Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments against anthropogenic climate change. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem. A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as weather station records have been suggesting, but have in fact continued to rise as fast as previous decades, during which we have seen an unprecedented acceleration in global warming. Two university scientists have found that the “pause” or “hiatus” in global temperatures can be largely explained by a failure of climate researchers to record the dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures over the past decade or more.They have found a way of estimating Arctic temperatures from satellite readings. Getting Arctic readings has been difficult, due to seasonal melting so fixed stations are more difficult. When these readings are included, the so-called pause effectively disappeared. NOAA monthly temperature data on land surface, ocean surface and combined land ocean show recent years have been much warmer than previous averages.
Exposed: The myth of the global warming ‘pause’
Failure to record temperature rises in the Arctic explains apparent ‘flatlining’, study finds, undermining sceptics’ argument that climate change has stopped
Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem.
A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as weather station records have been suggesting, but have in fact continued to rise as fast as previous decades, during which we have seen an unprecedented acceleration in global warming.
The findings will undermine the arguments of leading sceptics, such as the former Chancellor Lord Lawson, who have criticised scientists from the Met Office and other climate organisations for not accepting that global warming has stopped since about 1998.
Two university scientists have found that the “pause” or “hiatus” in global temperatures can be largely explained by a failure of climate researchers to record the dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures over the past decade or more.
When Kevin Cowtan of York University and Robert Way of Ottawa University found a way of estimating Arctic temperatures from satellite readings, the so-called pause effectively disappeared and the global warming signal returned as strong as before.
The paucity of surface-temperature records in the remote and inaccessible Arctic has long been recognised as a problem for global estimates, not least by the Met Office itself.
However, the scale of the Arctic warming highlighted by Dr Cowtan and Mr Way has surprised seasoned climate researchers.
“The problem with the polar areas lacking data coverage has been known for a long time, but I think this study has basically solved it,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
He added: “People will argue about the details, as is normal in science, but I think basically this will hold up to scrutiny.”
Read more: Gaps in data on Arctic temperatures account for the ‘pause’ in global warming
Q&A: What is the global warming ‘pause’ and does it mean we’re off the hook?
NOAA monthly temperature data
NOAA put together global data each month on temperature. They do global average land surface temperature, global average ocean temperature, and combined land and ocean temperatures. The NOAA global analysis, each month, can be found at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global
The table Summarised NOAA data 2009 to Oct 2013 shows NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) data on global temperatures over the past few years (just data 2009 to October 2013 shown – put together by AirportWatch).
A section is copied below (comparing each month with the same month in earlier years):
||Combined land and ocean temperatures
||Average ocean surface temperature
|| Average global land surface temperature
||joint 1st with 1998, 2003, 2005 and 2009
||13th warmest April
||7th warmest April
||17th warmest April
|All of 2012
||49th warmest (ie. very cold)
||5th warmest and the 10 warmest Novembers have been in the past 12 years
|| 6th warmest
||tied 4th warmest
||tied with 1997 as 2nd warmest
|| 3rd warmest
||16th warmest (March 2012 is the coolest March since 1999 )
||14th warmest – tied with March 1988 and March 1990
||37th warmest – coolest February since 1994
|All of 2011
||tied 1997 as the 11th warmest – 35th consecutive year, since 1976, that the yearly global temperature was above average.
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The world’s oceans are becoming acidic at an “unprecedented rate” and this may be happening at faster than at any time in the past 300 million years. In their strongest statement yet on this issue, a large number of scientists say ocean acidification could increase by 170% by 2100. They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive in these conditions. The researchers conclude that human emissions of CO2 are clearly to blame – humanity is putting some 24 million tonnes of CO2 into the oceans each day. That is already altering the chemistry of the waters, and will do so even more in future. Since the start of the industrial revolution, the waters have become 26% more acidic – and there are serious concerns about the impact this is having, and will have, on many ocean species. These include oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein.
Atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH
Ocean surface pH projections to 2100
Modelled global sea-surface pH from 1870 to 2100. The blue line reflects estimated pH change resulting from very low CO2 emissions to the atmosphere (IPCC Representative Concentration Pathway, RCP* 2.6). The red line reflects pH from high CO2 emissions (the current emissions trajectory, RCP* 8.5).
Credit: Adapted from Bopp et al., 2013 (reference 9).
Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’
By Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent,
Corals all over the world are threatened by rising rates of acidification in the oceans
The world’s oceans are becoming acidic at an “unprecedented rate” and may be souring more rapidly than at any time in the past 300 million years.
In their strongest statement yet on this issue, scientists say acidification could increase by 170% by 2100.
They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive in these conditions.
The researchers conclude that human emissions of CO2 are clearly to blame.
The study will be presented at global climate talks in Poland next week.
In 2012, over 500 of the world’s leading experts on ocean acidification gathered in California. Led by the International Biosphere-Geosphere Programme, a review of the state of the science has now been published.
This Summary for Policymakers states with “very high confidence” that increasing acidification is caused by human activities which are adding 24 million tonnes of CO2 to oceans every day.
The addition of so much carbon has altered the chemistry of the waters.
Since the start of the industrial revolution, the waters have become 26% more acidic.
“This is the state of the art,” said Prof Jean-Pierre Gattuso, from CNRS, the French national research agency.
“My colleagues have not found in the geological record, rates of change that are faster than the ones we see today.”
What worries the scientists is the potential impact on many ocean species including corals.
Studies carried out at deep sea vents where the waters are naturally acidic thanks to CO2, indicate that around 30% of the ocean’s biodiversity may be lost by the end of this century.
These vents may be a “window on the future” according to the researchers.
“You don’t find a mollusc at the pH level expected for 2100, this is really quite a stunning fact,” said Prof Gattuso.
“It’s an imperfect window, only the ocean’s acidity is increasing at these sites, they don’t reflect the warming we will see this century.
“If you combine the two, it could be even more dramatic than what we see at CO2 vents.”
The effect of acidity is currently being felt most profoundly felt in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. These chilly waters hold more CO2 and increasing levels of the gas are turning them acidic more rapidly than the rest of the world.
The more acidic they become, the more damaging they are to the shells and skeletons of marine organisms.
The researchers say that by 2020, ten percent of the Arctic will be inhospitable to species that build their shells from calcium carbonate. By 2100 the entire Arctic will be a hostile environment.
Pteropods like this are already feeling the corrosive impact of acidic waters in the Antarctic
These effects are already visible says Prof Gattuso.
“In the Southern Ocean, we already see corrosion of pteropods which are like sea snails, in the ocean we see corrosion of the shell.
“They are a key component in the food chain, they are eaten by fish, birds and whales, so if one element is going then there is a cascading impact on the whole food chain.”
The authors warn that the economic impact of the losses from aquaculture could be huge – the global cost of the decline in molluscs could be $130bn by 2100 if emissions of CO2 continue on their current pathway.
Adding alkaline substances such as crushed limestone to the waters has been mooted as a potential way of mitigating the worst impacts of acidification. But Prof Gattuso says it would only have a limited effect.
“Maybe in bays which have a restricted exchange with open oceans it may work, it may give some local relief.
“But the latest research is showing that it is not really practical at a global scale. It is very expensive and very energy intensive.”
Marine protection zones would also give some short term benefit, but the scientists say that in the long term only significant cuts in emissions will slow the progress of acidification.
- The oceans are thought to have absorbed up to half of the extra CO2 put into the atmosphere in the industrial age
- This has lowered their pH by 0.1
- pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity
- It usually ranges from pH 0 (very acidic) to pH 14 (very alkaline); 7 is neutral
- Seawater is mildly alkaline with a “natural” pH of about 8.2
Related BBC Stories
Information from NOAA – the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
What is Ocean Acidification?
