By Sabine Minninger
The German Government's latest resolutions for consolidation of the federal budget also contain plans for an air ticket levy by 2011. However, aviation is increasingly arousing interest on an international level, as it provides a fresh new source of finance for climate protection and adaptation measures. The political will to actually reduce aviation and shipping emissions remains negligible.
These emissions (also called bunker emissions) are responsible for about ten percent of global emissions. Air travel is becoming increasingly popular and is responsible for a substantial part of the environmental burden, as it is the most harmful means of transport per passenger-kilometre. Should this trend continue, air travel will account for 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. According to a study conducted by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), travel by sea accounts for about 2.7 percent of annual global CO2 emissions. In addition to this, ships account for ten percent of global sulphur emissions and up to a quarter of all nitrogen oxide (NO) emissions.
Bunker emissions have been tabled at negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But so far there are no internationally binding regulations to reduce these emissions. They were not subject to binding reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) were commissioned in Article 2.2 of the Kyoto Protocol to create respective instruments. Practice in recent years has shown that the ICAO and IMO have undertaken little in reducing the massive growth rates of these emissions. States depending on tourism, import or export, have been especially successful in blocking internationally binding regulations. The EU dared to go it alone and will at least include aviation emissions in the European Emission Trading Scheme by 2012. However, these measures are hardly ambitious.
To start with, 85 ten percent of the certificates will be handed out for free. The cap is just minimally below the recent level of CO2 emissions: in 2012 the aviation sector must reduce emissions by only three percent relative to the average for the period 2004-2006, in 2013, by only five percent based on the same period.
Despite massive growth rates, there has been little interest or political will to regulate these emissions and actually reduce them. However, for some time now, the drearily-negotiated "bunkers" have been brought back to the attention of policy-makers. But this is not about regulation and reduction, but about providing a "fresh" source for financing climate and adaptation measures. Aviation in particular provides various possibilities for the generation of funds e.g. by including it into an emission trading scheme, the introduction of a kerosene tax or a ticket levy.
Approaches are being discussed on both national and international levels and even implemented in part. But this issue is not new. France, for example, introduced a solidarity levy a couple of years ago. The funds generated are used to combat HIV/Aids in developing countries.
Since the 2009 UN world climate summit in Copenhagen it seems that bunker emissions enjoy higher attention as a source of finance. Great expectations have been put on the recommendation of the "High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Funding" (AGF) within the UNFCCC process. The AGF will present their recommendation report in October 2010. Increased significance may be attached to the transport sector as an instrument for climate financing.
The recommendation of the AGF may not only support the request to use the income generated by international aviation and shipping as a reliable source of finance, but also boost the reduction of emissions in these sectors.
At the UN climate world summit in Poland in 2008, the Least Developed Countries submitted a request to introduce an international air ticket levy, to finance adaptation measures in the poorest countries most affected by climate change. The so-called IAPAL (International Air Passenger Adaptation Levy) would hardly have an ecological steering effect, but would add US$10 billion annually to the UN adaptation fund.
NGOs estimate the costs of climate-related adaptation in developing countries at around US$160 billion annually. Therefore it is urgent to generate new sources of finance.
The German Government plans to introduce a ticket levy for all flights starting from Germany. The Government expects an income generated by the levy of €1 billion annually, to be used to consolidate the federal budget. German environmental and development NGOs welcome the reduction of environmentally harmful subsidies. However, they also demand - among other things - that the income be used for adaptation measures and poverty alleviation.