A new authoritative study shows that only adoption of a global ‘market-based measure’ (MBM) can bring the ICAO goal, and aviation industry’s shared goal of 2020 ‘carbon neutral growth’ by 2050 within reach. The total impact of all other CO2 reduction measures currently on the table (improved technology and fuel efficiency of aircraft, improved operational efficiency and some use of biofuels) is shown to be insufficient. The report comes just before the March meetings of ICAO’s Council and its High Level Advisory Group, charged with advising on a resolution to address global emissions for ICAO’s triennial Assembly next September. Projections of future aviation emissions show by 2050 the cuts ICAO and IATA aspire to will not be met, without MBM, such as the ETS. The study demonstrates that claims from industry, ICAO and some governments that current measures being discussed will be sufficient to tame aviation emissions are false. It shows definitively that pricing carbon via a global MBM is the only way to arrest aviation’s climate impact – already at 5% of the global total, with traffic growing at 4-5% a year. The ETS, on which progress has been halted for a year, needs to be protected.
Global emissions trading essential to close aviation’s emissions gap in 2050 – study
Brussels, (Transport & Environment)
4 March 2013
A new study  published today by leading atmospheric scientist Professor David Lee of Manchester Metropolitan University shows that only the adoption of a global ‘market-based measure’ can bring the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) and aviation industry’s shared goal  of 2020 ‘carbon neutral growth’ by 2050 within reach. The total impact of all other CO2 reduction measures currently on the table is shown to be insufficient.
This new piece of research comes just ahead of the March meetings of ICAO’s Council and its High Level Advisory Group on International Aviation and Climate Change, charged with advising on a resolution to address global emissions for ICAO’s triennial Assembly next September.
The research assesses emissions reduction scenarios based on three types of CO2 cutting measures: improvements in aviation technology and operations; accelerated development and use of biofuels; and application of current regional carbon pricing measures – principally at this point the EU´s Emissions Trading System (ETS).
The projections, under a ‘middle of the road’ industry growth scenario, show that an ‘emissions gap’ of 153 to 387 Mtonnes CO2 (the range depends on mitigation level assumptions) remains by 2050. These projections combine all CO2 reduction measures proposed by ICAO and airlines and assume an extension of the EU ETS until 2050. Even at the lower range of uncertainty, this gap represents about a third of today’s international emissions levels.
The study concludes that an operational and effective worldwide market-based measure such as a globalised ETS would achieve much greater CO2 emissions reductions.
T&E programme manager for aviation, Bill Hemmings, said: “This study demonstrates that claims from industry, ICAO and governments like the United States that current measures being discussed will be sufficient to tame aviation emissions are patently false. The research shows definitively that pricing carbon via a global MBM is the only way to arrest aviation’s climate impact – already at 5% of the global total, with traffic growing at 4-5% a year.”
“With this information, ICAO needs to face up to its responsibilities this year and act to agree a global measure. There can be no further excuses. IATA and the American carriers’ A4A need to accept and urgently embrace carbon pricing – their own numbers simply don’t add up”, Bill Hemmings concluded.
Another key finding of Lee´s study, which emphasises the importance of carbon markets in reducing emissions, is the role of regional MBMs in the absence of a global measure: The EU ETS, if extended beyond 2020 to 2050, achieves the largest reduction of any single measure analysed . Such measures can deliver CO2 savings of up to 587 Mtonnes CO2 per year in 2050.
Aviation Environment Federation director, Tim Johnson, said: “Lee’s figures demonstrate that the EU ETS, if extended to 2050, will have a measurable impact on reducing global aviation emissions – and it should be protected until an agreement to implement global carbon pricing is reached. The European Union has ‘stopped the clock’ for a year to give room for ICAO to act. The ICAO Council and High Level Group are now in the spotlight. Those states and parts of industry opposing a global agreement at ICAO need to explain how their plans can achieve the stated goals given Prof. Lee’s analysis.”
Professor Lee  developed the growth scenarios and mitigation options based upon the methodology and databases utilised for the 2011 UNEP Bridging the Emissions Gap report.
2. ICAO resolved at the 37th General Assembly that it would work together with its Member States and relevant organizations “to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net carbon emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level…” This is referred to in Lee’s report as the ‘2020 carbon-neutral goal’. Likewise, the airlines, under their trade organisation IATA, pledged in 2009 to a ‘carbon-neutral growth by 2020’: http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2009-06-08-03.aspx.
4. Professor David Lee was lead author of the aviation chapter of the 2011 UNEP Bridging the Gap report. He is a member of an IPCC working group on these issues and an independent scientific adviser to ICAO.
For further information, please contact:
Bill Hemmings – Transport & Environment firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Johnston – Aviation Environment Federation email@example.com
ICAO Environmental Report 2010
has the 2% efficiency details at
T&E press release at:
The emissions reductions available from the range of BAU (business as usual) to MFR (maximum feasible reduction) technology and operational improvements did not meet the 2% yr-1 improvement in fuel efficiency for international aviation at any point in time to 2050.
Lee’s graph demonstrating the huge emissions gap between projections and the carbon-neutral goal
To see a larger version of this graph click here
and by contrast:
Industry graph displaying how the 2050 goal will be achieved using ‘additional technologies’
To see a larger version of this graph click here.
