Airlines face call to help world’s poorest in climate fight

Advisors to French government will say aviation should offset emissions growth with cash for climate-friendly development

(Pic: Tony Hisgett/Flickr)

(Pic: Tony Hisgett/Flickr)

By Megan Darby in Bonn

Airlines should be tapped for cash to help the world’s poor deal with climate change.

That will be one of the recommendations of a report commissioned by the French government and due out next week.

The aviation sector is aiming to make any growth carbon neutral from 2020, which could mean buying offsets for any increased emissions.

Pascal Canfin, former French development minister and head of the commission, said that was a “potentially huge” source of climate finance.

“We could easily tell a narrative plugging carbon offsetting into adaptation and mitigation for poor countries. I am a bit surprised that is not at all on the agenda.”

There needs to be more political pressure on the sector to deliver on its promise, he added.

Global efforts to set up an offsetting mechanism are behind schedule. Flights within Europe are covered by a regional emissions trading scheme, while the White House is rumoured to be ready to start regulating emissions from domestic travel.

On Wednesday the Obama administration issued a scientific paper warning of the dangers greenhouse gases from aircraft pose to human health.

Report: Slow pace of UN climate talks raises Paris stakes

Canfin was speaking at a side event of interim climate talks in Bonn, where negotiators are making slow progress towards a deal due in December.

One of the major sticking points is money for poor countries to green their development and adapt to the ravages of climate change.

The developed world has committed to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020. Public money alone is not expected to meet that goal.

As part of its push to get agreement at the December summit in Paris, the French presidency briefed Canfin to find alternative sources.

As well as aviation, he will advise the government Europe’s emissions trading system (ETS) and a planned financial transaction tax could supply revenue for climate-friendly projects.

Oxfam’s Tim Gore is lobbying on both options, which he said “can be implemented quite rapidly”.

The financial transaction or “Robin Hood” tax is an 11-country initiative born out of the 2008 crash and anger at subsequent bank bail-outs.

Gore was “hopeful” decisions on its scope will be made in the fourth quarter of 2015. Revenues could be €35 billion a year.

And earmarking a share of ETS revenues for green projects abroad is “palatable and politically workable,” he added.

Analysis: Is there any way to slow aviation’s soaring emissions?

There are precedents for carving out a share of the proceeds for particular objectives. NER300 raised cash for innovative energy projects and the modernisation fund redistributed wealth to poorer member states.

A similar commitment to climate finance would be “a really nice juicy contribution from the EU” and a way to show leadership, Gore said.

At the more radical end of the spectrum, Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme mooted a fossil fuel levy.

The proceeds would go compensate those most vulnerable to the rising sea levels and weather extremes caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our proposal is to turn the current situation around where carbon majors are making billions of dollars in profit while the poorest people are bearing the cost,” she said.

In Africa alone, “loss and damage” from climate change is estimated to reach US$100 billion a year by 2050, if warming is held to 2C.

On the business-as-usual 4C trajectory, the cost could be more than double that.

The model is loosely based on the International Oil Pollution Compensation fund, under which producers pay for oil spills.

While the industry might be expected to resist such a levy, Richards argued it could be easier than the alternative.

A number of communities at the sharp end of global warming – most recently Vanuatu – are mounting legal challenges against carbon polluters.

“There is no reason the fossil fuel industry could not see this as a predictable way to limit their liabilities, because the lawsuits are coming,” she said.

Read more on: Aviation | Road