Airports’ climate programme relies on offsets excluded under EU laws – CORSIA must exclude “dodgy” offsets
Transport & Environment has found that airports are relying on offsets excluded under EU climate laws to help achieve their voluntary target of “carbon neutrality.” Airports’ efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions are welcome, but not worth much if the offset project types being used are highly unlikely to deliver promised emission reductions – and don’t qualify for the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS). The claims of carbon neutrality therefore cannot be credibly maintained without serious reforms to this programme. Many of the offset types being used (cheap) were long ago ruled inadmissible by the EU due to concerns over their environmental integrity. Airports are not required to publicly disclose which offsets they purchase. Athens airport relied on wind farm offsets originating in China – offsets which are unlikely to deliver additional emissions reductions (a necessary criterion) and are banned from the EU ETS. Andrew Murphy said: “Flawed programmes such as this are giving a green light to airport expansion and the resulting surge in aircraft emissions.” The ICAO CORSIA programme will approve its offset rules later in November. These must exclude aviation use of the dodgy offset projects.
Airports’ climate programme relies on offsets excluded under EU laws
October 27, 2017 (Transport & Environment)
Airports are relying on offsets excluded under EU climate laws to help achieve their voluntary target of ‘carbon neutrality’, research conducted by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) has found.
Airports’ efforts to reduce their emissions are welcome, but T&E said it is concerning that airports have been found using offset project types which are highly unlikely to deliver promised emission reductions and which would not qualify for the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS). The claims of carbon neutrality therefore cannot be credibly maintained without serious reforms to this programme.
Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at T&E, said: “Many airports are claiming to be carbon neutral, but our research shows these claims must be taken with a pinch of salt. The airports are relying on offsets project types some of which the EU long ago ruled inadmissible due to concerns over their environmental integrity. This programme needs serious reforms if it is to be credible.”
The Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) programme encourages airports to cut their emissions and achieve carbon neutrality through the purchase of offsets. However the ACA has only vague guidelines on what types of offsets may be used and airports are not required to publicly disclose which offsets they purchase. As a result airports are purchasing offsets which would not qualify under EU climate laws. For example, Milan Airport purchased offsets from a large hydro-dam which later collapsed causing enormous damage. Also, Athens airport relied on wind farm offsets originating in China – offsets which are unlikely to deliver additional emissions reductions and are banned from the EU ETS.
The programme’s criteria for offset credits that airports are allowed to purchase is very general and, unlike the EU ETS, lacks a list of what type of projects cannot be used. T&E said the UN’s aviation agency ICAO, which is currently developing an offsetting scheme for aircraft emissions above 2020 levels, must learn from the mistakes of the airports scheme by agreeing effective environmental criteria which are strictly enforced and properly transparent.
Andrew Murphy said: “Flawed programmes such as this are giving a green light to airport expansion and the resulting surge in aircraft emissions. ICAO must not follow the same path and instead ensure there is a black list of dodgy offset projects that aircraft operators cannot avail of. The global scheme should also have a high level of transparency, so the public can judge whether it is delivering on its promised climate target.”
As most airports only disclose how many tonnes of emissions have been offset, T&E checked carbon registries to see which offsets airports had purchased. According to industry figures, airport operations generate CO2 emissions which in total equate to 2-5% of all CO2 emitted by commercial aircraft.
ICAO’s council is due to approve offsetting rules for the aircraft emissions scheme (CORSIA) later this month, before circulating them to all states for comment ahead of finalising the rules next June.
Time to upgrade Europe’s aviation pollution rules – it should not be allowed to risk the Paris agreement
The European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) has voted on how the aviation sector should be treated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), in response to a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting mechanism. The ongoing revision of Europe’s carbon market rules for aviation is a critical opportunity to ensure that one of the biggest global polluters starts to contribute its fair share to EU climate action. While the term ‘sustainable aviation’ seems to be spreading, the reality is that the sector’s emissions are growing unsustainably and will continue to do so. Even if the global aviation deal is fully implemented and enforced, it will not curb the industry’s rising emissions. Though just intra-EU flights are included in the EU ETS, unlike other sectors – aviation is not expected to annually reduce its emissions. Add the fact that the industry is exempt from fuel taxes, VAT or legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements, and it becomes clear aviation enjoys very special treatment. While greenhouse gas emissions from all other sectors in the EU carbon market fell in 2016, those from aviation grew by 8%. This risks putting the goals of the Paris climate agreement out of reach. With no quick solutions in sight, the sector needs to pay a real price for its pollution. A high enough carbon price would help. Carbon Market Watch blog.
Calculator by T&E helps show how a reformed aviation ETS could work better (and raise climate finance)
Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a new calculator which aims to show how the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETC could be helpful. (Only flights between EU countries are included at present, not others). T&E says if all flights were included, and paying a reasonable price for their carbon allowances, this would not only help reduce the sector’s major and growing climate impact, but it would also help Europe to raise climate finance it needs. T&E says European decision-makers should seize this opportunity offered by the ongoing reform of aviation provisions in the EU ETS. The aviation sector made up 4.5% of EU carbon emissions in 2015, and they rose by 8% in 2016. Though tiny improvements are made in fuel efficiency, operational changes etc, these are dwarfed by the huge annual growth in numbers of flights. The industry expects to continue to grow by about 4.7% per year. There are no realistic measures in place, or in the pipeline, to rein in aviation CO2 in the EU. But the aviation provisions in the EU ETS are currently being amended in response to the ICAO CORSIA deal to establish a global offsetting scheme from 2021 onwards. The new T&E calculator enables different components to be varied, to see the effect on CO2, and on raising climate finance.
ICAO’s aviation offsetting deal is a weak start – now countries must go further to cut CO2
A deal was finally agreed by ICAO on 6th October. It was progress, in that there had never been any sort of agreement on global aviation CO2 emissions before. But it was not a great deal – and far too weak to provide the necessary restriction on the growth of global aviation CO2. It came in the same week that the Paris Agreement crossed its crucial threshold to enter into force, but the ICAO deleted key provisions for the deal to align its ambitions with the Paris aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees C. Tim Johnson, Director of AEF and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said in relation to the UK: “But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act. With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”