The Conclusions and Recommendations from the report:
Conclusions & recommendations
From baseline emissions of 630 Mtonnes of CO2 in 2006, total aviation emissions are projected to increase to between 1,034 and 3,105 Mtonnes of CO2 by 2050. This emission range encompasses at the extremes, high growth, BAU technology and operational improvements, compared with low growth, MFR technology and operational improvements, “speculative” levels of biofuels and extension of existing regional MBMs at the same cap level to 2050. For international aviation, the similar span of emissions by 2050 is 620 to 2,031 Mtonnes CO2, on a 2006 baseline of 391 Mtonnes CO2.
The mitigation possibilities for 2050 can be compared in a number of ways and combinations in order to understand absolute and relative reductions that may be available. Using the central growth scenario and taking S2 BAU technology and operational improvements as a ‘benchmark’ (1,638 Mtonnes CO2, 2050) one can conclude the following. The reduction in emissions from introducing a “likely” amount of biofuels to S2 BAU technology and operations is 82 Mtonnes CO2 (5% reduction). The reduction in emissions from introducing extended regional MBMs out to 2050 to S2 BAU technology and operations (i.e. no biofuels) is 587 Mtonnes CO2 (36% reduction). The combined effect of a “likely” amount of biofuels and extending the regional MBMs over the S2 BAU technology and operations scenario is 630 Mtonnes CO2 (39% reduction).
Considering a comparison of S2 BAU technology and operations against more ambitious reductions yields the following. The reduction in emissions from MFR technology and operations (S5) over S2 BAU technology and operations is 332 Mtonnes CO2 (20% reduction). The reduction in emissions from MFR technology and operations (S5) combined with a “speculative” level of biofuels over S2 BAU technology and operations is 528 Mtonnes CO2 (32% reduction). The reduction in emissions from MFR technology and operations over S2 BAU technology introducing extended regional MBMs to 2050 (i.e. no biofuels) is 761 Mtonnes CO2 (47%). The reduction in emissions from MFR technology and operations (S5) combined with a “speculative” level of biofuels, and extension of the regional MBMs over S2 BAU technology and operations is 864 Mtonnes CO2 (53% reduction).
The emissions reductions available from the range of BAU to MFR technology and operational improvements did not meet the 2% yr-1 improvement in fuel efficiency for international aviation at any point in time to 2050. When MFR technology and operational improvement reductions were combined with “speculative” levels of biofuels, the 2% goal for international aviation was just exceeded by -10 Mtonnes CO2 in 2050. Any combination of measures that included extension of existing regional MBMs exceeded the 2% goal at any point in time out to 2050.
None of the measures, or their combinations, for any growth scenario managed to meet the 2020 carbon-neutral goal, the 2005 stabilization of emissions goal, or the 2005-10% stabilization of emissions goal at 2050.
The maximum reductions over BAU technology and operational improvements were clearly achieved by the extension of the existing MBMs out to 2050. A global scheme constructed on similar lines is likely to achieve more savings, assuming that sufficient C savings can be made outside the aviation sector, and be bought at a price that does not suppress demand more than has already been assumed in the calculations (8.4%).
In order to further quantify environmental and the most cost-effective benefits, it is recommended that the CO2 radiative forcing and temperature responses be studied (as these will give a better comparative measure of environmental effectiveness than end-point emissions), and relative costs of the different measures be further studied.
Carbon pricing needed to control airline CO2 emissions: study
By Barbara Lewis (Reuters)
BRUSSELS | Mon Mar 4, 2013
(Reuters) – Aviation pollution can only be stabilized by the middle of the century if a price is set on airline carbon emissions, research said, countering industry hopes that green goals can be met via technology improvements and biofuels.
A European Union program to force airlines using EU airports to pay for their carbon emissions caused an international outcry, forcing the European Commission to propose a year-long freeze of its law.
As an alternative to the EU program, U.N. body the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is trying to agree a world-wide plan to curb aircraft emissions and meets again this month to try to make progress.
The research published on Monday by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in Britain, a specialist in environmental and aviation research, looked at all the proposals under consideration, including technological improvements, biofuels and streamlined take-off and landing procedures.
It found that the only way to have a significant impact was to put a price on carbon – in other words, to use a market-based measure (MBM), such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
“I think the simple message is that all measures are needed to reduce emissions. What we highlight is the potential gains from the MBM, which is the subject of so much political controversy at the moment,” David Lee, a professor at MMU who led the research, told Reuters.
Lee has worked on a specialist research group for the ICAO as part of its efforts to tackle aviation pollution. He is also a technical advisor to the UK’s Department for Transport on aviation, climate and air quality issues.
REACHING FOR THE SKY
In 2010, the ICAO provisionally agreed to work towards a global goal of “carbon-neutral growth” for aviation from 2020, while the European Union advocated a 10 percent reduction by 2020 compared with a 2004-2006 baseline.
With both those targets looking unachievable, the report explored likely growth to 2050. By then, EU road maps state carbon emissions from all sectors must fall by between 80 and 95 percent versus 1990 levels to limit global warming to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the level scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Assuming the EU’s ETS is extended to 2050, the report found it could deliver CO2 annual savings of up to 647 million tons by the middle of the century.
