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Global trading scheme proposed to cut aviation and shipping emissions

The workings of a much needed Global Emissions Trading Scheme for ships and planes have been published by Dr Terry Barker of Cambridge University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

His trading scheme is in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year stating that a suitable framework for effective mitigation policies has yet to be devised. The UK Government’s Transport Minister, Ruth Kelly, is today expected to call for shipping to be included in emissions trading schemes at a meeting of the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The Global Emissions Trading Scheme (GETS) is designed to initially check the international rise in polluting emissions from ships and planes and raise revenues to support developing countries’ efforts to adapt and mitigate to climate change. It focuses on these emissions as they have been growing rapidly. Shipping is at least equal to the global emissions of aviation (2%) and possibly more than double (4.5%) according to IMO figures from earlier this year. Growth in international trade and travel could lead to a 75% rise in shipping emissions and even more for emissions from planes by 2020.

These projections mean that in the long term shipping and aviation will come to dominate emissions even if national mitigation policies are moderately successful. There are no controls on growth, they are not included under the Kyoto Protocol, and international transport is anyway outside of any national jurisdiction.

Yet though it is desirable to curtail the exponential growth of international transport, international trade is central to global economic development. GETS is designed to be an essential component of climate change policies that support economic growth and development through adoption of low-carbon technologies.

The GETS proposal applies to transport operators rather than countries and will aim to gradually reduce emissions to net zero between 2013 and 2052 over eight-year periods of emissions capping. Credits will be auctioned and operators can buy additional credits, if needed, from limited offsetting through the Clean Development Mechanism. The revenues from the auctions, calculated to be in billions of dollars, would be used to support Mexico’s Multilateral Climate Change Fund, or new CDM programmes. GETS should stimulate the necessary technological change to reduce transport emissions and to shift away from such offsetting. As alternative technologies and fuels are developed the costs will begin to fall, with much of the costs of buying allowances passed on to freight rates and passenger fares. Tyndall Centre research using global economic modelling will test these assumptions.

Asher Minns | alfa
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