In his latest blog post, Nat Keohane, VP for Global Climate at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a member of the CPLC Steering Committee, writes about International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation's and EDF's efforts to get a market-based measure for carbon emissions from international aviation adopted in ICAO.
Cutting Carbon Pollution from Aviation: A Major Breakthrough Years in the Making
Five years ago, I had one of the hardest tasks in government for someone who cares about climate action: running an interagency process in the White House on addressing carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation.
To put it mildly, climate action in the aviation sector was at an impasse.
The European Union was seeking to extend its greenhouse gas emission trading system to include international flights to and from Europe. The EU was well within its legal rights, and a range of studies showed that despite significant emission reductions the costs to passengers would be slight.
But the political opposition was widespread and fierce.
India had gone ballistic at the idea. Russia threatened to deny Europe access to its airspace. China said it would cancel orders for European aircraft.
In the United States, meanwhile, not a single senator was willing to block legislation that railed against Europe’s proposal to cover American air carriers.
And yet, last week, the 191 member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization agreed to the first-ever cap on carbon pollution from a global sector, adopting by broad acclaim a market-based measure on carbon dioxide emissions from international flights.
The agreement, while not perfect, is significant – not only for the emissions reductions it promises to achieve, but also because of the circuitous journey that got us here.