An honest approach to reporting results will be essential for an international aviation agreement that is already being misinterpreted as a commitment to hold the industry’s carbon emissions to 2020 levels, according to a post last week on the flyingless blog.
“From the perspective of our campaign to change the culture of flying in academia, I have to see the agreement as inadequate,” writes Tufts University food policy specialist Parke Wilde. “The agreement is voluntary, relies too much on offsets in place of actual emission reductions, and gives too little attention to restraining aviation demand.”
Some observers have been more positive than others about the deal reached in Montreal earlier this month by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Wilde acknowledges. But either way, “nobody should say that the ICAO agreement agrees to ‘limit aviation emissions to 2020 levels,’” he notes. “That is the misleading but commonly heard shorthand for what the agreement says. The agreement actually relies mostly on carbon offsets from sectors other than aviation, such as planting trees or capturing carbon.”
That reality points to the need to attribute most of the carbon offset credits to the sectors that actually produce them, recognize that the goals of the ICAO deal can’t be met by offsets alone, and explain that the airlines only committed to “net” greenhouse gas targets, not absolute cuts.
“With honest reporting, even the environmental NGOs that are somewhat inclined to favour the agreement should be endlessly emphasizing that it is merely a first step,” Wilde stresses. “Any language describing this agreement as a major solution to aviation emissions serves to undermine public understanding of the need for a major culture change toward reduced demand for aviation.”