EU’s aviation climate strategy questioned by damning report on emissions offset

Published by Eric Maher on

April 19th 2017

Eighty-five per cent of all offset projects under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) are failing to reduce their reducing emissions, a new European Commission study has found.

Carbon offsetting occurs when airline companies attempt to limit or neutralise their aircraft’s carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects.  The report questions the decision to rely almost exclusively on offsetting to meet aviation’s climate target after 2020.

The report found that offsetting has not been as effective as hoped, stating that CDM credits – where a polluter pays others to reduce emissions in order to pollute more itself – have not delivered “real, measurable and additional” emission reductions.

The Commission’s report claims that “CDM still has fundamental flaws in terms of overall environmental integrity”. When meeting the 2030 climate goals, the EU will not allow companies to use offsets after 2021.

However, there is growing fear that this may change with Europe seeming to encourage an approach adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which relies on offsets for airlines to appear carbon neutral.

Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at Transport and Environment (T&E), spoke critically of such a measure. “The EU refuses to consider any measures to counter aviation’s soaring emissions other than ICAO’s weak global agreement,” he said.

He continued by saying that an exclusive reliance on offsets would fail to solve aviation’s climate problem. He believes the EU ought to be pursuing policies such as “fuel taxation, ending subsidies and ceasing support for airport expansion”.

The EU must ensure “greenwashing by the airline industry” is not allowed to happen, Mr Murphy added.

An EPA report on greenhouse gas emissions from Irish companies in 2016 found that aviation emissions increased by 23 per cent from 2015, despite aircraft operators being only required to report emissions from flights within the European Economic Area (EEA).

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’ Leary has been criticised for dismissing such findings and labelling climate change as “complete and utter rubbish.”

Speaking on Radio One’s Countrywide, Mr O’ Leary felt that the aviation and beef production industries’ impact on climate change was overestimated and that “science changes”.

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Eric Maher

Eric Maher is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Masters in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama from UCD.