The Canadian Government has not pressured our aviation industry into taking steps to reduce GHG emissions. In our September letter to The Honourable Catherine McKenna, we urged Canada to change course and take a firm message to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Conference at Montreal in September that further delay is unacceptable.
We recently received a response from the Editor in Chief, Departmental Correspondence Unit, assuring us that our comments had been reviewed: reviewed but not acted upon. One cannot single out Canada as responsible for this inaction. Many countries with a large aviation industry, such as the US, were sympathetic to the industry’s need for a lenient schedule for reduced emissions – which is what the industry got at the ICAO Conference.
The Conference decided that emissions could continue to increase without penalty until 2020. After 2020 any further increase in emissions could be offset by payments for reforestation. However, payment of these offsets would be voluntary until 2026.
Air travel is projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget by 2050.Environmentalists have pointed out that air travel alone could defeat efforts to stay within the 1.5 °C target agreed on at COP 21.
There are practical reasons for the lack significant progress by the industry. Airlines have a huge investment in current equipment. Technology to reduce GHG emissions is a long way off.
A carbon tax on air fares could help finance the enormous capital needed by developing countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This tax would be simple to introduce and very likely would reduce public demand for air travel – the only sure way to reduce emissions.
Air travel is the fastest way of reaching a destination. Airlines, who are anticipating a large increase in revenue from global tourism, will adamantly oppose the introduction of a carbon tax.
In North America there is a practical necessity to have a carbon tax introduced as an environmental measure under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Otherwise air travel consumers would fly from a North American country that does not impose the tax.
Until the US is prepared to push for more stringent reduction targets, there will be little progress towards a North American tax. First the public has to recognize how airline emissions prejudice the world’s efforts to reduce climate change. The Conference demonstrates that – in the words of a commentator – “Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth”