Climate 411

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

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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?

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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

7 reasons avoiding double counting of emissions reductions helps countries, and the environment

Photo credit: iStock

Meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious goal – to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial level” – will necessitate dramatic reductions in total emissions of greenhouse gases.

Market-based approaches that follow well-established “rules of the road” for emissions accounting and transparency have a powerful role to play in helping countries to meet their near-term commitments as efficiently as possible, and in encouraging and even accelerating the broad and ambitious long-term climate action that the Paris Agreement demands.

By affirming a role for market-based approaches in Article 6, the Agreement recognizes the realities on the ground, where emission-trading systems are already at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 2 billion people. More than half of the world’s countries have so far expressed an interest in using carbon markets to meet their pledges, including for achievement of conditional targets, in their NDCs (“nationally determined contributions”) under the Paris Agreement.

But if the Paris Agreement goals are to be met, the risk of “double counting” emissions reductions must be avoided.

That is why the Paris Agreement rulebook to be finalized this December in Poland at COP 24 should clearly and unambiguously state that any country that voluntarily chooses to transfer some of its emissions reductions must transparently “add back” a corresponding amount of emissions to its own emissions account. This is known as a “corresponding adjustment,” and it should apply to all transfers: whether the transferred reductions occur inside or outside the country’s NDC; and whether the reductions are being transferred to another country or to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

A corresponding adjustment has clear environmental benefits for both participating countries and our shared climate. Here are 7 of them:

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

Once is enough: how climate negotiators can protect the environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement by avoiding double counting

Climate ambition is often thought of in terms of the stringency of emission reduction commitments, expressed by countries under the landmark Paris Agreement as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). While the NDCs that have been pledged by countries are important, they are only the first step.

To truly assess progress in reducing global climate pollution, it is necessary to look behind country pledges to understand exactly how their emissions are counted and reported. We need consistent accounting rules and transparent reporting to ensure the world is on track.

The details of accounting and transparency may sometimes sound boring and technical. But the content of these rules is as important as countries’ headline climate targets, since the headline numbers are only as good as our ability to ensure countries are clearly reducing emissions and counting those reductions accurately.

Fortunately, these same accounting and transparency rules – if done right – can also help unlock the potential of carbon markets to drive investment and innovation up, and pollution down. Read More »

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