December 16, 2009 / 5:47 PM / 8 years ago

Climate deal on ships and planes seen slipping away

4 Min Read

* Climate talks may fail to agree CO2 caps for ships, planes

* Failure would be missed opportunity to raise climate funds

By Pete Harrison

COPENHAGEN, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Climate negotiators warned on Wednesday they may miss the opportunity to cap emissions from shipping and aviation and so miss out on billions of dollars in taxation to help poor countries cope with climate change.

With just two days left to reach a new U.N. climate change deal, negotiators say they are still a long way from agreeing targets for shipping and aviation, which together produce as much as 8 percent of the world's climate-warming emissions.

Japan, Saudi Arabia, China and the United States have been blamed for blocking progress on tackling emissions from the two sectors. Both industries have recently called for tough carbon-cutting goals, but talks have become bogged down over technicalities.

"Aviation and shipping have a great opportunity to contribute to fighting climate change, and the opportunity is slipping away," said Reinford Mwangonde, part of the Malawi delegation.

Sources in the talks say there is still no consensus on one of the most basic questions -- whether targets should be set in Copenhagen or next year by the two U.N. bodies that oversee the sectors -- the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Other conflicts include how to protect island nations, which are vulnerable to rising import costs.

Innovative Finance

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas confirmed there was slow progress on the issue.

"Some are saying targets and definitions should be agreed here, others are saying it should be done in the two other bodies," he told Reuters in an interview.

"These two sectors do not have any reduction targets and are increasing emissions rapidly," he added.

The European Union is pushing for shipping to cut emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade, and for aviation to cut by 10 percent. It also wants a levy on the two sectors' emissions to go to poor countries.

"Our voice coincides with that of the EU," said Bruno T Sekoli, chief negotiator for Lesotho which represents the least developed countries at Copenhagen.

Failure to agree targets would lead to yet more investment uncertainty for the two sectors.

It would also rule out the chance of billions of dollars in climate funding, which has emerged as a key issue for securing an agreement.

"Some of the developing world's biggest economies are selfishly blocking a deal that could unlock the overall Copenhagen agreement," said Bill Hemmings of environment group T&E.

Poor nations are estimated to need funding rising to about $100 billion a year by 2020 to deal with the impact of climate change, and they say they will not sign a deal without it.

Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard has repeatedly stressed that such sources of "innovative finance" are key to unlocking the deal.

A tax on transport fuel or on the carbon emissions the two sectors produce could generate about $25-37 billion per year towards that goal, says T&E.

Shipping and aviation have long been seen as obstructive to attempts to regulate their emissions, but this year have shown willing to take on caps.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 230 airlines, has pledged to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year until 2020.

And oil tanker owners organisation Intertanko this year called for energy-efficiency targets for new ships.

"We are missing an opportunity," said Mwangonde from Malawi. "There has been a lack of space and time to discuss the issue, and some delegates are not even aware. This shouldn't be allowed to happen."

editing by Janet McBride

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