EU finance chiefs call for global air and maritime carbon market

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EU finance ministers have proposed a carbon pricing system for international shipping and aviation, to cut emissions and raise finances for climate change mitigation.

In a statement, the ministers called for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to "develop without delay a global policy framework that avoids competitive distortions or carbon leakage".

"The carbon pricing of global aviation and maritime transportation is a potential source of revenues that would also generate the price signal necessary to efficiently achieve emission reductions from these sectors," the statement said.

Lies Craeynest, Oxfam's climate change advisor, hailed the decision as a "double win" that would redistribute climate aid to vulnerable communities.

"It is a unique opportunity to control a major and rising source of climate changing emissions and at the same time generate desperately needed cash," she told EURACTIV.

Carbon pricing in the aviation and shipping sectors would work by imposing a global cap on CO2 emissions. Aviation and shipping companies that went beyond this would have to trade permits to pollute.

Shipping concerns

On 27 April, Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that the EU would push for shipping and aviation to be included in any successor deal to the Kyoto Protocol, and that time was running out for the industry associations to curb emissions voluntarily.

"Since 1997, the IMO has had this task, without delivering," she said, "and that's why we are very clearly signalling that we are losing patience".

A spokesman for the IMO told EURACTIV that the carbon pricing issue had been "under examination for a long, long time, and the work is heavily advanced". 

It would be further discussed at the next meeting of the group's marine Environment Protection Committee from 4-15 July, he said.

"All of the organisation's work on greenhouse gas emissions will be progressed," he explained, "including moves to make certain energy efficiency measures for ships mandatory which some of the members are pursuing, including work on market-based measures for reducing emissions".

Climate finance

The Ecofin statement expanded on proposals first outlined in a European Commission staff working document dated 8 April, called 'Scaling up Climate Finance'.

The document suggested that revenues raised from a carbon pricing mechanism for shipping and aviation "could – under certain assumptions – generate up to $24 billion worldwide, assuming a carbon price of $50 per tonne of CO2".

The report also indicated that the EU would pay around a third of the $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund that was pledged to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

So far, member states have mobilised €2.34 billion as part of a commitment to provide €7.2 billion over the 2010-2012 period.

Monies raised after that "will depend on climate actions taken in developing countries as well as further progress in the international negotiations," said the statement from the EU's finance ministers.

Private sector investments and bank loans would be "essential" to this process and dependent on "improved general business and policy frameworks in developing countries," the statement added.

Arthur Neslen

The Copenhagen Accord, agreed in the Danish capital in December 2009, included a pledge by developed countries to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poor countries fight climate change and adapt to its inevitable consequences.

Meeting the following year in Cancún, the 190 nations involved in the UN talks made progress on the establishment of a Green Climate Fund to deliver climate cash to developing countries.

The fund will be governed by a board of 24 members, on which developed and developing countries will be equally represented.

  • 4-15 July: Meeting of International Maritime Organisation's Marine Environment Protection Committee. Delegates will discuss moves to make energy efficiency measures for ships mandatory, using market-based measures.

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