The Importance of Being Urgent: Aviation, Shipping and the Mitigation Debate

The Importance of Being Urgent: Aviation, Shipping and the Mitigation Debate


Alice Bows, Sustainable Consumption Institute, Mechanical, Aerospace And Civil Engineering, University Of Manchester


As global CO2 rises, avoiding 2°C of global warming becomes increasingly challenging. The implications of 2°C for aviation and shipping will be quantified and discussed in light of recent climate policy developments and mitigation options for both sectors contrasted.


Each year global carbon dioxide emissions rise, the chances of avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’ diminish. At the same time, meaningful policy measures aimed at curbing the CO2 from international shipping and aviation remain woefully inadequate. Whilst these two sectors are frequently coupled together, and are to some extent treated with a similar policy approach within the UN climate negotiations, their strengths and weaknesses within the carbon debate have important distinctions. This paper will specifically quantify what avoiding a reasonable probability of a 2°C temperature rise means for both the international aviation and shipping sectors, presenting the need for urgency regarding mitigation policy for both. It will go on to discuss the conflicts and trade-offs between national-scale and global-scale policy mechanisms, with specific focus on the merits or otherwise of global trading schemes set against, for instance, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) or unilateral policy measures by individual nations. Specifically, it will review recent policy developments regarding the inclusion of only intra-EU flights within the EU ETS, drawing attention to how this influences policy for not only aviation, but shipping mitigation, in addition to national-scale climate change policy in the UK. Finally, the paper will contrast the opportunities for mitigation technologies and operations for both sectors in the context of growth in industrialised and industrialising nations alike. The significant opportunities for technology development in shipping, and the presentation of technology roadmaps describing potential timelines for sails, Flettner rotors, kites and biofuels will be set against the very limited technological mitigation options facing the aviation industry.


Association for European Transport