Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 2nd 2015 Contents Climate change currently
affects the entire globe.
According to the Inter-
governmental Panel on
Climate Change, this
"refers to any change in
climate over time,
whether due to natural variability or as a result
of human activity."
Moreover, the World Meteorological Centre
states that 14 out of the 15 warmest years ever
recorded have occurred since 2000, with 2014
being the hottest year. These changes have
largely been driven by human activity, which
is disrupting the planet's natural greenhouse
effect: a process through which the Earth's
surface is warmed by an atmospheric layer of
greenhouse gases that absorb solar energy.
Carbon dioxide accounts for approximately
60 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions
and is mainly released through fossil fuel com-
bustion, a significant component of which is
directly related to the transport sector. The
global transport sector is responsible for pro-
ducing approximately 25 per cent of all anthro-
pogenic CO2 emissions; 2.0 per cent of this
is generated by the international aviation indus-
try, which, in 2014, was responsible for pro-
ducing 688,739,000 tonnes of CO2.
The aviation industry is not only of con-
siderable importance to the Greater Caribbean
region due to its insular nature, but also because
of the major role that tourism plays in the
On a global scale, more than half of all
tourist arrivals were made by air, and notwith-
standing the region's premier position as a
cruise destination, the majority of the region's
tourists arrive by air. Tourism further accounts
for over 12 per cent of total employment in
the Caribbean, as well as around 40 per cent
of its exports in goods and services with some
Additionally, air trade between the Caribbean
and Europe and North America is expected
to increase by 3.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent
respectively over next two decades.
Given the concerns raised worldwide about
the role that aviation plays in the generation
of greenhouse gases, this has become a critical
issue particularly for small island economies
which are fully dependent on air transport
access, considering that changes within this
sector will have a large, disruptive impact on
small tourism-based economies.
While the expected continuous growth in
regional aviation can be perceived as an addi-
tional catalyst of the human-induced green-
house effect, it is through climate change that
the region's aviation industry has the oppor-
tunity to contribute towards building a sus-
tainable future for the Greater Caribbean.
In this way, the industry supports the ful-
filment of several of the sustainable develop-
ment goals set out in the United Nations Devel-
opment Agenda Beyond 2015, particularly Goal
13: to "take urgent action to combat climate
change and its impacts".
Following the 2014 UN Climate Summit,
the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation
(ICAO) collaborated with the Air Transport
Action Group on establishing an aviation action
plan to be implemented by their various mem-
bers, including the Latin American and
Caribbean Air Transport Association.
The main objective of this yet-to-be-finalised
action plan is to halve net aviation CO2 emis-
sions by 2050 through several actions, including
the creation of a carbon standard for aircraft
fuel efficiency and design, alternative sustainable
fuel production, strengthening capacity-building
within the aviation sector, and achieving the
2013-2028 Global Air Navigation Plan.
Activity in the global aviation industry has
also aided in developing regional environmen-
tally-friendly aviation initiatives such as T&T's
fuel savings and emissions reduction plan for
the Piarco flight information region, inspired
by the Convention on International Civil Avi-
ation, and the Central American Action Plan
for Emissions Reduction from International
While it is certain that actions must be taken
in light of the role that aviation plays as a
driver of climate change, price-based inter-
national climate policy poses an immediate
economic risk to regional tourism, as policies
designed to mitigate GHG emissions are
expected to have a significant suppressing
impact on long-haul air travel.
The Greater Caribbean, along with other
destinations that similarly reliant on long-haul
air services to support their tourism industries,
has expressed concern for the impact that this
will have on vacation travel and tourist arrivals.
A case study of Jamaica has revealed the sen-
sitivity of market segments to climate-related
price increases in air travel costs, reinforcing
the economic implications of reduced growth
in tourist arrivals.
Internationally, given the concern regarding
climate change, some countries have attempted
to reduce aviation emissions by implementing
emissions cap schemes such as the European
Union's Emissions Trading System for aviation.
These, however, have been met with resistance,
considering that emission pricing alone may
not reduce emissions significantly without
hurting sensitive economies.
The European Union has thus agreed to
temporarily suspend its trading system outside
of the EU zone. Resultantly, during its 38th
assembly session held in the fall of 2013, the
ICAO agreed on the development of a global
market-based measure to curb airline carbon
emissions, which will be finalized at the next
ICAO Assembly in 2016 and implemented by
What has likely propelled the rollback in
favour of other mechanisms is the fact that
emissions from international aviation fall out-
side the purview of any single country's juris-
diction, making them a ripe target for trading.
Despite the lack of direct, price driven emis-
sion reductions, regulating aviation could have
considerable indirect mitigation consequences.
Emission limits in aviation could be tied to
offsets or trading with other sectors, given
that reducing aviation emissions through direct
pricing may be expensive, and thus the sector
could buy cheaper mitigation measures else-
where through a flexible market mechanism.
One consideration that may be of merit to
regional economies is the perspective that the
only realistic option for capping aviation emis-
sions in the near future will be through the
likely use of carbon offsets.
Considering that the aviation sector would
probably require a substantial number of offsets
to meet the carbon neutrality goal, these must
not be considered to be a final solution nor
should they pull focus from the drive to mit-
Nevertheless, one source of offsets appears
particularly promising for the tourism-depen-
dent region, which is Reducing Emissions from
Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
In light of the level of deforestation in the
Greater Caribbean region, if these offsets are
forestry-related, there is the possibility of gen-
erating substantial biodiversity benefits result-
ing in gains to tourism as well as aviation.
However, implementing trading schemes is
not without its challenges.
To date, in spite of some carbon trading
schemes such as Guyana REDD+ Investment
Fund, Jamaica's Wigton Windfarm and Eco-
Tec, carbon trading has not achieved a sig-
nificant foothold in the region ostensibly due
to country size, development cost and complex
REDD schemes have struggled to find ade-
quate funding from carbon markets as gov-
ernance is difficult given specific requirements
for monitoring and permanence of these proj-
Nonetheless, there are new initiatives that
are being considered. For instance, in Costa
Rica, the government is offering tourists visiting
the country the voluntary means to offset their
flight's emissions by contributing to protecting
Climate change is a new strategic reality for
policy and business decision makers within
the tourism sector. As new international policy
frameworks for managing fuel-related GHG
emissions continue to advance, further research
will be required to understand the implications
for the longer-term risks to tourism develop-
ment in the Greater Caribbean.
In light of the numerous measures taken to
combat climate change at the level of inter-
national and regional aviation organisations,
mapping a sustainable future of regional climate
change resilience requires additional action at
a local level.
Public education and awareness campaigns
on climate change are vital and must not only
highlight the carbon footprint that each air
passenger leaves behind, but also underscore
the key role that the aviation industry plays
as a catalyst of climate change.
Technical solutions will eventually be needed
to reduce emissions at the source. However,
the chance of achieving substantial benefits
through the judicious choice of forestry offsets
to help meet aviation emissions goals is an
opportunity well worth further exploration,
especially for tourism driven economies.
George Nicholson is the director of trans-
port and disaster risk reduction and Rachael
Robinson is the research assistant of the
directorate of transport and disaster risk
reduction of the Association of Caribbean
States. Any feedback or comments should
be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
APRIL 2015 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG19
Climate change resilience in regional aviation
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