The second two-week round of UN-led climate talks, held in Bonn, met with some critical feedback, though there were notable highlights in the dialogue. One such highlight was the pitch four of the world’s largest air carriers made for a worldwide emissions limit for all airlines as part of the deal to be reached in Copenhagen this December.
The Aviation Global Deal Group (AGD), which includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France/KLM and Virgin Atlantic, presented what they deem an “ambitious, equitable, and effective” regime of emission caps for all airlines. This proposal is an effort to include the industry in a climate treaty that 192 nations aim to agree upon this December. The UN estimates that airlines account for about 3 % of global emissions. The airline industry has not been subject to GHG regulations up to this point.
Executive secretary of the UN’s climate-change agency, Yvo de Boer, does admit that “it’s very hard to say if aviation will be included” in a final agreement in Copenhagen. Regardless, airlines are expected to be included in EU regulations in 2012. The USA has also proposed future legislation on airline CO2 output. The AGD specifically discussed capping carriers’ GHG output based on annual fuel purchases. Companies overshooting their target would have to buy permits from those emitting less than their allocation. Revenue from auctioned permits would go towards helping developing countries adapt to climate change and developing cleaner air travel technology.
Yet, the Bonn talks were described as yielding little true consensus. France’s climate ambassador, Brice Lalonde, said that compared to previous sessions, in Bonn “the attitudes were more constructive, but the level of ambition was lower.” His specific criticism was that it is now commonly accepted knowledge that global emissions have to be halved by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels), implying an 80 % reduction by industrialized countries. It is also generally agreed that the emissions levels in developing countries must start falling by 2025 at the very least. But in Lalonde’s opinion, “no one is signing up” – in which statement he is also rather critical of the EU’s involvement.
The driving issues, such as who should cut their emissions and how soon, as well as the question of technology transfer to poor countries, require specific road mapping exercises – for example the proposal by the AGD. Just last month in a major meeting in Paris (reported in a previous Climatico article), representatives from France and Germany were ardent in their call for flexibility in the mechanisms by which climate change mitigation occurs, so long as it does indeed occur. Perhaps it will be industry partnerships of multi-national firms that ultimately pushes – or flies— climate change negotiations over this precarious negotiation standstill?