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Aviation’s plan for a climate get out of jail free card – a recipe for disaster

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The aviation industry is currently meeting in Canada hoping to secure a deal that will allow them to massively increase their climate pollution whilst hiding behind dodgy offset schemes.

Raising global temperatures by just 1 degree Celsius has been enough to melt half the ice in the Arctic.

It’s killed off huge swathes of the world’s coral and unleashed lethal floods and droughts, many of which affect those least responsible causing the climate crisis. Yet even the most optimistic projections, based on the UN climate agreement made in Paris last year, have temperatures heading towards around 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels, if not much higher.

Globally, aviation is currently one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UN’s climate body, aviation emissions increased by 76.1% between 1990 and 2012, and represent around 2% of global CO2 emissions. That’s around the same volume of CO2 emitted every year by Germany.

If the aviation sector were a country, it would be the world’s seventh largest emitter, and emit more CO2 than 129 countries combined.

The hard realities of climate science and the devastating climate impacts already being felt by the world’s poorest. Killer heatwaves in Pakistan, super typhoons in the Philippines and droughts in sub-Saharan Africa are just some of the effects of climate change that are already claiming the lives of 100,000s of our fellow citizens. We need urgent action now. However the aviation industry is gearing up for a climate busting expansion of between 300-500% by 2050.

Aviation is one of only 2 sectors not required to cut its emissions by the UN. The General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), a UN body, meets in Canada today to discuss its response to the global climate crisis. But rather than discuss serious proposals for emissions reductions, the ICAO is proposing a massive and dangerous get out of jail free card.

Its bright idea is that it should be allowed to pollute as usual, but then pretend to offset those emissions through dodgy offset schemes.

Offset schemes have been hugely discredited. They deliver no real emissions reductions and are also responsible for huge environmental and social costs to indigenous and other poor communities in the Global South. Even the European Union’s own Emissions Trading Scheme has officially banned the use of offsets to meet the EU’s Paris targets.

On the same day as the aviation industry is hoping to continue to be allowed to pollute, the World Health Organisation released a new report on air pollution (pdf).

It calculated that in 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.

90% of those air-pollution-related deaths occur in poor developing countries. Much of this air pollution is caused by burning fossil fuels, including the transport sector and aviation. In the UK, as in many other countries it is the poor and black communities who suffer the most from both climate impacts as well as air pollution.

Friends of the Earth has joined together with groups from all around the world to call on the ICAO to commit to real emissions reductions. If they did this they could help save the lives of millions and possibly prevent us breaching the critical 1.5 degree threshold.

On 1 October, groups around the world will be taking action to highlight the dangers of aviation expansion, kicking off a month of global actions against dirty energy.

In the UK, a flashmob will visit Heathrow airport at 12 noon bringing a clear message to the doorstep of the aviation industry. Find out more and join the flashmob.

Post written by Asad Rehman, 28th September 2016

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