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Historic aviation deal clamps down on emissions

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Unregulated carbon pollution from aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change. In fact, if the entire aviation sector were a country, it would be one of the top 10 carbon-polluting nations on the planet.

Countries negotiating the universal climate Paris Agreement last year, held off on addressing emissions from international aviation because they fall outside of countries’ domestic emissions targets. So the responsibility fells to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to equitably deliver an agreement to tackle the rapidly-growing emissions from this sector.

And they did. A historic agreement was reached at the ICAO Assembly last week in Montreal. We now have a deal that can begin to curb international aviation’s skyrocketing emissions. This is the first ever cap on the emissions from an international sector rather than a country.

“Three hundred days after the gavel fell in Paris, countries are tackling a major loophole in that deal: international aviation emissions,” said Lou Leonard, Interim Deputy Leader for WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice. “But we are far from the finish line in curbing carbon pollution from international aviation. This is the starting block. It’s a foundation we must build on over time.”

Curbing emissions from international aviation is essential to fulfilling the Paris Agreement’s ambitious temperature goals, but this agreement won’t get us all the way there. “Unless we accelerate our pace, emissions from international aviation will take too much of our remaining carbon budget,” he said.

International aviation already accounts for over 2 per cent of global carbon emissions. But, this number will soar as demand for air travel continues to rises. In 2010, the aviation industry carried 2.4 billion passengers; in 2050, the number is forecast to rise to 16 billion.

While this deal lays a critical foundation, countries need to build on it by creating new policies to ensure global aviation does its fair share and doesn’t undermine our ability to deliver on the Paris global temperature goals.

In addition, as ICAO moves into implementation, high on its to-do list must be separating the good carbon credits and alternative fuels from the bad. Cutting corners on critical pieces like alternative fuel and offset quality criteria would undermine the entire deal.

Today, with current participation by governments and their airlines, more than three quarters of international aviation’s expected emissions growth (~2.5 billion cumulative tons of CO2 emissions) between 2021 and 2035 would be covered by this deal.

As of 12 October, 66 countries have already opted to join this agreement. “Countries can reaffirm their intention to deliver on the hope and the promise of Paris by opting in to this agreement. This agreement gets stronger and more effective with every country that joins,” said Leonard.

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Countries can deliver on the hope and promise of Paris by opting in to the new international aviation climate deal #ICAOA39       http://bit.ly/2dDZp8j

Deal to clamp down on aviation emission gets stronger and more effective the more countries that join #ICAOA39       http://bit.ly/2dDZp8j

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