Based on scenarios of what kind of measures are agreed, it predicted total aviation emissions would rise to between 1,139 million tons and 3422 million of carbon dioxide by 2050 compared with 694 million in 2006.
Commission figures predict the EU ETS could save 70 million metric tons of CO2 a year by 2020, but global aviation emissions will still be around 70% higher in 2020 compared with 2005.
Aviation and shipping are the only sectors not covered by developed nations’ commitments under the Kyoto Protocol on tackling climate change.
Even though the Commission, the EU executive, has proposed a freeze on its requirement that all aviation pays for its carbon, the European Union is still charging internal EU flights for their emissions via its ETS.
The EU executive has said it will automatically reapply its law to all flights if the ICAO fails to agree a convincing global alternative. The European Parliament is expected to endorse the Commission plan in April.
So far, the ICAO talks have delivered little progress.
Campaigners have in particular singled out the United States, the biggest aviation emitter, as an obstacle because of a position paper showing it has proposed an airspace-based approach that would mean a huge number of emissions were not accounted for.
(Editing by David Holmes)
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The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in support of the EU Commission’s “Stop-the-Clock” proposal which delays the inclusion of flights to and from Europe from the EU ETS for just one year. This is conditional on progress being made by ICAO and the aim of the delay is to give ICAO time to negotiate a global agreement to address emissions from international aviation by autumn 2013, and they should have a realistic timetable through which to apply it. The one year suspension could only be extended if « clear and sufficient » progress is made within ICAO. Funds generated by the ETS would be used for a variety of measures to cut carbon emissions. The European Parliament Environment Committee also rejected a proposal on the offset limit for flights within the EU. This proposal would have allowed intra-European flights to offset nearly 100% of their reduction obligations, while adding about 20 million international credits into the EU ETS.
MEPs want ETS exception for intercontinental flights and progress in ICAO
26-02-2013 (European Parliament)
Committee : Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
A proposal temporarily to suspend the EU CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for intercontinental flights, so as to enable International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to agree worldwide measures, was backed by the Environment Committee on Tuesday.
MEPs stressed that this exception to the ETS is conditional upon progress at the ICAO and earmarked ETS revenues for efforts to tackle climate change. The ETS will continue to apply to flights between EU airports.
“Today’s vote is a clear signal that the European Union wants an international solution. There are no more excuses for third countries not to engage in the issue. Third countries have given the impression that it is the European Union that stands in the way, but we shall see if they have enough commitment. I appeal especially to US President Obama, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize inter alia for his commitment to tackle climate change and to Secretary of State Kerry who introduced the Kerry-Lieberman bill in the Senate which paved the way for emissions trading for the US economy including aviation. They could lose all the credibility if they continue opposing a solution in this important area”, said rapporteur Peter Liese (EPP, DE).
The “stop the clock” proposal would temporarily exempt airlines from the ETS requirement to report carbon emissions for flights between EU airports and third countries, and sanctions would not be imposed for failure to report.
In their amendments, MEPs say that the exception made for intercontinental flights should apply for a maximum of one year, which could be prolonged only if « clear and sufficient » progress is made within the ICAO.
Meanwhile, the Montreal-based ICAO should agree on a global system instead, with a realistic timetable for applying it, they add.
Moreover, to build international confidence in the EU ETS, EU member states should use revenue from auctioning allowances to cut CO2 emissions, adapt to the effects of climate change, and fund research and low-emission transport schemes, MEPs say.
Towards bluer skies at the ICAO?
Politically, the proposal aims to create an incentive for this year’s ICAO meeting to agree on a global mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and demonstrate the EU’s determination to make it work.
ICAO parties made some progress towards agreeing on an equivalent to the EU ETS at a meeting on 9 November 2012, and MEPs believe that a global, market-based measure to reduce international aviation emissions could be agreed at the next ICAO assembly in September 2013.
The report drafted by Peter Liese (EPP, ED) was approved by 50 votes to 0, with 8 abstentions. The committee also voted to open negotiations with EU ministers, by 51 votes to 2, with 5 abstentions.
The plenary vote is to be taken during the 15-18 April session in Strasbourg.
In the chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)
There had been a serious question over Switzerland – basically flights to/from Switzerland were not included in the derogation (i.e. allowances still needed to be submitted for flights from Berlin to Geneva) under the Commission proposal. Some of the MEPs proposed exempting these flights. But a compromise was reached to say that it will be discussed at the highest level - so the exemption didn’t not go through.
The Parliament rejected extending the offsets that airlines can submit (contrary to the TRAN (Transport) committee) so only 15% of allowances can be offsets, rather than up to almost 100% if the bad amendments had gone through.
Use of offsets (meaning buying offsets from countries outside the EU, as in the Clean Development Mechanism, CDM) means carbon cuts are meant to be made by other countries, rather than the EU. They are therefore not EU carbon cuts. Their use needs to be strictly limited, or reduced in order for the EU to make actual carbon emissions itself. Merely buying credits from elsewhere is missing the point.
Also the committee voted for an amendment which affirms that aviation is too privileged and gets too much State Aid, and also doesn’t pay any fuel tax or VAT. Green NGOs had not thought this had any hope of getting through, so this was a pleasant surprise. The Commission are revising the State Aid guidelines at the moment and there will be more news on this in coming months.
