As the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) met in Utrecht on 4 and 5 April to discuss its response to climate change, more than 80 international organisations, including Fern, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Transport and Environment denounced the ICAO plan to offset emissions via a Global Market Based Mechanism (GMBM); they called on the countries present at the meeting to discuss a plan that reduces the aviation industry’s emissions.
The Utrecht meeting was part of ICAO’s Global Aviation Dialogue to consult members on the draft design of a GMBM to achieve ‘carbon neutral growth’ post-2020, ICAO’s headline commitment. However, aviation - set to grow three- to fivefold after 2020 - will rely on a huge volume of offsets to achieve its target.
Aviation is one of two sectors exempted from making any emissions reductions under the UN-FCCC. Projections indicate that aviation emissions would increase from 600MT of CO2 in 2006 to 4,520 MT in 2050, although ICAO states that improvements in fuel efficiency and other improvements make the likely range for emissions in 2050 2,300-2,800 MT CO2. Clearly this is still excessive: 2,500MT is roughly equivalent to India’s current emissions.
The organisations that signed the statement believe the plan to offset emissions is a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels. As 2015 goes down as the hottest year on record, and Arctic sea ice was at an all-time low for the winter, ICAO’s discussions on the GMBM are a bad case of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.