Flying to LA might cost more — so be it, says climate chief [Stuff, 17/11/20]

We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can continue to ship goods and fly the way we have been, Climate Change Commission chairman Dr Rod Carr says.

Carr was asked about the future of the long-haul tourism sector at a public online briefing to update people on the commission’s work.

“The emphasis needs to go on [switching to] low- or no-emissions fuel,” he said. “You might find it costs more to fly to LA – so be it.”

Planet-heating emissions from international aviation and shipping aren’t counted towards countries’ emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, although the fairness of excluding them has been disputed.

However, Carr said work was under way internationally to decide how this pollution should be slated back to particular countries – for example, whether a London to Sydney flight should go on the United Kingdom’s tally or Australia’s.

But the world needed to do more than merely allocate aviation emissions – it needed to reduce them, he said.

Despite working on its sustainability, Air New Zealand is one of the country’s largest climate polluters, responsible for emitting 3.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of about 4 per cent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. It has the same carbon footprint as the country’s entire waste disposal sector (the international flights in this tally don’t count towards the official national total).

This footprint has been growing, amid a surge in worldwide demand for flying and a related uptick in global aviation emissions. Alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, biofuel and electric batteries aren’t yet viable on a mass scale.

Climate Change Commission chairman Dr Rod Carr says aviation emissions needed to drop.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY-IMAGESClimate Change Commission chairman Dr Rod Carr says aviation emissions needed to drop.

The Climate Change Commission will release its first draft recommendations on how New Zealand should decarbonise in February, and will deliver a final set of reports to the Government in May after a six-week period for feedback.

The Government has until December 2021 to announce what it will do in response.

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