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A plan to burn the planet: The aviation industry is in talks with the World Bank about using REDD to offset its emissions

Almost 4,000 people are currently in Bonn, taking part in the latest UN climate talks. Many of them will have travelled there by aeroplane. Of course, it’s an important meeting. So important that Indonesia felt the need to register 58 people to take part. But reducing emissions from aviation is not on the agenda in Bonn. There is no mention of aviation in the Paris Agreement.

While progress at the UN climate negotiations is painfully slow, the climate continues to warm.

Melting permafrost

A recent study found that warming temperatures in the Alaskan tundra mean that it has become a net emitter of carbon dioxide. The lead author of the study, Róisín Commane explains what’s happening to KTOO radio:

“Because it’s getting warmer, there’s more CO2 coming out which means it’s going to get warmer which means there’s more CO2 coming out. And it will just run away with itself.”

The permafrost contains a huge amount of carbon – twice as much as is contained in the atmosphere. Thawing permafrost also releases methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. As Vladimir Romanovsky, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, pointed out in 2009,

“The only way to prevent thawing of the permafrost is to prevent warming of the climate.”

Which brings us back to Bonn and the UN climate talks. Ellysar Baroudy, the coordinator of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, gave a presentation this weekend at a meeting about REDD in Bonn. The fourth voluntary meeting on the coordination of support for the implementation of REDD-plus activities in developing countries, to give it its full title.

REDD offsets to allow ever more aviation emissions

Baroudy told the meeting that the FCPF is in talks with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about using REDD to offset emissions from the aviation sector.

In October 2016, ICAO’s General Assembly announced its plans to set up an mechanism to offset the aviation sector’s ever increasing emissions.

ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a disaster for the climate. It is an offsetting scheme, not an emissions reduction scheme. No cap will be placed on the aviation sector’s emissions. It is voluntary until 2027.

Norway is by far the biggest funder of the World Bank’s FCPF and Carbon Fund. And Norway is in favour of using REDD to offset aviation’s emissions.

Concern in Bonn? Not really

The Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA), a group of NGOs, is monitorig the talks in Bonn. CLARA notes that during the REDD meeting,

Several Parties requested further information concerning the collaboration and discussions between ICAO and FCPF. One expressed concern as to how ICAO and UNFCCC procedures and methodologies will or will not align.

So, having heard the news that the World Bank is in talks with the aviation sector about a massive increase in emissions from burning fossil fuels, climate negotiators asked for more information, and voiced concern about methodologies.

Offsets are not a solution

Offsetting emissions from the aviation sector is not a solution. Offsetting does not reduce emissions. The aviation sector’s offsetting offsetting plans are a diversion from the urgent need to reduce the amount we fly.

As climate change speeds up, offsetting becomes more dangerous. Forests are more at risk from fire. A paper published in Nature in 2015 found that the Amazon is losing its capacity to absorb carbon.

If the aviation sectors offsets its emissions against avoided deforestation, but the forests go up in flames in a warming world, we will be faced with double the emissions: from the fossil fuels burned in aeroplanes; and from the forests.

To stand a chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, we have a carbon budget that we must not exceed. Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by more than 60%. It’s time to stop flying.

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