A pH unit is a measure of acidity ranging from 0-14. The lower the value, the more acidic the environment. Becoming more acidic is a relative shift in pH to a lower value.
When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. These chemical reactions are termed “ocean acidification” or “OA” for short. Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate minerals.
This means there are abundant building blocks for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become undersaturated with these minerals, which is likely to affect the ability of some organisms to produce and maintain their shells.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units. Since the pH scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, this change represents approximately a 30 percent increase in acidity.
Future predictions indicate that the oceans will continue to absorb carbon dioxide and become even more acidic. Estimates of future carbon dioxide levels, based on business as usual emission scenarios, indicate that by the end of this century the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years.
The Biological Impacts
Ocean acidification is expected to impact ocean species to varying degrees. Photosynthetic algae and seagrasses may benefit from higher CO2 conditions in the ocean, as they require CO2 to live just like plants on land. On the other hand, studies have shown that a more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton.
When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Many jobs and economies in the U.S. and around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.
The pteropod, or “sea butterfly”, is a tiny sea creature about the size of a small pea. Pteropods are eaten by organisms ranging in size from tiny krill to whales and are a major food source for North Pacific juvenile salmon.
The photos below show what happens to a pteropod’s shell when placed in sea water with pH and carbonate levels projected for the year 2100. The shell slowly dissolves after 45 days. Photo credit: David Liittschwager/National Geographic Stock. Used with permission. All rights reserved. National Geographic Images.
In recent years, there have been near total failures of developing oysters in both aquaculture facilities and natural ecosystems on the West Coast. These larval oyster failures appear to be correlated with naturally occurring upwelling events that bring low pH waters undersaturated in aragonite as well as other water quality changes to nearshore environments. Lower pH values occur naturally on the West Coast during upwelling events, but a recent observations indicate that anthropogenic CO2 is contributing to seasonal undersaturation. Low pH may be a factor in the current oyster reproductive failure; however, more research is needed to disentangle potential acidification effects from other risk factors, such as episodic freshwater inflow, pathogen increases, or low dissolved oxygen.
It is premature to conclude that acidification is responsible for the recent oyster failures, but acidification is a potential factor in the current crisis to this $100 million a year industry, prompting new collaborations and accelerated research on ocean acidification and potential biological impacts.
Many marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons are negatively impacted by increasing CO2levels and decreasing pH in seawater. For example, increasing ocean acidification has been shown to significantly reduce the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons. In a recent paper, coral biologists reported that ocean acidification could compromise the successful fertilization, larval settlement and survivorship of Elkhorn coral, an endangered species. These research results suggest that ocean acidification could severely impact the ability of coral reefs to recover from disturbance. Other research indicates that, by the end of this century, coral reefs may erode faster than they can be rebuilt.
This could compromise the long-term viability of these ecosystems and perhaps impact the estimated one million species that depend on coral reef habitat. For more information on the impact of ocean acidification on coral, see NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch website.
Ocean Acidification: An Emerging Global Problem
Ocean acidification is an emerging global problem. Over the last decade, there has been much focus in the ocean science community on studying the potential impacts of ocean acidification. Since sustained efforts to monitor ocean acidification worldwide are only beginning, it is currently impossible to predict exactly how ocean acidification impacts will cascade throughout the marine food chain and affect the overall structure of marine ecosystems. With the pace of ocean acidification accelerating, scientists, resource managers, and policymakers recognize the urgent need to strengthen the science as a basis for sound decision making and action.
Read more »
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the UK’s 4th carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. It says there is therefore no legal or economic basis for the government to change the budget or reduce its ambition. Only if there is significant change in circumstances can budgets be altered. Considering the recent IPCC report, the CCC agrees the emissions cuts to meet the 4th carbon budget are a minimum UK contribution to required global action. It reiterates that the UK is not acting alone in shouldering its responsibilities. In fact our targets are relatively unchallenging. It and says the UK has an important role in securing an ambitious international agreement. The latest IPCC report reiterates how vital continued action is and that a global temperature rise of 4 degrees C is likely if emissions continue to increase. The CCC will provide its final advice on the 4th carbon budget in December 2013.
