President Obama’s signature on a law authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to bar U.S. airlines from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading system underscores the urgent need for a global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the fast-growing aviation sector.
The new law is the latest salvo in an international brouhaha triggered by the EU’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from flights to or from Europe. Dozens of countries, including the United States, protested the move as an affront to national sovereignty and a violation of international aviation agreements. The EU acted after years of talks within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) failed to result in a global agreement to reduce aviation emissions.
This post originally appeared on Txchnologist
At a time when many are adopting the narrative that carbon markets are faltering, the European Union (EU) is aggressively pursuing the expansion of theirs to include aviation. One of only two mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade systems in the world, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) plans to fold in a new sector beginning in January 2012. Our research shows reducing GHG emissions from aviation is critical if we are to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. Low-carbon fuel technology and other technologies for airplanes are advancing at a rapid clip, but we need a climate policy – either a price on carbon or something else – to get over the hump.
Elliot Diringer, Vice President for International Strategies, discusses what actions the United States, China, Europe, and Australia are taking in regard to climate change and clean energy in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National interview.
"I worry that countries like the United States and Australia risk cutting their long-term economic throats by not positioning their economies to compete in the 21st century economy. And this is exactly what we see China doing," says Diringer. "China is moving on this issue I think in part because it recognises that it like everyone else faces some serious consequences as the planet warms. I mean they have a fairly large population, and things like drought and flooding and sea level rise are very real threats. But what I see in China is that there is also an ability at the leadership level to take the long view here. The over-riding priority for them is strong, sustained economic growth. But they recognise that they can't achieve that, relying over the long term, on exhaustible resources, so they are beginning to make the transition towards sustainable resources, and they're investing very heavily with clean energy and renewable energy, far more heavily than anyone else at this point."
International Brief #3
Read full brief (pdf)
The European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter after the United States and China, accounting for 13 percent of global emissions in 2005. Since 1990, EU emissions have declined about 10.7 percent as a result of structural changes, such as Germany’s reunification and the substitution of natural gas for coal in the United Kingdom, and new policies at both the EU and member state level. Reductions have occurred across most sectors of the EU economy, although in the transportation sector, emissions have increased significantly.
For details on policies and measures related to climate change in the European Union, please read the full brief (pdf).
BANGKOK -- It’s no surprise, in the pre-Copenhagen posturing, that the United States is once again seen by many as the single greatest obstacle to an effective global climate effort. The truth, though, is that the U.S. is hardly alone. On all the key issues – emission targets, developing country commitments, and finance – other key players aren’t ready to strike a final deal either.
In his address last week to a high-level UN climate summit, President Obama offered an impressive list of early accomplishments. Yet as was painfully evident, absent comprehensive legislation from Congress, the administration comes to the negotiating table with loads of good intention, but not yet prepared to take on binding international commitments.
Other countries, meanwhile, appear to be showing some movement.
Both China and India, long viewed as the other principal barriers to agreement, are signaling a new willingness to act - at least domestically. President Hu Jintao told the UN summit that China will set a goal to reduce its carbon intensity by a “notable margin.” India’s government is talking about setting domestic goals to limit its greenhouse gas emissions. These steps are encouraging, and may help inoculate the two countries against blame in the event Copenhagen is a failure. But in neither case has the government offered specific numbers or said it is prepared to translate its actions into international commitments.
Yukio Hatoyama of Japan did come to the summit with a number. Two weeks earlier, fresh from his landmark election victory, the new prime minister had set aside the previous government’s goal of reducing emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a target roughly in line with the numbers being debated in Washington. In its place, he declared a far more ambitious goal of 25 percent below 1990 levels – provided other major economies pony up their fair share.