8 Oct 2016

NZ vows to help clear the air of emissions

6:14 pm on 8 October 2016

The government will join an international agreement to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry, Minister of Transport Simon Bridges says.

Air New Zealand plane taking off from Wellington Airport.

Air New Zealand plane taking off from Wellington Airport. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Bridges said this reflected New Zealand's commitment to fighting climate change.

Aviation produces two percent of world emissions and the industry is expected to double in under 20 years.

But aviation was excluded from the Paris accords on climate change because much of it was international and therefore outside the scope of nation-state initiatives.

However, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has now agreed at a meeting in Montreal to try to fill that gap in the Paris agreement.

It aims to freeze net emissions from aircraft from 2021 onwards.

It would do that with a voluntary scheme for airlines to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by paying money to approved environmental projects, as well as by developing more efficient aircraft.

Talks are under way to determine what sort of offsets would be acceptable, but forestry schemes are thought likely to be obvious beneficiaries.

Sixty five countries covering 80 percent of aviation are covered by the agreement.

Along with the New Zealand government, China said it planned to join in, and the US was a strong supporter.

But some countries held out, with Russia and India saying it put too big a burden on developing countries.

The voluntary scheme would be replaced with a mandatory version from 2027 onwards, which would apply to all countries with significant aviation industries.

The scheme is expected to cost the industry less than 2 percent of revenue, which supporters of the deal said was cheap.

But figures showed airline profit margins were slim, averaging 4 percent.

Despite its international nature, the agreement would have to be enforced by individual nations.

No one from the Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand, the industry's main lobby group in New Zealand, was available to comment on the pact.

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