Committee on Climate Change assessment of science and international circumstances reinforces existing fourth carbon budget
7 November 2013 (Committee on Climate Change press release)
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today advised that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. Therefore, in these regards, there is no legal or economic basis to change the budget at this time.
The CCC’s advice follows an agreement by the Government when setting the budget that this should be reviewed in 2014. Only if there has been significant change in the circumstances on which the budget was set, demonstrated by evidence and analysis, can the budget be changed.
In making its recommendations, the CCC considered the implications of the recent IPCC review for UK approaches to reducing emissions. It concludes that temperature increase of 4 degrees is likely if global emissions continue to rise; that significant cuts in global emissions are necessary to limit this risk; that emissions cuts to meet the fourth carbon budget are a minimum UK contribution to required global action.
The report also considers international action and concludes that the UK is not acting alone: many other countries around the world have made ambitious commitments and are putting in place approaches to reduce emissions. Global emissions cuts to achieve climate objectives remain feasible if challenging. The UK has an important role in securing an ambitious international agreement
At the European level, the fourth carbon budget is at the low end of the range of ambition currently being discussed for EU emissions reductions through the 2020s; if the UK Government is successful in achieving its objectives for EU ambition, a tightening of the budget would be needed.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC said:
“The fourth carbon budget remains sensible in light of the latest evidence on climate science and international action. In these respects there is no legal or economic case to reduce ambition in the budget. The UK’s position in the EU negotiations is fully congruent with the budget although a success at the level hoped for by the UK Government might well require its tightening.
The latest IPCC report reiterates how vital continued action is to address climate change and the international response shows that the UK is in a global race to attract low-carbon investment and jobs. It will therefore be important for Government to make a timely announcement on the fourth carbon budget. A protracted process would exacerbate current uncertainties about its commitment to supporting investment in low-carbon technologies. It is entirely right that the Government should continue to push for agreement on ambitious EU and international emissions reductions and focus on developing policies to support low-carbon investment while ensuring affordability and competitiveness”.
The review of climate science confirmed that:
- There is increased confidence that long-term warming is as a result of human activity
- Recent assessments of the likely temperature change in response to raised greenhouse gas concentrations (“climate sensitivity”) confirm assessments in previous years.
- Temperature change of 4 degrees is likely if emissions continue to increase
- Global emissions need to peak around 2020 with rapid cuts to reduce emissions by half in 2050. Delaying peaking of global emissions to 2030 will raise the costs and risks of achieving the climate objective underpinning the Climate Change Act and probably make it unattainable.
On progress towards reducing global emissions the report finds that:
- Progress towards a global deal has been slow but broadly as expected when the fourth carbon budget was set. The UN has formally adopted an objective to limit warming to 2°C and is working towards an agreement aimed at peaking and reducing emissions consistent with this goal. The aim is to resolve that process in Paris at the end of 2015.
- The UK is not acting alone. There are many countries which have made ambitious commitments to reduce emissions, and are delivering against these commitments. There is now widespread coverage by low-carbon policies of the major emissions sources around the world. This provides a good basis for agreeing and implementing an ambitious global deal.
- The climate objective and the global emissions reduction required to achieve it remain feasible, but very challenging. These remain an appropriate basis for policy, both because of the very significant risks associated with dangerous climate change and the costs of delayed-action pathways. The fourth carbon budget is important to the global process because of the key role of the UK in securing an effective global agreement.
On EU circumstances the report finds that:
- The fourth budget is consistent with the cost-effective emissions reduction pathways identified by the European Commission.
