Negotiators urged to include emissions from air and shipping sectors in upcoming Paris climate talks

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Emissions from commercial air traffic already account for 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and must be addressed as part of global climate agreement. @bberwyn photo.

Shipping, airline industries seen as reluctant players on global warming scene

Staff Report

Conservation groups this week said the world’s climate negotiators must include greenhouse gas emissions from air and ship traffic when they meet in Paris in December to finalize a global climate treaty.

In a letter to the U.S. State Department’s Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change, 19 groups said including shipping and aviation in the international agreement is critical because “combined emissions from these sectors already have a climate impact similar to that of Germany or South Korea.”

Language addressing aviation and shipping emissions abruptly disappeared from the negotiating text that will shape the final international climate agreement, but was restored this week during treaty negotiations in Bonn, Germany. Negotiators hope to produce an agreement that will help keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

“Removing airplane and ship pollution from the negotiating text would undermine the Paris climate summit before it has even begun,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If these rapidly growing pollution sources are not included in the Paris agreement, other industrial sectors and countries must somehow make up the slack, and it will be even more difficult to prevent runaway global warming.”

Aviation’s impacts account for some 5 percent of global warming. If aviation were considered a country, it would rank seventh after Germany in terms of carbon emissions. Shipping adds about another 3 percent. Both sources are projected to grow rapidly, with aviation emissions set to more than triple by 2050 and shipping emissions to rise by as much as 250 percent.

Reducing greenhouse gas pollution from aviation and shipping has been the responsibility of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization since 1997. But in the past 18 years, the aviation organization has not adopted any measure to curb aircraft-induced global warming, rejecting, in turn, efficiency standards, fuel taxes, emissions charges and global emissions trading. And the secretary general of the maritime organization has rejected any need to cap shipping emissions.

“U.S. negotiators can’t allow the Paris summit to hand out special pollution privileges to the aviation and shipping industries,” said Pardee. “Holding these industries responsible for helping to meet the global goal of preventing catastrophic warming is both fair and utterly necessary.”

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