A coalition of nations is lobbying the U.N. agency that oversees shipping to start discussing an emissions-reduction commitment at an upcoming meeting in London, and advocates are pressing another U.N. organization to make airline standards as strict as possible.
Even though commercial aviation and ocean shipping are significant sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, they were excluded from the Paris climate treaty, to be signed by more than 100 countries this week at the United Nations in New York.
Now governments and advocacy groups are pressuring these industries to take stronger steps to curb pollution.
A coalition of European, North African and South Pacific nations is lobbying the International Maritime Organization, the U.N. agency that oversees shipping, to start discussing an emissions-reduction commitment at a meeting in London that will begin Monday.
“We need to do something and go beyond what we already have, and set some very specific targets,” said François Martel, secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. The forum’s members include the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, two of six nations that have made a proposal, expected to be taken up at the meeting, that shipping contribute a “fair share” to reducing emissions.
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Another U.N. agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has for years been considering a market-based strategy in which airlines could purchase “offsets,” or emissions reductions from renewable energy or conservation projects, to cover at least some international flights.
Advocacy groups are pressuring the agency to adopt as strict a system as possible when it meets for its triennial assembly in Montreal this fall.
“If we’re going to have offsets, then they actually have to deliver the tons of reductions they say they will,” said Bill Hemmings, director of aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, an environmental group based in Brussels.
Nigel Purvis, chief executive of Climate Advisers, a consulting group in Washington, D.C., said airlines were likely to increase spending significantly on offsets from forest-conservation projects. “Airlines know this sector and are ready to play,” he said.
Aviation and shipping each contribute a little more than 2 percent of annual worldwide human-produced emissions of carbon dioxide. Combined, that is more than the emissions from Japan, the world’s fifth-largest emitter.
Both industries are expected to grow in the next few decades, and their percentages of worldwide emissions may increase significantly as emissions are reduced elsewhere. Environmental groups say steps the industries have taken, including regulations to reduce emissions from new aircraft and ships, will not help much because they are tied to baselines for improvement that are too low.
After being included in initial drafts of the climate treaty, a paragraph on limiting or reducing emissions from the two industries was eliminated from the final version, agreed upon in Paris in mid-December.
The treaty commits nations to setting emissions-reduction targets, with a goal of keeping global warming “well below” a target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels.
Experts cite several reasons aviation and shipping were not in the treaty, including a desire to keep the text concise as a way to improve the chances of an agreement.
Industry representatives and environmental groups agree that even without any mention in the treaty, there is momentum for action on emissions by both industries.
Simon Bennett, director of policy and external relations for the International Chamber of Shipping, an industry group, said it’s wrong to think shipping “escaped” the Paris accord.
“That isn’t the case,” Bennett said. The chamber has filed its own proposal for the International Maritime Organization meeting; it uses language other than “fair share” but calls for emissions-reductions targets.
The industry generally favors a global fuel tax over carbon offsets, and notes that most ships have already reduced their emissions and that a maritime program, the Energy Efficiency Design Index, is in place to reduce emissions from new ones.
Environmental groups argue that the efficiency index’s improvement standards are too low, with most new ships already meeting the standards for 2020.
Like shipping, aviation has adopted efficiency standards already. In February the International Civil Aviation Organization approved limits on emissions from jets built after 2023 from current designs, and from new models introduced after 2028.
Critics say those standards are so weakmost advanced jets already meet them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun developing aircraft emissions rules. Environmental groups urge that they be far stricter than international standards.