ENGO groups urge ICAO to ditch aviation biofuel and carbon offset plans
In an open letter, 88 environmental and non-governmental organisations from 34 countries have called on the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Agency (ICAO) to ditch plans for aviation biofuels and carbon offsets, as the Agency’s governing body convenes in Montreal, Canada to finalise proposals for a “Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme”.
In the open letter, the groups warn that ICAO’s proposed Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) threatens to turn the aviation industry into “a new driver of deforestation – as well as land-grabbing and land and human rights abuses”. It could, the signatories say, incentivise airlines to use large quantities of biofuels made from palm oil in order to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.
Palm oil is one of the main drivers of deforestation worldwide, which is a major cause of carbon emissions, yet we could soon see airlines be rewarded under absurd, industry-friendly UN rules to burn biofuels made from it, said Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the Global Forest Coalition (GFC), one of the signatories of the open letter
The proposed biofuel targets for aircraft were rejected by 25 member states in October 2017 amidst concerns about palm oil, but the groups fear that the proposed new rules will introduce large-scale biofuel use ‘by the backdoor’.
According to the signatories there are even proposals to allow fossil-fuels to be classified as ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ (SAF) and to be credited under CORSIA. This could mean kerosene from oil refineries where heat and power come from biomass – or kerosene sourced from oil wells that require less energy to drill than others, would be classed as sustainable.
Nele Mariën from Friends of the Earth International (FOE) highlights the groups’ concerns about the second part of ICAO’s proposal – carbon offsetting for airlines.
There is no way of reaching the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius unless all states and sectors rapidly phase out their carbon emissions. This means that there can be no role for offsets, Mariën said.
The open letter urges member states to reject ICAO’s biofuel and offsetting plans and to end and reverse the growth in aviation.
According to Almuth Ernsting from UK-based Biofuelwatch, biofuels and carbon offsets are “dangerous attempts at conning consumers and the public by greenwashing an industry which is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The UN and its members need to tackle aviation growth if they are serious about preventing the worst impacts of climate change.”