May 28, 2009 1:26 am

Hoon eyes new transport climate accord

The transport secretary will call on Thursday for an international consensus on ensuring that shipping and aviation are included in any global environmental deal in Copenhagen this year.

Geoff Hoon will tell the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany, that it was “a great missed opportunity” that the two dominant international modes of transport were omitted from the last global climate change deal, signed in Kyoto in 1997.

“That led to over a decade of inaction,” he will tell the conference. “We cannot afford to wait any longer. It is vital that we put that right at Copenhagen.”

However, the tone of Mr Hoon’s speech, which will dwell on the benefits of transport and the potential for improved technology to reduce emissions, is likely to worry many environmental campaigners on transport issues. Most believe use of some forms of transport, such as aviation, will need to fall to meet emissions reduction targets.

The International Transport Forum is an annual meeting of transport ministers and other policymakers, organised under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The audience will include many of those that the UK has to win over if it is to get agreement on including shipping and aviation in any Copenhagen deal. Mr Hoon will call for transport policymakers to take charge of the sector’s response to the climate change issue, rather than leaving it to others such as environment ministers.

“If we do not lead this debate, then others will,” he will say.

Transport “will leave itself wide open to accusations that it is part of the problem, rather than part of the solution” if ministers take no action, he will add. The sector could also find solutions imposed on it that do not take account of competition or the realities of international transport, he will say.

However, much of the speech is likely to focus on potential technical solutions to aircraft and ship emissions that many environmental campaigners believe will never be sufficient to curb emissions without substantial reductions in traffic volumes.

Mr Hoon will point to changes in aircraft technology such as blended wings, a technique that reduces drag and fuel consumption, and lighter composite materials as potential ways of reducing aviation emissions. He will also point to improved engine and ship design as means of reducing ships’ emissions. “Technological advances can also help to generate business and trade,” he will say.

Environmental campaigners fear that a focus on potentially less polluting means of transport could distract from the need to reduce overall use of some forms of transport.

While referring to a number of potential means of curbing transport emissions, including rail electrification, Mr Hoon will avoid any reference to road-user charging. A number of reports have found charging for road use – which is officially government policy but has received far less attention in the past two years – could bring about significant emission reductions.

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