By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia
SINGAPORE, June 12 (Reuters) - Australia has upped the ante in global climate talks by proposing that the U.N.’s top climate body set indicative global emission reductions for the international aviation and maritime sectors.
Pressure is building for both sectors, responsible for about 6 percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution, to be included in a broader climate pact under negotiation and possibly agreed by the end of the year in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
But the U.N.’s aviation agency ICAO and shipping body IMO, tasked with finding ways to curb emissions from these sectors, have been criticised for failing to agree on a mechanism to tackle greenhouse gas pollution from ships and planes.
A spokeswoman for Australia’s Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, said on Friday it was the first time the government had urged the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to try to set the targets.
Previously, governments have tried to get agreement through ICAO and IMO.
"To help meet these targets, we have proposed that new global sectoral agreements be negotiated under the UNFCCC. Both the ICAO and the IMO also have an important role to play in delivering these sectoral agreements," the spokeswoman said.
Australian negotiators presented their proposal during U.N.-led climate talks, one of a number of rounds before Copenhagen, that end on Friday in Bonn, Germany.
"These proposals are designed to ensure that the international aviation and maritime sectors play their part in reducing carbon pollution and that this is done in a fair and effective way," the spokeswoman added.
Green groups welcomed the step.
"Australia is effectively calling for ICAO and IMO to be stripped of their responsibility for developing and implementing reduction targets," conservation groups, including WWF, said in a joint statement from Bonn.
Aviation and shipping emissions were not included under the Kyoto Protocol, which only tasked ICAO and IMO back in 1997 to find ways to limit or reduce emissions from these sectors in rich nations.
The aviation industry backs steps to tackle emissions but has been frustrated by lack of agreement among ICAO’s nearly 200 member states.
The head of the global aviation body IATA said on Monday airlines had committed to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020 and to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent per annum.
Carbon-neutral growth means that while aviation emissions are expected to keep growing for some time after 2020, any increase will be offset.
"Emissions by 2020 will be much more than now because, ignoring the current recession, if you look at long-term historical trends and future projections, the industry grows at around 5 percent per annum," said Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines.
AAPA groups 17 carriers, including Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) and Qantas (QAN.AX).
He said it was crucial to decide on a global approach to tackle aviation emissions, continue to improve fuel efficiency and airframe and engine designs as well as secure access to a global carbon market to help offset emissions from planes.
"Expectations of what may be achievable in Copenhagen will very much depend on progress in resolving the big issues dividing developed and developing states, notably the U.S. and China," he told Reuters in an interview.
"Aviation needs to show it’s as committed to a similar level of targets as the wider goals that states are prepared to commit," he added. (Editing by Ben Tan)