Don’t muddle energy efficiency or fuel efficiency with overall cuts in CO2 emissions

Naomi Klein has written a new book, called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.  Professor Kevin Anderson has written about one of the key issues of how big business in dealing with carbon emissions, and the need to understand the difference between society (or business) actually cutting carbon emissions, or just cutting them per unit of output. This is a vital distinction, but one often lost in the fog of marketing and publicity. If an organisation manages to cut its carbon emissions by, say 10% while producing the same amount of product, that is great. But if it increases production by, say, 20%, the net impact is an increase in emissions. This is very much the case with the much hoped for carbon efficiencies by the aviation industry. Globally through IATA hopes for “An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year to 2020” (how it is measured is not defined). But the industry wants to expand by at least 5% per year. So regardless of the gains in fuel efficiency, the net effect is more carbon emitted. The aviation industry wants “carbon neutral” growth after 2020, meaning no NET increase in carbon emissions, by trading carbon permits with sectors than are genuinely cutting carbon overall.
.

 


 

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.                   Naomi Klein’s new book.


 

Don’t muddle energy efficiency with reducing emissions!

This is a brief response to Zachary Karabell’s piece for Slate.com entitled “Naomi Klein Is Wrong: Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change” (Sept. 30. 2014)

Zachary Karabell’s analysis muddles energy efficiency with absolute reductions in emissions. We are many times more efficient now than we were in 1970 and even more than in 1920 – yet energy consumption and emissions continue their relentless rise. The climate doesn’t give a damn about efficiency, only about emissions. So if companies, governments and individuals, at least the wealthier amongst us, are to make a positive contribution, we need to be deliveringabsolute reductions in our emissions. And if we are serious about avoiding the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change, then those absolute reductions need to be in double figures (i.e. over 10% p.a.). Anything less and we certainly should not be claiming to be moving in the right direction – rather moving in the wrong direction, just at a slower rate. So in that regard, Zachary’s subtitle that “multinational corporations” are doing something to ”halt climate change” is categorically wrong. They may be doing something to reduce the rate of increase in climate change – but trying to halt it they are not!

Zachery’s highlighting of Maersk as an example of a company with “sustainability and energy-efficiency central to [its] business model” ignores how history typically demonstrates a divergence between these two goals. Certainly Maersk needs to be congratulated relative to an industry who, even assuming its proposed efficiency measures were implemented in full, is set to triple its emissions by 2050 relative to1990 (or double compared with 2010).[1] Lets be clear about this, Maersk, as the best of a bad bunch, is implementing polices that fall a long way short of anything approaching what would be necessary for a 2°C pathway; but they are in good company. All the other firms noted by Zachary could sail a Maersk ship sideways through the gap between their rhetoric and delivery on climate change.

But it is not all down to the companies. Governments are also failing to implement the umbrella of low-carbon policies within which companies could compete on a level(ish) playing field. At the same time, and not withstanding the recent marches and other good work, civil society demonstrates little appetite for anything other than an ongoing increase in its energy and material consumption – and hence in its emissions.

Zachary’s emphasis on the US reducing its emissions by 10% since 2005 demonstrates our desire to hide, even from ourselves, the real story of an inexorable rise in emissions. In the same way that the climate doesn’t care about efficiency, it doesn’t differentiate between the geographical origin of emissions – they all end up in the atmosphere changing the climate. So it is the carbon-profligacy of our lifestyles that matters, not that we have conveniently exported the emissions to another country. This places a different complexion on the issues.[2]. Between 1990 and 2007 the lifestyles of US citizens had, on average, higher emissions year on year – rising by 34% in seventeen years.[3] The reduction that followed was primarily down to the recession and not the consequence of judicious policies on efficiency and emissions by corporate America or the government. Now, with the US economy picking up, so lifestyle emissions are again showing early signs of returning to growth. There is also no meaningful solace to be gained from the US love affair with shale gas. Whilst it may be good for energy security, in terms of emissions the development of shale gas has gone hand in hand with anincrease in the US production of fossil fuels – measured in terms of their carbon emissions (assuming they are combusted).[4]

So I don’t think Zachary’s arguments that “Naomi Klein Is Wrong” stack up. True to say Naomi does not have all the answers – but who does? Set against even a weak 2°C framing of dangerous climate change, she’s not far off the mark. By contrast to suggest, as Zachary does, that Klein’s rhetoric risks obscuring just how much is being done by large companies around the world to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental footprint” implies a misunderstanding of the timeliness of carbon budgets and their implications for evaluating meaningful action.

However, in the end I think we should studiously avoid setting Zachary’s arguments against Klein’s. When it comes to delivering on our repeated international commitments on climate change we must all solemnly hang our heads in shame, take some time to reflect and then begin anew from where we are today. Meeting our repeated commitments remains an achievable goal – just. But lets not pretend it’s only an incremental step away from where we are today. As Klein rightly notes, “this changes everything.”

 


[1]  Kevin Anderson & Alice Bows (2012) Executing a Scharnow turn: reconciling shipping emissions with international commitments on climate change, Carbon Management, 3:6, 615-628

[3] For consumption-based emissions see http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/?q=en/emissions

.

.

