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UN report shows role for EU ETS in helping to control rising emissions from aviation

Global aviation emissions have risen significantly between 2005 and 2010, despite high fuel prices and the economic downturn, and are forecast to continue growing, UN researchers said this week. With the right policy levers in place, technology improvements  and the introduction of biofuels could help constrain the growth in aviation emissions, they conclude, but are unlikely to be sufficient to keep up with the sector’s growth. Market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading could, however, offer additional reductions, partly by providing a means to put pressure on other sectors to reduce emissions further. The introduction of Europe’s Emissions Trading System in 2012 could double the emissions reduction from avaition compared with business as usual, the researchers found.

The findings are set out in a report titled Bridging the Emissions Gap, which addresses how to tackle the gap between what governments have committed to do in terms of emissions reductions and the level of action required to ensure emissions do not rise beyond 2 degrees – the level considered to represent a real danger point. The report underlines the fact that while airlines and politicians continue to argue over the 2012 launch of aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS, there is a clear environmental need for market-based mechanisms or other policy measures to control rising emissions from the sector if we are to have a chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming.

Speaking at the report launch, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Under-Secretary-General, said:

“It is very regrettable that a number of the leading airlines in the world, including some in Europe and some hiding behind other airlines outside Europe, are challenging the EU ETS in a judicial context. The airline industry and its CEOs should actually be champions of this new scheme – it would make the environmental commitments they make in their annual reports much more credible.”