European Parliament’s Environment Committee rejects allowing more offsets for aviation industry
Brussels, (Carbon Market Watch)
26 February 2013.
Today, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in support of the EU Commission’s “Stop-the-Clock” proposal which derogates flights to and from Europe from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for one year to give enough time to negotiate a global agreement for addressing emissions from international aviation by autumn 2013.
In the same vote the Committee has rejected a proposal related to the offset limit. This proposal would have allowed intra-European flights to offset nearly 100% of their reduction obligations, while adding about 20 million international credits into the EU ETS.
“We strongly commend the Committee for rejecting the proposal as it would have done nothing to save the climate and only invite more artificial industrial gas carbon credits into the EU ETS. This in turn would have further flooded an already heavily over-supplied ETS” said Carbon Market Watch Director Eva Filzmoser. “We now look forward to a global deal by ICAO, with strong quality provisions for international offsets”.
International credits are responsible for two-thirds of the current EU ETS oversupply. The use of offsets has recently been criticised in lacking environmental integrity and further undermining the EU ETS. In response to these concerns, the EU has implemented a ban of industrial gas offset credits (from HFC-23 and N2O adipic acid projects) which will come into force in May 2013.
Eva Filzmoser, Director
Carbon Market Watch
Carbon Market Watch view on ‘backloading’ proposal
19 Feb 2013 (Carbon Market Watch)
Brussels, 19 February 2013.
Along with European environmental NGOs Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Greenpeace and WWF, Carbon Market Watch welcomes the European Parliament Environment Committee’s support for the proposal to temporarily curb the oversupply of emission allowances in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). This ‘backloading’ proposal will go some way to mitigate the severe problems faced by the EU’s carbon market, which has so far failed to dissuade polluters due to the hopelessly low cost of allowances.
Carbon Market Watch Director Eva Filzmoser commented “although a first step in the right direction, the backloading proposal will do little to improve the effectiveness of the Emissions Trading Scheme without deep structural reforms. International credits are responsible for two thirds of the EU ETS over-supply. Both, qualitative and quantitative restrictions are needed to address the threat these credits are posing to the EU ETS. In addition, the oversupply of surplus allowances need to be permanently cancelled and stronger emission reduction targets for 2030 are needed.”
View the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Greenpeace and WWF ‘S related joint statement here.
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On February 19th, Europe’s emissions-trading system (ETS) faces a potentially fatal vote. A European Parliament committee will vote on whether to back a Commission plan to remove some of a huge surplus of carbon allowances from the ETS. It would delay the sale of about 900m tonnes of carbon allowances from around 2013-16 to 2019-20, and give the EC the power to rearrange the ETS’s schedule of auctions. Thirty firms and organizations have written to European policy-makers urging them to vote in favor. Opposition to the proposal has been led by heavy industry and EU member Poland, which is highly dependent on carbon-intensive coal and argues there is no case for intervention in the market. The vote could not only determine whether the world’s biggest carbon-trading market survives but delay the emergence of a worldwide market, damage Europe’s environmental policies across the board and affect the prospects for a future treaty to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. However, even if the sale of the 900m tonnes was delayed, the oversupply of allowances would continue unless the auctions were cancelled, not just rescheduled.
Extremely Troubled Scheme
Crunch time for the world’s most important carbon market
Feb 16th 2013 (Economist)
ON FEBRUARY 19th, Europe’s emissions-trading system (ETS) faces a potentially fatal vote. It could not only determine whether the world’s biggest carbon-trading market survives but delay the emergence of a worldwide market, damage Europe’s environmental policies across the board and affect the prospects for a future treaty to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. Quite a lot for a decision which—as is the way of things European—sounds numbingly technical.
The vote is due to take place in the environment committee of the European Parliament. If the committee approves the proposal before it (and the parliament in full session as well as a majority of national governments agree with the decision), this would give the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, the power to rearrange the ETS’s schedule of auctions. Its plan is to delay the sale of about 900m tonnes of carbon allowances from around 2013-16 to 2019-20.
The vote matters, its sponsors argue, because the ETS could collapse if the commission’s proposal is rejected. The ETS is the only EU-wide environmental instrument. It trades allowances to produce carbon equal to about half the EU’s total carbon emissions. When the system was set up, its designers thought these allowances would now cost roughly €20 per tonne of carbon. The current price is around €5 ($6.7), and in January it fell by 40% in a few minutes after a negative, but legally meaningless, parliamentary vote (see chart).
The low prices reflect a chronic oversupply of carbon allowances, which the commission puts at 1.5 billion-2 billion tonnes, roughly a year’s emissions. When the ETS was designed in the mid-2000s, growth was strong and demand for carbon allowances was expected to be high. Their number was therefore fixed (at 16 billion tonnes for 2013-20). But demand has crashed. Other temporary factors are also driving prices down: more frequent auctions mean that allowances which once sat unused for months now come onto the market immediately; a special reserve for new entrants has boosted supply; and hedging by power stations has dried up.
Yet none of this justifies interfering in the market, opponents of the commission’s plan say. The ETS remains liquid; the emissions cap stays in place. A low carbon price simply means the aims of the ETS are being met cheaply. What’s the problem?
