Countries at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the UN’s civil aviation body – have formally adopted an agreement to control emissions from international aviation. This deal is the world’s first cap on net carbon emissions of an entire global industry sector.
“Three hundred days after the gavel fell in Paris, countries are tackling a major loophole in that deal: international aviation emissions,” said Lou Leonard, World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice president of cliamte and energy. “But we are far from the finish line in curbing carbon pollution from international aviation. This is the starting block. It’s a foundation we must build on over time.”
Because countries negotiating the Paris Agreement held off on addressing emissions from international aviation, which fall outside of countries’ domestic emissions targets, the responsibility falls on ICAO to equitably deliver an agreement to tackle the rapidly-growing emissions from this sector. Despite this, during the negotiation process, countries in ICAO cut out key language linking the aviation mechanism to long-term temperature goals set in Paris.
“This deal was the world’s first opportunity to test whether the new Paris Agreement would change the way we do business and rally the world toward its new goals. Yet just hours after celebrating the Paris Agreement’s early entry into force, countries at ICAO are sending mixed signals about their ambition to reduce emissions by weakening the link between the aviation mechanism and the temperature goals set in Paris.”
The agreement as it stands falls short of what is needed to achieve ICAO’s own goal of carbon neutral growth by 2020, let alone the ambition required by the Paris Agreement.
“Unless we accelerate our pace, emissions from international aviation will take too much of our remaining carbon budget and will restrict our ability to reach the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals. Countries need to build on this deal by creating new policies to ensure global aviation does its fair share and doesn’t undermine our ability to deliver on the Paris global temperature goals. Through an upcoming process in the ICAO environment committee, countries need to rebuild the connection between the long term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement and the emissions goals of this new ICAO mechanism.”
With current participation by governments and their airlines, more than three quarters of international aviation’s expected emissions growth (~2.5 billion cumulative tons of CO2 emissions) between 2021 and 2035 would be covered. At least 64 countries have stepped up and opted to join this agreement. “Countries can reaffirm their intention to deliver on the hope and the promise of Paris by opting in to this agreement. This agreement gets stronger and more effective with every country that joins.”
In the final hours of the before adoption of this deal, countries demonstrated that they understand the importance of high-quality carbon offsets. “Countries are signaling in this deal an understanding that not all carbon credits are created equal, and that this system needs to be managed to ensure that carbon offsets are not double counted, as called for in the Paris Agreement. Cutting corners on critical pieces like
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