Excluding aviation & shipping will wreck the Paris agreement's 2 degree target

The Paris climate agreement text has now dropped mention of international aviation and shipping. The weak statement that has been removed only said that parties might “pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions” through ICAO “with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.” Even that has gone, so there is no ambition for CO2 regulation. Transport & Environment (T&E) says this has fatally undermined the prospects of keeping global warming below 2°C. The CO2 emissions of these two sectors amount to about 8% of emissions globally. In recent years their emissions have grown twice as fast as the those of the global economy – an 80% rise in CO2 output from aviation and shipping between 1990 and 2010, versus 40% growth in CO2 emissions from global economic activity. Their CO2 is projected to rise by up to 270% in 2050. They could be 39% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated. After 18 years of being supposed to come up with measures to tackle aviation emissions, ICAO has done almost nothing – and little is expected of it.

Excluding aviation and shipping emissions from COP deal makes 2°C limit close to impossible

From T&E (Transport & Environment) 9.12.2015

The dropping of international aviation and shipping emissions from the draft Paris climate agreement published this afternoon has fatally undermined the prospects of keeping global warming below 2°C, green NGOs Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment (T&E) have said.

As the emissions from these two sectors uniquely fall outside national reduction targets, they require an explicit reference in the agreement.

If treated as countries, global aviation and shipping would both make the list of top 10 emitters.

In recent years their emissions have grown twice as fast as the those of the global economy – an 80% rise in CO2 output from aviation and shipping between 1990 and 2010, versus 40% growth in CO2 emissions from global economic activity – and they are projected to grow by up to 270% in 2050. [See Professor Bows-Larkin link below].

The Kyoto Protocol tasked the UN agencies that regulate these sectors, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), to develop measures to tackle their emissions.

Now, 18 years on, these agencies have failed to do so, and rapid emissions growth from these sectors is set to make a 1.5/2°C target almost impossible to achieve.

Andrew Murphy, policy officer at T&E, said: “The dropping of international aviation and shipping emissions from the draft Paris climate agreement makes keeping a temperature increase under 2 degrees close to impossible. Those parties calling for an ambitious agreement must insist that language on international transport be reinserted.”

Aviation accounts for about 5% of global warming, and CO2 from shipping is about 3% of the global total. Both sectors are among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases at a global level and could be responsible for 39% of world CO2 emissions in 2050 if left unregulated, according to a scientific study published last month by the European Parliament.

John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, said: “History may now judge aviation and shipping as industries that, while the rest of the world moved forward at COP21, sat on the sidelines and refused to contribute.”

Note to editor:

[1] ‘All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy’, (2014) Bows-Larkin. Climate Policy

AirportWatch note:

The UK government is keen to say that aviation carbon emissions will all be dealt with at the international level, and so UK airport expansion is possible – it will all work out fine.

The Paris agreement fails even to include mention of international aviation, or to put any pressure on ICAO to get on with developing an international mechanism for regulating aviation carbon emissions.

That will mean there is even less likelihood of a  proposal or plan by ICAO to take effective measures to deal with aviation carbon emissions. This government cannot depend on it, to take care, painlessly, of growing aviation CO2 – particularly not from an extra runway, which will only increase overall UK carbon emissions.


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Aviation is a #RedLine 

Aviation is a #RedLine 

On the 26th of November, just three days before the COP21 climate conference in Paris was due to start, three Plane Stupid activists blocked the main road access tunnel to Heathrow's terminals 1, 2 and 3. This reportedly caused a traffic tailback several miles long as police directed inbound vehicles to one lane of the outbound tunnel. Our early entry for the #ClimateGames - the direct action adventure game being used as a platform for actions around the COP21 - sent a clear message to the UK government that expanding aviation is a no-go for the climate. Were it to go ahead the UK would undoubtedly miss its emissions targets as set out under the 2008 Climate Change Act. 

Nor will aviation expansion benefit the majority of the population or businesses, as is often claimed. The  demand for airport expansion is being driven by rich frequent  flyers. Last year, less than half of people in Britain flew. Of those who did, a mere 15% of flyers took 70% of our flights. As well as noise and air pollution, poor people are paying the price in droughts, flooding and storms so that the rich can cook the planet with frequent leisure flights. Whilst we might hope that David Cameron might live up to his pre-election promise - “no ifs, no buts, no third runway” - we can't rely on it. After being forced to take non-violent disobedient action where all other options were exhausted, we stopped a third runway before and we'll stop it again this time too. 


At the COP21 talks this year in Paris, the theme for the mass day of  action on December 12th (D12) is Red Lines. These red lines represent lines  minimum limits for a just and liveable planet that must never be  crossed if we are to stay within the 2C rise in global temperatures. Failure to stay within this threshold will take us down a road where even if we reduce emissions to zero, feedback loops will mean that emissions will continue to rise. The result: climate chaos. 

In reality there are many Red Lines we should not cross, but governments and corporations seem intent to do so. In the UK this includes the aviation industry, which if it continues to grow at its current rate will by 2050 emit all of the carbon it is safe for the UK to emit. Beyond this, other red lines that are being crossed nationally include increasing unconventional fossil fuel extraction through fracking, part of the government 'dash for gas' power stations rather than renewables. Internationally, there are similar concerns as well as a clear  need to stop lignite coal mining in Germany and the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. Whilst there are many such examples of industries that  cannot continue, overall the science dictates that the fossil fuel industry must transition to renewables and most of the carbon must be kept in the ground. 

Beyond the talks in Paris 

Unlike the climate talks in Copenhagen, many activists are going to  Paris with low expectations. We know that the heads of states and business leaders won't come up with a satisfactory deal to prevent climate catastrophe. Naomi Klein writes in 'This Changes Everything' that climate deals always come in second place to trade deals as corporate profit and perpetual economic growth are ideologically untouchable in our  neoliberal era. With this in mind, the aim for many activists is to see the Paris talks as a way for us all to network between struggles and to show on the twelth day, D12, that if our 'leaders' won't do it, then we can stop climate chaos  ourselves. Unfortunately, with the recent events in Paris, marches have been banned out of fears over safety, but with creativity and determination we are finding ways to mobilise and still have the final word.

However, given that we know that the solutions to the climate crisis won't come from the COP, let's see this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Let's get out and take action wherever the real #RedLines are: the dirty fossil fuel industries, the unsustainable, undemocratic mega-projects. #ClimateGames starts tomorrow. In this game we have nothing to lose but our fears. We have our whole futures to win. Asking our 'leaders' to solve our problems has left us with the hottest years on record, year after year.  We  are the solution we've been waiting for.

We are not fighting for nature. We are nature defending itself.

See you on the playing field,

"Paula Bear"