The commission highlights two. First, if the proposal is thrown out, the ETS could collapse completely: ie, the carbon price could fall to zero. Second, and more likely, even a further, temporary slide in the price could do permanent damage.
When carbon prices are low, coal is cheap relative to cleaner forms of energy, such as gas. As a result power suppliers build more coal-fired plants and Europe emits more carbon. This is already happening. In the long run carbon prices are likely to rise again: industrial demand will pick up (one day); and the cap (the supply of carbon allowances) is due to be lowered by 1.7% each year. But by the time this has an effect—not before 2026, says Guy Turner of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a firm of market analysts—the coal plants will be running and expensive to turn off. Their owners will be lumbered with “stranded costs”. Power generators, which are the main buyers of ETS allowances, say a higher carbon price would help them avoid this problem by spurring investment in new technologies.
A lot of people beyond Europe are anxiously awaiting next week’s vote. Australia’s carbon price, which it established in 2012, is currently fixed. If the ETS remains weak, Australia’s carbon price will not soar in 2015 when it will be allowed to float and the country’s carbon market will be linked to the larger European one. But if the ETS collapses, it will encourage further opposition to the already-controversial Australian scheme, worries Tom Brookes of the European Climate Foundation, an environmentalist group.
A collapse could also affect California, which set up a carbon market in 2012, as well as China and South Korea, which are putting together theirs. And it would undermine the chances that all these markets might one day form a global carbon-trading system.
Back in Europe, other environmental policies could suffer. A low carbon price would slow down Germany’s ambitious plan to boost renewable energy and a high one would speed it up. Perhaps reflecting this, the German government is split on the vote. A collapse of the EU’s flagship policy would also throw into disarray European plans for future environmental reforms—and its hopes of leading other countries by example.
Even if the proposal goes the commission’s way, that would not change the ETS fundamentally. The oversupply of allowances would continue unless the auctions were cancelled, not just rescheduled. But that is a battle for another day.
Thirty firms urge EU policymakers to save carbon market: letter
Feb 13, 2013 (Reuters)
(Reuters) – Thirty firms and organizations have written to European policy-makers urging them to vote in favor next week of a plan to support the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which has sunk to record lows.
A European Parliament committee votes on February 19 on whether to back a Commission plan to remove some of a huge surplus of carbon allowances from the EU ETS.
Opposition to the proposal has been led by heavy industry and EU member Poland, which is highly dependent on carbon-intensive coal and argues there is no case for intervention in the market.
EU business body Business Europe also opposes the Commission’s plan, which is designed to be an emergency fix and a prelude to deeper reform.
The signatories of the letter seen by Reuters, dated February 14 and addressed to members of the European Parliament, say that without agreement on the Commission proposal, the price of carbon allowances will fall further “threatening the long-term survival of the ETS”.
It calls on next week’s parliamentary committee and also a separate committee meeting of member states to back the Commission proposal urgently “so that the EU ETS as a whole remains the cornerstone of the EU climate and energy policy”.
EU carbon allowances sank below 3 euros last month to their lowest yet. On Wednesday, they rallied to just above 5 euros as traders speculated that next week’s vote would be positive.
The signatories of the new letter include Royal Dutch Shell, EDF Energy, General Electric, Alstom,Germany‘s E.ON, consumer good supplier Unilever and Statoil.
In an earlier letter from Business Europe, dated February 6, that organization opposed the Commission’s plan to remove temporarily some of the glut of permits, saying the EU ETS should be left to work “according to market principles” and that its weakness was mainly a result of economic crisis.
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An article appeared in the Telegraph on 30th January, by Louise Gray, reporting on a paper by an Economics lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It was about consumer behaviour in relation to carbon emissions, and makes the case that cutting down on flying has no effect on total EU carbon emissions, as flying is taken into account in the Emissions Trading System (ETS). It also made out that other actions, like reducing use of electricity also have no effect, but cutting consumption of meat, reducing use of petrol or diesel, or using less gas for house heating would have an impact – as those sectors are outside the ETS. Being told that flying has no impact on climate is an appealing message. However, many commentators have explained that this just is not correct. The ETS would only have this effect if the system was working optimally, which it is not. It would only work if the caps on carbon were tight, and tightening (which they are not at present) and if the price of carbon was high (it is at an all time low at present, at around €2 – 3). The non-CO2 emissions from flying are not taken account in the ETS. Therefore the argument that not flying has no effect is not borne out. It is just not correct.
The original article from the Telegraph is:
“Why flying could produce less carbon than taking the bus”
If you really want to stop climate change you would be better to give up red meat than stop taking flights, according to a new study.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent (Telegraph) 30 Jan 2013
The article contains statements such as:
“Dr Grischa Perino, an economist at UEA’s Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science, said new EU rules means the decision not to fly does not cut overall carbon.
He explained that the carbon used by taking a flight are covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
This allows certain sectors to produce a limited amount of carbon over time. If less carbon is produced then the sector will sell their “permits” to another polluting industry in the scheme.
Therefore if you choose not to take a flight, all you do is “make it cheaper for someone else to pollute”, said Dr Perino.
“The net effect is zero,” he said. “If I do not fly someone else buys the permit I did not use and uses it to produce carbon.
