Editorial: Bring them in
In June 2009, a coalition of environmental organisations presented a benchmark Copenhagen climate treaty. The document describes the path the world must be on to avoid catastrophic climate change, recognising that global temperature increase must be kept well below 2 degrees Celsius (see article on page 8).
Achieving this requires setting a global cap on emissions – a carbon budget. In 2020 the cap should be no higher than 36.1 gigatons carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) equivalents, i.e. roughly equal to 1990 levels. By 2050 the cap need to be lowered to 7.2 Gt CO2-equivalents, which implies cutting total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 80 per cent.
Industrialised countries, as a group, should commit to an emissions pathway that includes GHG emission reduction targets of at least 40 per cent by 2020 and at least 95 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 emission levels.
The benchmark treaty also calls on rich nations to provide at least US$160 billion per year from 2013 through 2017 to help poor countries to cut their own emissions and adapt to the warming already underway.
In spite of the fact that GHG emissions from international transport – shipping and aviation – are big and rapidly growing, both sectors have so far remained totally unregulated.
Responsibility for (not) reducing these emissions lies with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO), both United Nations agencies. Both institutions have spent more than a decade on discussions and studies, but neither has agreed one single binding measure to control emissions.
Th e most recent greenhouse gas study by the IMO, from April 2009, identifi ed a signifi cant potential for GHG reduction from shipping through technical and operational measures (see AN 2/09, p. 8). Together, if implemented, these measures could increase effi ciency and reduce the emissions rate by 25-75 per cent below the current levels. Moreover, it demonstrated that reductions of at least 20 per cent could be achieved by 2020, without expense to the industry.
According to the same study, shipping activity could double or even triple by 2050. Under a business-as-usual scenario, this would mean that emissions from global shipping will reach between 2.7 and 3.6 Gt CO2 by 2050, which equals 38-50 per cent of the allowable global carbon budget for that year.
Emissions from international bunkers used by shipping and aviation clearly must be regulated. Bringing them into a revised Kyoto Protocol is a fi rst step. Initially, bunker emissions should be reduced by at least 40 per by 2020, and at least 80 per cent by 2050, below 1990 levels.
Aviation and shipping could be given access to the global carbon markets, but the right to buy permits from outside the sector would be conditional on a given quantity of reductions having been achieved within the sector. Revenues from the use of market-based instruments (be it a bunker levy or an emissions-trading scheme) should be allocated to an international fund and be used exclusively for adaptation and climate change needs in developing countries.