The Paris Agreement (PA) provides a new global framework to address climate change with a global goal to hold temperature increase below 2°C. It has been agreed by all 196 parties to the UNFCCC and represents a dramatic departure from the previous ineffective top-down regulatory regime which was applicable only to some countries. However, the PA does not cover international aviation and maritime transport even though emissions from both sectors are significant and projected to double or treble by 2050.
Another round of climate change negotiations is taking place in Lima, Peru in December 2014 (COP 20/CMP 10 to be precise). Carbon pricing of emissions from international transport is unlikely to be discussed at any depth in Lima. The Conference is to prepare ground, including a draft text, for the international climate agreement to be agreed in Paris, in December 2015. Time is running out for this agreement and the difficult issue of international transport is unlikely to get much attention in Lima. In particular that both the ICAO and IMO, the specialized UN organizations for international aviation and maritime transport respectively,are working on reducing emissions from these sectors.
Carbon pricing of emissions from international transport is in limbo. There has been no meaningful progress on such approach, also referred to as a Market Based Measure (MBM), recently. The upcoming UN Climate Change Summit 2014 provides an opportunity to catalyze international action on climate change.
The triennial Assembly of ICAO in 2013 failed to agree a global MBM for international aviation. Subsequently, under pressure from other countries, Europe has constrained its legislation for Emission Trading Scheme in aviation to only flights within European Economic Community.
The topic of MBM for international shipping was not discussed at the IMO at its environment session in 2014 at all, and neither during its previous session in 2013, when the topic had been postponed to “a future” session.
The upcoming 38th ICAO Assembly is likely to agree a narrow scope for any regional carbon pricing of emissions from international aviation. The draft resolution on the issue proposes to limit any such regulation to national airspace of participating countries till a global regime is in place (i.e. by 2020, or longer). This would mean only circa 20% coverage of emissions from extra-European flights, as shown. This may be further limited by exempting flights to and from many developing countries. Together with the other low-ambition elements, the outcome of over 15 years of discussions may be bizarre:
Increasing mitigation and financing ambitions through action on international transport was the topic of our side event at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 2013. See the Presentation (1 MB) and the new RM Aviation Fact Sheet (1.3 MB). The presentation was focused on international aviation and included new maps for: (1) international aviation carbon footprint (concentrated in North, as shown), and (2) potential burden of aviation carbon pricing (which, as % of GDP, would be the largest in South). Application of the Rebate Mechanism (RM) to address the disproportional burden on some of the poorest countries was presented and debated.
After previous failures in 2011 and 2012, late night negotiations on CBDR at the IMO were successful. MEPC 65 finalized, and adopted by acclamation, an MEPC Resolution on Promotion of Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the Improvement of Energy Efficiency of Ships (the Resolution). The key issue that divided the Parties was addressed by a reference to "being cognizant of principles enshrined in" the IMO and the UNFCCC conventions. Further discussions of Market Based Measures (MBMs) were held back, again, and suspended to a future session.
There was no progress on international transport at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 18 / CMP 8 at Doha, Qatar. No decision was taken on addressing emissions from international aviation and maritime transport, and no specific reference was made to innovative financing from them. Sectoral approaches, including emissions from international transport, were one of the many issues discussed at the Conference, but proved to be an area in which the positions of the major developed and developing countries were too distant to find a compromise.
Once more working late at night did not help the IMO MEPC 64 to achieve further progress on reducing shipping emissions in autumn 2012, following a similar attempt earlier in the year. MEPC 64 aimed, but failed again, to agree and adopt a Resolution on promotion of technical co-operation and transfer of technology relating to the improvement of energy efficiency of ships. Further discussions of Market Based Measures (MBMs) continue to be held back, pending the adoption of the Resolution.
Working late at night did not help the IMO MEPC 63 to achieve further progress on reducing shipping emissions in early 2012. Two objectives were planned in this area: (1) to adopt a resolution on Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the improvement of energy efficiency of ships, and (2) to launch an impact assessment of the proposed Market Based Measures (MBMs), particularly on developing countries. Neither of these objectives were reached.