- It is at the low end of the range of ambition for EU emissions cuts through the 2020s currently being discussed (i.e. ambition in the budget is relatively low, emissions are relatively high).
- If the more ambitious EU targets that the UK has proposed are agreed, then the budget would need to be tightened.
- There is no justification legal or economic to loosen the budget now and then tighten it later once agreement has been reached. Such an approach would be bad for business confidence and undermine the UK’s credibility in current negotiations over EU ambition.
The CCC will provide its final advice on the fourth carbon budget in December 2013. This will include assessments of technology costs and feasible deployment rates, possible impacts of shale gas, energy affordability, competitiveness and security of supply.
UK must not waver on carbon budget, warns Committee on Climate Change
Government advisory body categorically rejects argument that UK’s climate action is ahead of other countries and disadvantaging businesses
By Will Nichols (Business Green)
7 Nov 2013
Any weakening of the UK’s carbon targets in the mid-2020s will see the country slip further behind China, the US, and many other major economies that are currently taking ambitious action to combat greenhouse gas emissions, the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will warn today.
In the first of two much anticipated reports on the UK’s fourth carbon budget, which covers the period from 2023 to 2027, the CCC will say there is no basis for altering the current target when it is reviewed next year.
The group will argue that it has assessed both the latest climate science and issues relating to international competitiveness and has concluded that the current goal of halving emissions against a 1990 base line by 2027 should not be watered down.
Chancellor George Osborne has previously claimed that UK businesses would be economically disadvantaged if the country reduced emissions faster than its competitors. He told the 2011 Conservative party conference: “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business. So let’s, at the very least, resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower, but also no faster, than our fellow countries in Europe.”
The argument helped him to secure a formal review of the fourth carbon budget that could allow him to relax the target if it can be shown to be out of step with other nations.
But the CCC will today unequivocally state that not only are other major emitters keeping pace with the UK’s decarbonisation efforts, many of them are actually taking on much more ambitious commitments.
Opponents of low carbon action often cite China’s breakneck expansion in coal power stations as evidence any UK efforts will make no difference to global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the CCC report outlines how China is planning a renewable energy programme 10 times larger than the UK’s entire power system, as well as accelerating nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) development in line with commitments to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by up to 45 per cent between 2005 to 2020. It may currently be responsible for 29 per cent of global CO2 emissions, but the CCC echoes a number of recent reports in predicting China’s emissions could peak in the early 2020s.
The report also highlights how the US, the world’s second largest emitter with 16 per cent of global CO2 emissions, is on track to deliver its Copenhagen Accord commitment to reduce 2020 emissions by 17 per cent against 2005 levels, while Germany, Japan, the EU, and Mexico have all pledged long-term action on emissions.
In addition, it notes that a fifth of the world’s non-transport emissions are now covered by carbon pricing initiatives and further schemes are either being introduced or have been proposed in China, South Korea, Brazil, Chile, Ukraine, Mexico, and parts of the US and Canada.
David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said it is simply a “myth” that the UK is out in front of other countries in terms of emissions reductions and green policies. “It’s right we shouldn’t be leading the world if nobody’s following. But the evidence shows that isn’t the case,” he toldBusinessGreen. “Many major economies around the world have made ambitious commitments [to cut carbon] and are investing in low carbon technologies.”
A further assessment of the fourth carbon budget target with regards to technology costs and feasible deployment rates, the possible impacts of new shale gas developments, energy affordability, competitiveness and security of supply will follow in December. The government will then take a decision next year on whether to leave the budget as it is or try and change it, which would require a strong basis in evidence, subsequent approval from both the Commons and the Lords, and could well be subject to judicial review.
Kennedy insisted the current level of international climate action and the warnings in September’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which said global emissions must peak in the 2020s and be followed by rapid cuts to ensure average global temperature rise stays below 2C, meant the emissions cuts promised in the fourth carbon budget were a minimum contribution to the requisite global action.
