A deal on including aviation and shipping emissions in the Copenhagen climate agreement is being blocked by China, India, Saudi Arabia and The Bahamas, putting the 2 degrees Celsius target and $30bn of adaptation funding at risk.

A deal on including aviation and shipping emissions in the Copenhagen climate agreement is being blocked by China, India, Saudi Arabia and The Bahamas, putting the 2 degrees Celsius target and $30bn of adaptation funding at risk.

Emissions from international shipping have grown by more than 85% since 1990, international aviation emissions have grown by over 50% over the same period. Left unchecked, emissions from aviation and shipping will double or triple by 2050, putting at risk the world’s ability to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius.

Excluded from commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, responsibility for cutting emissions from the two sectors was handed to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO). But neither has come forward with a single binding measure in the twelve years that followed Kyoto. ICAO has actively blocked action but is arguing in Copenhagen to keep responsibility for reducing these emissions. IMO has said the Copenhagen talks should agree a global cap on emissions for shipping.

In the run up to Copenhagen two possible ways of tackling emissions from the sectors gathered support from a number of countries: a separate global Emissions Trading System for aviation and shipping or a climate levy on marine fuel. Both options are feasible and would generate substantial revenues, estimated at $25-37 billion per year, which could go towards the global climate fund for developing countries that has been a major part of the Copenhagen discussions.

The blocking countries in the so-called “bunkers rafting group” at Copenhagen are insisting that only developed countries be involved in bunker reduction schemes. But this is impractical as most ships are registered in developing countries, to take advantage of “flags of convenience” for a variety of tax and legal reasons.

In any case, failure to agree on a global scheme will mean the developing world will miss out on the substantial climate funding package. Many of the world’s least developed countries back a deal that includes this crucial element and are opposed to the stance taken by a small group of blocking countries.

Some of the developing world’s biggest economies are selfishly blocking a deal that could unlock the overall Copenhagen agreement. Developing countries would gain a substantial source of revenue and rapid growth in aviation and shipping emissions, which puts our ability to tackle climate change at risk, could be curtailed.

Without a global deal in Copenhagen, regional schemes are likely to pop up around the world. The EU has said many times that without a global deal, it will include shipping in its emissions trading scheme; it has already agreed to add aviation. International bunker fuels would also be covered under the emissions trading bill currently before the US congress. But money from such schemes will not be channelled to the developing world. Failure to reach a deal at Copenhagen would be a massive missed opportunity for the poorest countries.

Environmental groups including Seas At Risk are calling for emissions from international aviation and shipping to be cut by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, in line with the necessary developing country targets.

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