Some quotes from the Zachary Karabell article:
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. She has a sharp, pungent answer to why no concerted action has taken place: “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find our way out of this crisis.” With meticulous research and reporting, Klein documents how some corporations and lobbying groups have thwarted action and even manipulated multiple governments into boosting the extraction of gas, coal, and oil.”
and
“But even if a company is hungry for profit and power—and what successful company isn’t?—that should not disqualify their efforts to address climate change. Take the endeavor recently announced at the Clinton Global Initiative by Sir Richard Branson to tackle trucking efficiency throughout the world. Branson is a particular focus of Klein’s critique, as a poseur capitalist who presents himself as a green apostle while making billions on carbon-intensive industries such as air travel. Yet Branson’s commitment to reducing Virgin’s carbon footprint seems just as genuine as any climate marcher who drove a car to get to Manhattan for the People’s Climate March. We all are forced into carbon complicity, whether as individuals or as corporations.”
and
“None of us should lose sight of working toward a less resource-intensive future. Getting there requires massive investment of trillions of dollars and concerted effort at multiple levels of society. Dismissing a key element of that change—the multinationals and global NGOs that are trying to make these changes in spite of the sclerosis and opposition of so many governments and in the face of powerful lobbies—may galvanize some activists. But barring a synchronous overthrow of the entire global capitalist system, we need the assiduous efforts of multinationals that simultaneously strive to make heaps of money and to reduce their environmental impact. Without them, we would be many steps closer to the environmental Armageddon that Klein and so many of us fear is nigh.”
.
.

.

10 December 2013 (IATA press release)

Airlines Expect 31% Rise in Passenger Demand by 2017

930 Million More Passengers Compared to 2012

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released the IATA Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017 showing that airlines expect to see a 31% increase in passenger numbers between 2012 and 2017. By 2017 total passenger numbers are expected to rise to 3.91 billion—an increase of 930 million passengers over the 2.98 billion carried in 2012.

The IATA Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017 is a consensus outlook for system-wide passenger growth. Demand is expected to expand by an average of 5.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2013 and 2017. By comparison, global passenger growth expanded by 4.3% CAGR between 2008 and 2012, largely reflecting the negative impact of the 2008 global financial crisis and recession. Of the new passengers, approximately 292 million will be carried on international routes and 638 million on domestic routes.

….. and it continues …..

http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/pages/2013-12-10-01.aspx

.


.

IATA Factsheet

Fact Sheet: Climate Change

Industry Goals:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year to 2020
  • A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020: carbon-neutral growth
  • Cut net CO2 emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005 [Note, NET not gross].

Air Transport’s Climate Change Track Record

  • Air transport accounts for 2% of global manmade CO2 emissions
    • Air transport’s relative contribution has not increased in the past 20 years and is not expected to increase beyond 3% by 2050  according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  [IPCC says: “For the range of scenarios, the range of increase in (aviation) carbon dioxide emissions to 2050 would be 1.6 to 10 times the value in 1992. Link Page 6.  IATA completely ignores the issue of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, which may as much as double their climate impact. Details in the IPCC paper. AirportWatch note].
  • Air transport has reduced its fuel use and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer by well over 70% compared to the 1960s. [It was stunningly inefficient then].
  • Although in 2012 passenger kilometer performed increased by as much as 5.3% and tonne kilometers performed by 3.3%, total emissions increased only 1.4% to 689 million tonnes of CO2, compared to 679 million tonnes in 2011
  • Emissions growth of 1.4% in 2012 is the result of
    • A 2.7% capacity increase (accounting for 18 million tonnes of CO2)
    • But was partially offset by an annual percentage efficiency improvement of 1.3%

Carbon-Neutral Growth 2020 (CNG2020)

  • CNG2020 means that aviation’s net CO2 emissions will not increase beyond 2020 levels even as demand for air transport continues to grow
  • The industry is working hard to deliver CNG2020 (Four Pillar strategy), but it is also contingent upon action by other stakeholders, notably:
    • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) needs to adopt a CO2 emission standard for new aircraft types
    • Governments and fuel companies need to support and scale up the production of sustainable biofuels for aviation
    • Governments and air navigation service providers need to improve air traffic management, and live up to their commitments to deliver the Single European Sky in Europe and NextGen in the United States
    • At its Annual General Meeting in June 2013, IATA members adopted a resolution providing a set of principles on how governments could integrate a single global market-based measure as part of an overall package of measures to put a cap on net aviation emissions from 2020

Four Pillar Strategy to Address Climate Change

Technology

  • Short-term: enhancements and modifications to existing in-service fleet
  • Medium-term: accelerate fleet renewal, introduce latest technologies, including drop-in biofuels
  • Long-term: radical new technologies and aircraft designs
  • IATA Technology Roadmap identifies technologies that could reduce fuel burn per aircraft by up to 30%

Operations

  • Improved operations can save fuel and CO2 emissions by up to 6% per year (IPCC)
  • IATA helps fuel conservation by compiling best practices, publishing guidance, visiting airlines and training
  • IATA will extend fuel conservation programs and promote airline environmental management systems

Infrastructure

  • Governments and infrastructure providers could avoid up to 12% of CO2 emissions by addressing airport and airspace inefficiencies (IPCC)
    • Some 4% of this has already been achieved since 1999 (according to the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation – CANSO)
    • Single European Sky (SES), US NextGen Air Transport System and flexible use of airspace would contribute to these savings

Economic measures

  • To the extent that the industry’s climate change objectives may not be achieved through the first three pillars alone, a cost-effective single global market-based measure is needed to bridge the gap
  • Considering the international nature of aviation, a global approach to aviation emissions must be preferred over a patchwork of individual and uncoordinated policies:
    • A market-based measure should be cost-effective and administratively simple
    • Airlines should only be held accountable once for their emissions
    • A patchwork of measures may lead to the same emissions being covered by more than one mechanism.
  • A global mechanism is needed to prevent market distortions and carbon leakage

At its 38th session, the ICAO Assembly decided to develop a global market-based measure for international aviation. It requested the ICAO Council to finalize the work on the technical aspects, environmental and economic impacts and modalities of the possible options for a global MBM scheme. The results of the work of the Council will be reported to the next Assembly in 2016 for approval.

Updated: December 2013

http://www.iata.org/pressroom/facts_figures/fact_sheets/pages/environment.aspx

.

.

.

 

 

.
.
.
.