“If we were to change the budget we would risk falling behind other countries in Europe and the rest of the world,” he said. “If emissions continue to rise we’re facing 4C of warming by the end of the century. That’s the difference between now and the last ice age. We have to act now to address the risk and [the fourth carbon budget] is our contribution.”
Interestingly, the CCC notes the government is currently negotiating to raise the EU emissions target for 2020 from a 20 per cent reduction relative to 1990 levels to a 30 per cent cut or higher. While the UK’s fourth carbon budget is in line with the current EU goal, this Treasury-sanctioned push for a higher target would actually require a tightening of the budget, running counter to George Osborne’s agenda.
Green groups welcomed the report’s findings and called on the government to take its commitments under the Climate Change Act seriously.
“Recent reports from the IPCC and major institutions like the World Bank have highlighted the risk we face from dangerous climate change. In the face of this significant risk to both our environment and the world economy, to be considering cutting back on action to tackle climate change looks like madness,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. “Other countries are playing their part, with some going further and faster than the UK and reaping the benefits of the global race. So there’s also an urgent need for the UK to maintain the leadership we’ve shown in the past.”
The report comes ahead of a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in which he is expected to promise that the government will “stay the course” with its environmental commitments and “do everything we can to strengthen the role of the low carbon sector in the new economy.”
Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s executive director, said Clegg and other ministers must resist any attempts by George Osborne and the Treasury to undermine the UK’s climate targets.
“The advice is crystal clear. There are no grounds for weakening the fourth carbon budget – in fact it should be made stronger,” he said. “With crucial international talks on climate change kicking off in Poland next week, Ministers could give them a welcome boost by making it clear that the UK is determined to meet its targets for cutting carbon pollution.”
However, Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at manufacturers association EEF, indicated that some companies remain concerned the UK’s carbon targets could result in them facing higher energy costs than their competitors.
“The Committee on Climate Change is right to say that the scientific evidence hasn’t changed but that’s far from the whole story,” he said in a statement. “Climate change policies are pushing UK electricity prices ahead of the rest of Europe and they are set to rise further. It’s vital that government undertakes a full review of all the evidence before deciding on the 4th Carbon Budget and ensures that British industry isn’t saddled with further unilateral cost increases.”
Fourth Carbon Budget Review – part 1 – Assessment of climate risk and the international response
From the website of the Committee on Climate Change
Our latest report advises that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. Therefore, in these regards, there is no legal or economic basis to change the budget at this time.
Supporting data and research
Friends of the Earth commented:
4th carbon budget should be made stronger
The Committee on Climate Change’s advice to the Government today (Thursday 7 November 2013) that there is “no legal or economic basis” for changing the fourth carbon budget (which sets a UK emissions quota for the period 2023-2027), has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth.
The advice from the Committee on Climate Change coincides – later today (Thursday) – with a speech on the environment by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Commenting on the Committee on Climate Change’s advice, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“The advice is crystal clear. There are no grounds for weakening the fourth carbon budget – in fact it should be made stronger.
“Nick Clegg must use his green speech today to state clearly the Liberal Democrats’ resolve to support strong climate targets, and reject any attempts by George Osborne to undermine them.
“With crucial international talks on climate change kicking off in Poland next week, Ministers could give them a welcome boost by making it clear that the UK is determined to meet its targets for cutting carbon pollution.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Committee on Climate Change’s report makes it clear that since the fourth carbon budget was set:
• The climate science is stronger and clearer than ever. If anything, the fourth carbon budget should be tighter to reflect this.
• The UN climate negotiations are progressing very slowly, but this was known at the time the fourth carbon budget was set.
• The UK is not acting alone – countries like the USA and China are meeting their targets, which are in line with the trajectory assumed in the fourth carbon budget. Other countries like Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the EU27 have set 2050 targets or legally binding plans. Even nations with well documented reverses on climate change, such as Australia and Canada, are making strong progress in other areas, such as renewables and car fuel efficiency.