“If you care about the change in total greenhouse gases, whether I fly or not is irrelevant because that is a fixed amount [set under the EU ETS].”
Taking a bus or a diesel train instead could even increase your carbon footprint.”
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of UEA’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, urged consumers to continue their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
“It is critical that we significantly reduce our carbon emissions to tackle climate change,” she said. “Reducing our individual energy use, particularly that of our travel, our houses, and our appliances, is the quickest and easiest way to reduce our own carbon emissions.”
In a nutshell, some of the key arguments against the Dr Perino idea are:
1. The ETS is not working well, and currently is hardly working at all.
2. The price of carbon needs to be a lot higher than its current all time low of €2 – 3 for the system to work. Currently it is cheaper to emit carbon and pay for it, rather than to pay for measures to cut emissions.
3. The inclusion of aviation within the ETS is currently under attack, with countries such as the USA, China and India – with many others – attempting to prevent the EU ETS from charging their airlines for carbon allowances, for flights into and out of Europe.
4. By the end of this year, the inclusion of aviation within the ETS is likely to be different, and the system is likely to be weakened – and less effective than planned. It hardly even works now – so further weakened, it may be almost useless.
5. Airlines get 85% of their carbon allowances free, and only have to buy 15% of them. Aviation has its own separate carbon allowances, called EUAAs (EU Aviation Allowances). These are in addition to the normal EUAs (EU Allowances). Airlines cannot sell EUAAs to any other sector; they are only for aviation. However, they can buy allowances from elsewhere.
6. The non-CO2 impacts of air travel are not taken into account by the ETS. These impacts (NOx and cirrus cloud mainly) approximately double the climate change impact of the CO2 alone. A one for one purchase of carbon permits needs to take that problem into account, but it does not.
7. Aviation, as other sectors such as electricity generation, need additional policies and emissions targets. Governments do not expect that the ETS caps themselves will be sufficient to bring down emissions. For example, if carbon-trading can save the planet by itself, then why invest in renewables at all?
8. There are social implications of flying, or not flying. The choice of lifestyle/consumption habits shows elected governments that there is popular support for action.The current cap on aviation emissions (97% of the level in 2004 – 6) falling to 95% of it, is not enough to get real cuts in emissions. Unless citizens put pressure on EU politicians to lower the cap progressively, the cap will remain too high. It is up to ordinary voters to express their concerns about carbon emissions to their representatives, to get the system made better. Individuals choosing not to fly helps to demonstrate that ever increasing flying is not inevitable.
9. EU ETS is one “means to an end” of reducing aviation carbon emissions. Not the only one. The way the system is meant to work ultimately, if the price of carbon rises to a high level, is to reduce demand for flying because improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency, improvements in air traffic control and the cul-de-sac of biofuels will not by themselves be enough to actually reduce the CO2 emissions if the industry grows substantially over the coming decades.
10. As aviation has its own set of EUAAs, if enough people did not fly, all the affected airlines would have surplus permits, which could only be sold to other airlines. These spare permits could not be sold to other sectors, so they could not be used to allow higher emissions elsewhere. These cuts in flying would be real cuts in overall CO2 emissions.
Photo from Turn Europe Green, on Facebook
and so it is with avoiding hypermobility – when thousands cut down on their flying, change can happen.
This issue is explored at length in an article by Leo Hickman, in the Guardian, on 31.1.2013
Should we stop worrying about the environmental impact of flying?
A University of East Anglia economist has provoked debate by arguing that flying within Europe has ‘no impact on total emissions’
The article is worth reading in full, but it is long, and comprehensive. Below are a some extracts from it:
Yes, within an enclosed system of tradable “permits to pollute”, it should not make a material difference where the source of the pollution comes from, as long as the overall total is strictly and verifiably capped.
But Perino appears to adopt a theoretical, idealised vision of the ETS, one that doesn’t account for the system’s very real flaws, not least its vulnerability to turbulence caused by vested interests and political pressure. And what account does it take of the current record-low price of carbon within the ETS? Or the fact that airlines actually made a huge windfall profit from the scheme last year? To say that the ETS is currently working in the way it should be is to side-step reality. (This week, UBS said that the EU ETS was “worthless” and “won’t work until 2045″ without a change in the rules to tighten supply and curb a record glut of permits.) And why avoid discussing flights that travel in and out of the EU – a subject that forced the EU into making an embarrassing climbdown last November?
So what does Perino propose are, in fact, the green consumer’s best options?
With a cap-and-trade scheme in place, green consumers are left with three options to reduce total GHG emissions.
First, they can reduce emissions not captured by the EU ETS, e.g. by driving less or by eating less red meat.
Second, they can influence the political process via voting and lobbying to reduce the cap on regulated emissions.
Third, they can buy EU ETS allowances (or other types of offsets) and retire them and thereby have a direct impact on total GHG emissions.
Here are the thoughts of Bryony Worthington, the Labour peer who also enables people to “retire” ETS allowances through her organisation Sandbag.org. She seems to concur with Perino’s last two points:
Voluntary cancellation of allowances is an additional action individuals can take in and of itself. Government should do more to promote and encourage this including through introducing tax breaks. Sandbag’s carbon destruction service makes this possible and easy.
