Aviation and shipping once again sit out the dance

11 December 2015

Aviation and shipping once again sit out the dance

11 Dec 2015 We’re not allowed to say a word about the meeting with the representatives of the shipping sector as it was in camera, as they say: behind closed doors and totally secret. The tone of the meeting was thus strikingly open-hearted. But actually, nothing new came out of it.

Together the aviation and shipping industries account for some 8% of total CO2 emissions, of which aviation has the bigger portion. The enormous oil tankers which travel the world over are of course the biggest culprits, but the coffee beans and animal feed which are shipped across the ocean to us also contribute. These sectors are definitely not going to get smaller, moreover. Strong growth is predicted. The better things go in emerging economies such as China and India, the more people there will also want to take holidays abroad. In addition, free trade treaties such as the TTIP (with the United States) and CETA (with Canada) are aimed at having even more – much more – raw materials cross the Atlantic. 

That these sectors should be the first to take their turn in contributing to a solution to the climate problematic is more than obvious. Yet these giants have now for the third time disappeared from the text of the treaty and thus escaped any strict, binding regulations. “I well understand that it’s difficult,” says Donald Pols, the director of Dutch environmentalist group Milieudefensie whom I bumped into at the Dutch pavilion. “It’s hard enough to find a compromise among countries, let alone to regulate things on an international level. But it has to happen.” There is enormous demand for transport and technical solutions are more or less exhausted. What you arrive at quickly enough is the high ticket tax for business class travellers advocated by Thomas Piketty. Hardly an attractive prospect for the aviation industry.
On this, the negotiators have once again given way. The only reason I can think of for this is that otherwise the interests of the industry would be harmed. The tale told to us by the shipping giants contains therefore no surprises. The reaction of the European Parliament delegation is no more astonishing. And even the European Commissioner for Climate and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete calls publicly for shipping and air transport to be included – without effect.

I am not reassured by any conviction that these industries will contribute voluntarily. The lobby has been working for a long time behind the scenes. A top secret meeting with the European Parliament delegation is really not going to make any difference.

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