The European Union and 16 surrounding countries including Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia, said on Saturday they would join the first phase of a UN-brokered deal to limit carbon emissions from international flights, following a similar pledge by China and the United States.
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meets on September 27 to October 7 to finalise the deal, which would aim to cap the carbon pollution of all international flights at 2020 levels.
Aviation was excluded from last December’s climate accord in Paris when countries agreed to limit the global average rise in in temperatures to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
The proposed new deal on aviation will be voluntary between 2021 and 2026 and then mandatory from 2027 for the world’s largest emitters.
Airlines in participating countries would need to limit their emissions or offset them by buying carbon credits from designated environmental projects around the world.
The European area announcement generates momentum for the deal which has faced scepticism from EU lawmakers concerned that a voluntary first phase which allowed countries to opt out was not ambitious enough.
The European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), a grouping of the EU and 16 other countries, said it would join the market-based plan from the start and urged all other major aviation states to do so.
“They welcome the commitment of a number of key aviation states and regions of the world to also join the first implementation phase of the GMBM (global market-based measure) scheme and call on other major aviation states and those having the capacity to do so to do likewise and make their decision public before the end of the
ICAO Assembly,” ECAC said in a statement.
China and the United States, the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon from international flights, said earlier on Saturday they would also volunteer for the first phase.
China’s participation had been seen as critical to covering around 80 per cent of the expected rise in emissions from international flights after 2020. Mexico, Canada and Indonesia had already said they would join.
The stakes are high as the EU must decide by the end of the year whether to keep exempting international flights from its own emissions trading scheme. It had agreed to give ICAO until 2016 to find a global deal on curbing emissions from international aviation.
EU lawmakers on Thursday criticised the draft deal for including a voluntary phase, saying it did not justify extending the exemption on international flights beyond the end of the year.