The ETS is currently under review if people are upset about how it impacts on their ability to make a difference. Now is a good time to lobby for these changes. Voluntary action can complement the upstream policy but it does not at the moment. It’s high time for a change.
I also asked Jeff Gazzard for his reaction. Gazzard, a board member of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), is a veteran anti-aviation campaigner who has long been closely following the formation and implementation of the EU ETS:
The UEA analysis is yet another well-meaning but essentially ivory tower piece of academic research that naively over-emphasises the potential that including aviation emissions in an ETS will bring.
In a UK context, the last government, having done all the negotiating to agree aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS, rightly went on to ask the CCC [Committee on Climate Change] to assess how emissions from UK aviation could be brought back down to 2005 levels by 2050.
The CCC’s advice was to constrain demand growth. The result of unconstrained CO2 emissions from both domestic and international aviation to and from the UK is proving hugely difficult to fit within our legally-binding economy-wide emissions reduction targets for 2050.
This analysis is simple, unassailable mathematics – the CCC’s aviation emissions report is world class and in fact should be extended to give us a global insight in respect of aviation emissions and the necessary control and reduction strategies through to 2050 to enable a fit within climate change strategies.
The CCC analysis forecast a 35% reduction in carbon intensity from technology, operational and ATM [air-traffic management] gains; those efficiency improvements would allow growth in flights of 55%; and a passenger demand increase of up to 60% from today’s levels would be achievable under a UK annual target for aviation emissions of 37.5 million tonnes of CO2.
Subsequent research by AEF suggests that the UK already has sufficient airport infrastructure to cater for 100% of the demand growth that CCC said was possible under the UK cap.
What’s the relevance of all this to EU ETS? In fact the UK-wide emissions target that was the basis for the CCC’s advice is very similar to the emissions cap imposed by the EU ETS, which limits aviation emissions to 95% of their average level between 2004 and 2006.
It’s true that the EU ETS cap allows airlines to buy permits from other sectors while the proposed UK cap did not, but the CCC’s forecast is that by 2050 we will all be living in such a carbon-constrained world that there will be very few permits around to sell.
EU ETS is “a means to an end” – as the carbon price rises (some hope!) for all sectors it will have a demand impact because we already know that aerospace technology, ATM improvements plus the cul-de-sac of biofuels will not by themselves be enough to actually reduce emissions as aviation CO2 rises.
ETS fills that gap a little; but the aim is not to allow unrestrained carbon growth from aviation – aviation caps will increase, the cost of carbon will rise, other sectors need ETS permits too, you get the picture.
At least that’s the “policy promise” – at 62 years old right now, I am unlikely to be around in 2050 to see if all this has worked!
Looking across to another vital and arguably even more important sector – given that we boil kettles slightly more often than we fly! – if carbon-trading can save the planet by itself, then why invest in renewables at all?
Why not just let the electricity generating-industry purchase permits and away we go, which seems to be the UEA argument.
Obviously, this isn’t what’s happening in power generation – you need to pull all the levers, carbon pricing, efficiency, renewable and so on and, yes, this includes onshore wind farms, Daily Mail readers please note. As with aviation, merely having the ETS is not enough – other policies and controls are required.
And don’t forget that most ETS and emissions reduction targets are set to try and avoid dangerous climate change and keep CO2 below 450 ppm by 2050, which in itself is a goal that needs urgent revision.
Finally, it must be remembered that the entire global aviation industry is busy trying to collapse the EU ETS as we speak.
In Montreal this week and next, the UN body charged with finding a solution to aviation emissions, ICAO, is “busy” wrestling with this issue. Except as probably the very best example of a producer-captured institution ever in geo-political history, it and its member states simply provide a talking shop for fig leaf “business as usual” rhetoric that would be embarrassing if those present could be embarrassed, which simply isn’t possible, I’m afraid.
So what to do?
Some concrete examples: WWF UK’s “One-in-Five” campaign is a really good try at influencing real reductions in business travel and using video conferencing instead; please don’t fly around the UK or to our nearest European neighbours, take the train instead; and perhaps one year in three, why not take a holiday in the UK. A positive note to end on, I hope.
Here are the thoughts of Chris Goodall, author of a number of books examining green orthodoxies/unintended consequences, as well as the host of the Carbon Commentary blog:
In the nicest possible way, I’d want to say that this is a good and powerful argument, but it’s an economist’s argument. (“I can fly because the emissions caused by my flight mean that emissions elsewhere have to be reduced under the ETS scheme.”)
Actually, people don’t behave like economists expect them to do. Choosing an ethical lifestyle or a ‘green’ lifestyle has two effects simply not captured by economists.
First, it demonstrates a willingness to pay some price to achieve what one considers a social good. (Sorry, I’m talking like an economist here). If I say I won’t fly, it demonstrates to others that their might (just might) be an issue with flying. In other words, there may be (in fact, probably is) a demonstration effect. We are all strongly guided by the ethical actions of those around us.
Second, the choice of lifestyle/consumption habits shows elected governments that there is popular support for action. If, say, a substantial number of people said that they were reducing their flying for environmental reasons it allows governments to impose tighter caps on flying emissions, knowing that they have some popular support. (Frankly, I think this is the most important effect of ethical actions).
