Aircraft and ship

Strong policy measures required for climate change mitigation in the aviation and shipping industries

What policy measures are necessary for mitigation in the aviation industry? And the shipping industry? A combination of several measures, according to Stefan Gössling, researcher in tourism studies at Linnaeus University, who has recently published two scientific articles on the subject.
“Unfortunately, the current policies are not enough to bring down emissions from the aviation and shipping industries”, says Gössling.

In all likeliness, emissions from the aviation industry will continue to increase, unless new policy regimes are introduced. Together with a colleague, Stefan Gössling studied types of new policy regimes would work to reduce the emissions from international commercial aviation and lead the way towards a transition in fuels. The global shipping industry will also increase its emissions, which are expected to triple between 2020 and 2050. Together with colleagues, Stefan Gössling reviewed both global and local legislation to understand whether this reduced the shipping industry’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

No global strategy for low carbon shipping

Results show that out of all policy initiatives reviewed by the researchers, none were designed to limit total emissions. Furthermore, there was no political pressure for a transition to low carbon fuels or the introduction of new technologies in the shipping industry.

“Most often, it is individual harbours with regulation on pollution that force the industry to rethink, but there is no global strategy to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the shipping industry. Both new technology introductions and low carbon fuels are necessary in order to meet mitigation goals stating that the EU will be carbon dioxide neutral by 2050. We could not find any strategy that will achieve this”, explains Stefan Gössling.

Findings suggest that mitigation in the shipping industry will require the UN body IMO (International Maritime Organization), which is responsible for pushing to reduce emissions from the shipping industry, to tighten legislation.

“It is a major challenge to implement regulations for the global shipping industry aiming for net-zero scenarios. However, it is necessary for the development of global trade, where both the EU and the UN are important players, to push for change”, Gössling continues.

Emission permits for the aviation industry not enough

The UN body ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) is responsible for the commercial aviation industry’s reduction of carbon dioxide emissions released on international flights. Since 2021, the organization has a global market system for emissions trading, intended to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation. However, this system is insufficient, according to Gössling, who, therefore, wanted to study the policy instruments that could actually work towards net-zero. The policy instruments that were studied, 30 in total, were evaluated based on their potential to reduce emissions from passenger air travel and to initiate a transition to new fuels and technologies.

Politicians must feel an obligation to contribute to change

The result shows that not all combinations of policy instruments are equally effective. A transition policy that supplements the UN market system for emission permits or the EU emissions trading system, which comprises all emissions from the aviation industry, would limit the demand for air travel and force the sector to fade out fossil fuels.More complex policy regimes could possibly also involve changed social norms, for instance by introducing emissions information on airline tickets.

“Reducing aviation emissions is feasible in principle. However, it requires that politicians feel responsibility and an obligation to contribute to change. In the absence of credible global strategies, policy initiatives are needed at national level or EU level”, Gössling concludes.

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