The air up there
191 nations agree: Airplanes will finally have to cut their gassy contributions to climate change.
The first major international deal to curb aircraft emissions was ratified by the aviation arm of the U.N. on Thursday. Is this great news? Depends on how optimistic you are.
“This dangerous shell game does little more than help airlines hide their rapidly growing threat to our climate,” said Vera Pardee of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has sued the U.S. government over aviation emissions. “The world needs less polluting planes, not a dubious offset scheme that just passes off the industry’s exploding carbon debt to someone else.”
The main objections to the agreement: It says that airlines won’t need to start cutting their emissions until 2021 (and even then it’s voluntary; mandatory reductions don’t start until 2028). And it allows airlines to buy carbon offsets from other industries, so that they can keep on pumping greenhouse gases into the jet stream as long as they’re willing to pay for the privilege.
The optimistic counterpoint: Since international flights are exempt from the Paris climate agreement, this is a serious improvement over nothing. “The agreement is not perfect,” said Nathaniel Keohane of Environmental Defense Fund. “But it does provide a vital basis for moving forward.”