Whenever I give talks I’m afraid I always bang on about how ethical non-conformers have – throughout history – been the primary force for social improvement. Economists have had no similar impact. (Spoken as someone who briefly taught economics at university…)
Finally, here are the thoughts of Dr John Broderick, a “knowledge transfer fellow” at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research where he specialises in carbon trading and emissions accounting:
I’m a little surprised to read [this discussion paper]. As I’m sure you’re aware, these “new EU rules” have been in force since 2005! I’m not quite sure what the news is here. Three more engaged points:
i) It says nothing about the actual state of the EU ETS which is currently so long/oversupplied in permits that it offers little constraint on emissions, if at all.
ii) It ignores the dynamic effects on business models and infrastructure – in the short term, providing revenue to Ryanair (or conversely Eurostar or Hertz) to support particular routes and marketing campaigns. And, in the long term, in “predict and provide plans” for new “necessary” infrastructure and the normalisation of hypermobility.
iii) EU ETS doesn’t account for other non-CO2 warming effects from aviation. The physics of the climate doesn’t warrant the use of a simple 2.7x “uplift factor or multiplier”, although that is a convenient representation, but aviation makes a greater contribution and this must be recognised.
My first point is the most important and the most intuitive. If the cap is so high that we won’t use up all the carbon permits then each additional flight is additional emissions…
Emissions trading sounds like a compelling idea in principle but the practicalities are much less attractive. Recently it’s been a godsend to aviation; despite the furore with Chinese and US airlines, it’s depoliticized over-consumption (i.e. we are told it no longer matters who causes what harms, provided we all pay the right amount) and in the UK obviated the need for government to face up to a problematic sector.
These may look like “mere” ethical issues at the moment, but as this story highlights, emissions trading carries a series of practical problems. A weak cap means increased emissions but a tight cap, based on a effective climatic targets would likely lead to regressive social consequences, for instance, privileging a Londoners’ stag party over a Polish OAPs’ warmth.
Personally, I feel Perino’s discussion paper serves to remind us, as “green consumers”, that we must constantly re-assess our assumptions, habits and decision-making. We are having that “discussion” now, so, on one level, his paper has performed its function. But, like the other commentators here, I believe his argument ignores the reality of how the EU ETS is performing.
Yes, as WWF coincidentally concludes in a report published today on “Market Based Mechanisms to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions from International Aviation” (pdf), a global cap-and-trade system is probably the best way to meet aviation emission reduction targets over the coming decades.
But we are still a very long way indeed from seeing such a mechanism implemented in full. Therefore, it is still far too premature – and risks complacency – to start abdicating our responsibility when it comes to attempting to reduce the emissions caused by our lifestyle choices.
The press release 30.1.2013 from UEA about the paper by Dr Perino is at
The paper’s Abstract states:
Private provision of public goods can only supplement government
provision if individual actions affect the level of the public good. Capand-
trade schemes reduce the overuse of common resources such
as a stable climate or fish stocks by imposing a binding cap on total
use by regulated agents. Any private contributions provided by
means of e.g. green consumerism or life-style choices within such a
scheme only impacts on who uses the resource but leaves total use
unaffected. Perfect offsetting of marginal contributions is a key
design element of cap-and-trade schemes. As real world cap-andtrade
policies like the EU Emission Trading System have incomplete
coverage, understanding what they cover is crucial for individuals
aiming to contribute. Otherwise contribution efforts backfire.
Why the emissions from flying are NOT entirely taken account of by the ETS
Why part of Dr Perino’s thesis is wrong.
The “flying is carbon neutral” concept rests upon the ETS compensating it out i.e. it does not matter how much carbon you cause to be produced in any carbon traded sector, as someone else will pay to reduce that carbon somewhere else.
This might be fine if carbon trading worked – it does not currently because the price of carbon allowances is too low to pay for reduction measures, there are a lot of “hot air” credits in the system that don’t actually reduce anything, and there are dubious imports into the system from places that are not actually making a reduction.
So – on that basis any activity that increases your carbon output, traded or not, is a bad thing. ie in reality, extra real physical carbon is not being compensated for by theoretical carbon reduction.
This also ignores that the trading only covers EXTRA flights above the baseline – if everyone flew less then this would reduce total emissions, which would fall below the baseline so carbon trading would not apply.
The electricity sector does not only operate through ETS – as a traded sector it also has a target to reduce emissions itself as well as to reduce the overall total through trading (but the Government has ducked setting an absolute decarbonisation target for now). This sector reduction does depend upon actions by citizens such as changing light-bulbs, insulation etc. The same principle applies for air travel.
The author, Dr Perino, is an economist, and is looking at the issue from a purely theoretical, economic perspective. He suggests that instead of buying low energy bulbs or flying less we should write to our politicians asking them to tighten up the EU ETS caps. Which makes sense, but it avoiding the issue.
The argument about flying, or light bulbs, would be true if the EU ETS worked properly and had caps that were determined by the latest science rather than by politics and what markets will bear.
If everyone cut their electricity use and cut down flights THEN the politicians might consider tightening up EU ETS caps as it would send the message that voters could cope with these changes.
If people did not fly, and also “retired” some carbon permits – buying them to remove them from the system – that would indeed help to limit the supply.
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