New Take-Off Proposed for Kyoto

Nov 29 2004

Maarten Messiaen

The European Parliament has made a strong demand ahead of a conference on global warming next week to include aviation and shipping within the Kyoto Protocol.

BRUSSELS, Nov 29 (IPS) – The European Parliament has made a strong demand ahead of a conference on global warming next week to include aviation and shipping within the Kyoto Protocol.

Airplanes and ships add significantly to global warming, but international transport remains excluded from the protocol agreed in Kyoto in Japan in 1997 to curb emissions that lead to global warming. Following ratification by Russia, the protocol takes effect Feb. 16 next year.

The European Parliament is now backing moves to cut emissions from international flights and shipping — with or without the United States. The United States is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

The European parliament, an increasingly influential body that includes elected members from all 25 European Union (EU) countries, has drawn up a significant wish list for the Tenth Climate Conference on Global Warming (COP-10) to be held in Buenos Aires in Argentina Dec. 6 to 17.

The European Parliament urged the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, to press Kyoto signatories into “incorporating emissions from international flights and shipping into the emission reduction targets of the second commitment period from 2012.” International aviation and shipping remain excluded in 2008-2012, the first period under which signatories are obliged to take action under the Kyoto Protocol.

The resolution urges the EU and all other parties “to specifically monitor transportation emissions and possibly develop their own protocol on such emissions.”

The most conservative estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that international flights account for 3.5 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that are believed to cause global warming. Emissions from international transport ships account for 1.8 percent of emissions, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Environmental groups claim that these figures could well be doubled if the ‘indirect greenhouse effect’ is included. This would be warming caused by contrails and cirrus cloud formation at cruise altitude and black ship trails along sea routes.

Even by the most conservative estimates, emissions from international flights are significant enough to be included in an international protocol on climate change. The Kyoto Protocol aims to cut emissions by five percent by 2012 related to 1990 levels.

“The only reason why planes and ships were not included in Kyoto is that the political will was lacking,” Karsten Krause, policy officer at Transport & Environment, a federation of organisations working for sustainable transport told IPS. “The subject would have made negotiations too difficult. It is very complex to allocate emissions to specific countries for an airplane that takes off in Brussels and flies to Moscow passing a dozen of other countries.”

Emissions reduction from air travel would inevitably involve the United States, as building big aircraft is largely a European-American affair. U.S. negotiators fiercely oppose emissions taxes or other means to curb the growing emissions from the transport sector.

The European Union just managed to cut short U.S. efforts to introduce an indefinite moratorium on such measures within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last month. The EU is now allowed to work out propositions on emissions reduction in aviation by 2007, when the ICAO’s next triennial assembly will be held.

The European Parliament move becomes significant in supporting EU moves in that direction. “We very much welcome this move by the parliament,” says Evert Hassink, aviation expert with Friends of the Earth in The Netherlands. “If the EU decides to work for an own protocol and mechanisms for emission reduction and trade schemes, this could very well be the blueprint for the second commitment period from 2012.”

Jan Kowalzig, climate change campaigner with FoE International welcomed the European Parliament’s ambitions but was doubtful about reaching tangible results.

“World transport demand has increased drastically over the last decade and predictions are that between 1995 and 2020 transport demand will increase 55 percent — contributing an even greater share to global greenhouse gas emissions if no action is taken,” he said. “I am sceptical how much progressive action we can expect from the EU, where member states…use EU public money to enlarge airports.”

At COP-10, the 128 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol will look at implementation of decisions taken at earlier conferences, and start a debate on the main issues for the second commitment period after 2012. (END)

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