Bunkers: No More Evasive Maneuvers

The way things are going, ships and airplanes will be able to cruise the seas and skies without serious emissions control measures for some years to come. Earlier this year the International Maritime Organization (IMO) indefinitely suspended its consideration of market based measures (MBMs) that can put a cap and a price on emissions in line with the polluter-pays principle.

In early October, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) decided to ‘develop’ (the text neglected to commit to actually ‘adopt’ or ‘implement’) an MBM by 2016 – not a particularly noteworthy achievement after well over a decade discussing these very measures. And the only emissions target mentioned in the agreement (but still in essence bracketed by party reservations) is carbon neutral growth after 2020. Meanwhile, under intense pressure from airlines and many governments, the EU is severely scaling back its ETS coverage of international air traffic, the only measure in the world that regulates aviation emissions.

The shipping and aviation industries must be very pleased with themselves. Thanks to their intensive lobbying of transport ministries and the tendency by governments to treat these sectors as a proxy for the broader negotiations, countries seeking action on emissions from these sectors have practically thrown in the towel.

Giving the IMO and ICAO free rein to pursue emissions from these sectors with no real accountability is not likely to turn out well for people or the planet. The owners of ships and airlines have much more direct influence over transport ministries that represent parties in these bodies. These sectors have benefitted from their unique access to tax-free fuels for too long to be willing to start paying their way now. Ambitious emissions reduction targets and anything resembling carbon pricing for these sectors is highly unlikely.

The UNFCCC must ensure that the international shipping and aviation sectors contribute their fair share to global efforts. They should be included in any considerations of equity, such as calculation of historical responsibility and other applicable indicators. The ADP and the COP must adopt decisions that either set emissions limits directly, or provide guidance to ensure a sufficient level of ambition in emissions reduction efforts, particularly in emissions limits set as part of global Market Based Measures. The new legal agreement to be finalized in 2015 must contain provisions that ensure these sectors contribute their fair share to global efforts.

To ensure accountability and adequate consideration of these sectors, the ADP must receive regular reports from ICAO and IMO on efforts to control GHG emissions from these sectors, including progress towards implementation of market based measures that can put a cap on emissions, put a price on emissions, and generate finance for climate action.