IATA in advance of the meeting urging them to “actively encourage government representatives to agree on such a measure at this year’s ICAO Assembly.”

Aviation is a significant contributor to global warming – it would be the 7th largest emitter in the world if it were a country. Left uncontrolled its emissions are projected to almost double by 2030. More efficient airplanes, technologies to fly smarter, and sustainable biofuels are already available. Implementation of these measures will help decrease carbon and other air pollution, while also saving costs on fuel. Efforts to reduce emissions through technical, operational, and sustainable biofuel measures are important but these measures will not be sufficient to address the aviation sector’s fair share of necessary global emissions reductions (see figure).

Thumbnail image for Aviation Emissions Growth with Measures.PNG

Governments must adopt a clear cap on aviation’s pollution and implement a market-based measure to drive the industry to implement the myriad of cost-effective measures to reduce aviation’s pollution that will both save consumers money and help minimize the damages of climate change. To be credible, such a market-based measure must include targets compatible with climate science, strong provisions to ensure the environmental credibility of the traded units, limited access to offsets, and strict provisions to ensure compliance. The principles adopted by IATA shouldn’t be the exact roadmap for a global agreement, but if the industry can agree on details then surely governments can follow suit with a detailed program this year.

The airlines called for the global market-based measure to be implemented in 2020 so in the meantime the European Union law to control pollution from airlines operating at European airports must go back into effect as we can’t afford to have six more years of delayed action to reduce aviation’s contribution to climate change. And countries including the U.S. should refrain from starting a trade war and should instead implement enforceable measures to control the pollution from airlines operating at their airports. We need both domestic and global action to address climate change.

As the environment, development, community and science groups stressed:

“International efforts to address aviation’s contribution to climate change are at a cross-road. Airlines can help countries secure agreement this year to implement a global market-based measure to significantly cut aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution or they can choose to let others act domestically to control aviation’s pollution.”

Governments have received the signal from the aviation industry that they’ve been seeking. It is time for countries to agree this year to a global market-based measure to control aviation’s carbon pollution.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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