Climate 411

Three opportunities for the UN’s aviation agency to deliver climate action

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

As International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 40th General Assembly kicks off this week in Montreal, aviation faces an existential challenge: the need to zero out its climate impact. Greta Thunberg, whose refusal to fly symbolizes the question every child of her generation will face, leads a climate strike on this Friday, that will march right to ICAO’s gates. Will their demands move the delegates representing 193 countries meeting inside?

Here are three opportunities the Assembly can take to back up their climate commitments with real action.

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Posted in Aviation / Comments are closed

Study: Consumers willing to pay carbon offsets for air travel

New social science research finds people are willing to put a price on carbon; just don’t ask them to pay taxes

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This post was authored by Rainer Romero-Canyas, Lead Senior Social Scientist for EDF.

Flying shame has gone mainstream—just ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But are travelers who won’t face the wrath of the tabloids for flying willing to chip in to offset the cost of flying on the environment? A new study from the University of British Columbia and EDF suggests they are. It all depends on how it’s labeled and who is viewed as paying for the environmental impact of the flight.

We wanted to see if it was possible to introduce policy instruments designed to price carbon, without triggering an aversion to taxes, a common challenge in the United States. So, we tested two aspects of the fee: one, both how it was labeled (a carbon offset or a carbon tax), and two, if it was important to see who got the bill (the company that imports or processes fossil fuel or the consumers who use their products and services).

In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, my co-authors and I detail the results of three studies focused primarily on the airline industry, because its emissions are slated to triple in the coming decades, absent policy change, making it one of the fastest sources of carbon pollution worldwide. The good news: consumers are willing to pay more for flying responsibly, just as long as it’s the airlines they’re flying that are stepping up and shouldering that responsibility.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Science / Read 2 Responses

There’s progress on climate standards for international aviation, but more needed

https://www.flickr.com/photos/140970794@N06/30345941512

Airplane flying above tropical sea at sunset. Adam Clark, Flickr

If you fly, aviation emissions are likely the largest part of your personal carbon footprint. Absent policy change, aviation’s emissions are slated to triple in the coming decades, making it one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution worldwide.

To achieve the Paris Agreement goals of holding warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to address emissions from all sectors. This includes international aviation and international shipping, which most countries do not include in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Back in 1997 when the Parties to the Climate Treaty couldn’t agree on how to allocate these international emissions, they asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN body that sets standards for international flights, and the International Maritime Organization, for ships, to address these emissions. How are their strategies stacking up?

In a forthcoming post, we’ll look at what’s happened lately in IMO. Here’s an update on ICAO. In 2018, ICAO adopted a set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to implement the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA. As an annex to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the SARPs bring into effect an agreement reached in ICAO in 2016 to cap the net carbon dioxide emissions from international flights at 2020 levels through 2035. If implemented with integrity, CORSIA could prevent up to 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s 10 times what U.S. households emit each year. It could do even more if CORSIA’s targets are extended and tightened.

To comply with CORSIA, all international airlines must monitor, report and verify their CO2 emissions. Effective January 1, 2021, airlines flying between participating countries will need to limit the emissions of those flights to the average of their 2019-2020 levels. To meet these emissions limits, airlines can reduce their direct emissions, or purchase and cancel carbon offset credits. Airlines can reduce the amount of offset credits they need by using sustainable, CORSIA-eligible alternative fuels that emit significantly less CO2 than conventional fuels when evaluated on a lifecycle basis.

In March 2019, ICAO took another step forward, agreeing on broad criteria that carbon offset programs will have to meet in order to be eligible to sell emissions units for use in CORSIA. The adoption of these criteria has sparked a sharp uptick in interest in carbon markets.  Read More »

Also posted in Carbon Markets, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed

What role do emissions from international shipping and aviation play in the global climate?

And what do those sectors need to do to help keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius?

https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-airplane-during-sunset-99567/

Silhouette of Airplane during Sunset. Pixels.com

In advance of the United Nations Secretary General’s climate summit in September, many countries are vowing to ramp up their Paris agreement commitments to help limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the growing emissions from two economic sectors – international shipping and international aviation – remain largely outside most of those commitments and could cause significant warming.

In a new study, researchers have found that, absent any climate action, the rising carbon dioxide emissions of international shipping and aviation could consume nearly one-third (15 to 30 percent) of our remaining “allowable warming” – the amount of additional warming that can occur before the world’s average temperature surpasses 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – by the end of the century.

The international shipping and aviation sectors need to implement policy solutions with integrity and extend them over time to reduce their future warming and align with the 1.5 °C global temperature threshold.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Science / Comments are closed

Will governments disappoint again on carbon accounting at upcoming aviation meetings?

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Silhouette of Airplane during Sunset. Pexels.com

Some major companies, including airlines, took the lead last December in Katowice, Poland in rejecting the use of dubious carbon credits toward their climate efforts. Despite this drumbeat against bad rules for cooperative approaches under Article 6 of the Paris agreement, experienced government negotiators fell short and did not finalize these guidelines in Katowice. This month in Montreal, governments could decide the fate of carbon credits for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction System for International Aviation (CORSIA), but will they ignore business demand for good credits by allowing aviation emissions reductions to be double counted?

Let’s look behind the negotiating curtain and unpack how companies got involved, why governments should pay attention to companies’ push for environmental integrity and what governments can do in Montreal to maintain the integrity of CORSIA.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, International, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Read 1 Response

Could aviation loopholes swallow climate progress?

Letting CDM credits into the aviation climate agreement could cut CORSIA’s effective participation from about three quarters down to less than 20 percent, negating its climate impact.

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Airplane taking off from San Francisco. Flickr/ dsleeter_2000

As bleary-eyed negotiators at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Katowice, Poland, struggle through late nights of haggling over rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, one challenge they face is how to energize a global competitive market for cutting climate pollution, while ensuring the integrity of that market.

Technical talks in the far recesses of the giant conference center are focused on two key issues: carbon credit quality, and accurate book-keeping.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, News, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Read 2 Responses