2. The fourth carbon budget was set in part based on assumptions on future EU targets. If anything, EU progress since then implies a tighter target than set in the 4CB, and the UK’s own negotiating position would mean a much tighter budget. Even a complete failure in EU negotiations would only imply a marginal loosening of the 4CB, and this is very unlikely.
3. The Committee on Climate Change’s fourth carbon budget is in Friends of the Earth’s view already far too loose – it is based on a 50:50 chance of exceeding a two degree rise in global temperature, a very high level of risk for something you want to avoid, and it appropriates an unreasonably large share of the global carbon budget to the UK.
4. UNEP’s emissions gap report makes it clear that fast global action to tackle climate change is the least-cost path, avoiding expensive lock-in to high-carbon infrastructure, and suggests an earlier peak in global emissions than suggested by the CCC.
5. Nick Clegg is due to make a speech at the Green Alliance’s First Leadership Lecture on Thursday 7 November 2013. The Deputy Prime minister is expected to make significant statements on his party’s approach to the natural environment, energy bills and the low carbon economy.
Friends of the Earth:
4th Carbon Budget
Two and a half years ago, the Coalition Government signed into law climate targets to slash Britain’s carbon emissions in half by 2025. In policy-speak, this is known as the UK’s fourth carbon budget. It was a solid achievement – but it was only won with a bruising fight pitting the Energy Department and the Foreign Office against George Osborne’s Treasury.
The Chancellor was defeated, but insisted as compensation on an early review of the fourth carbon budget, to take place in early 2014. At the time, Mr Osborne justified the review on grounds that he didn’t want the UK doing more to tackle climate change than our European partners, for fear of damaging our economic competitiveness.
Since then, his Treasury has been doing everything it can to undermine tough action on climate change – from publishing plans for a dash for gas that would breach the fourth carbon budget, to introducing generous tax breaks for shale gas.
Today, the Committee on Climate Change has published the first of two reports setting out its recommendations on the fourth carbon budget – reviewing EU progress on climate change, and any other international developments that might warrant a change to the carbon budget. Their conclusion: “There is no economic or legal basis to change the budget.” As unequivocal as it gets.
In fact, the report contains four stand-out points that would suggest the targets should actually be strengthened:
- The current EU emissions trajectory has barely changed since the fourth carbon budget was set. If anything, it implies a slight tightening of the budget.
- The UK’s own negotiating position for an EU 2030 target – which the Treasury approved – would imply a substantial tightening of the fourth carbon budget.
- Other countries are making substantial progress – it’s just plain wrong to say that the UK is way out in front. The USA and China are meeting their targets: they’re at the high-end of progress assumed when the fourth carbon budget was set. Many other countries, such as Mexico, Japan and South Korea have either 2050 targets or other legally binding carbon targets. Many EU countries are far ahead of the UK on issues such as renewables and energy efficiency.
- The climate science has become even clearer. The non-inclusion of chemical feedbacks in the original analysis implies that the budget should in fact be tighter.
In addition, Friends of the Earth argues that there are two other major grounds why the original fourth carbon budget was too lax:
- It was based on a greater than 50 per cent chance of exceeding two degrees warming. These are very bad odds for something governments the world over have said we must avoid.
- It assumes an unfairly large share of the world’s global carbon budget for developed countries.
The CCC also assumes that global emissions will peak in 2020. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported this week that peaking emissions sooner would be the least-cost approach to tackling climate change – preventing further expensive lock-in to what will become stranded high-carbon infrastructure.
Overall, there is no case for back-tracking on the fourth carbon budget. Business agrees it should be kept – the CBI stated today that the budget should be kept as it is.
Indeed, carrying out the Chancellor’s review at all reduces British businesses’ confidence that there will be a stable policy environment for low-carbon investment, and pushes up costs. Globally, it sends a very poor signal to struggling international climate negotiations – that the UK, as a self-styled leader on climate change, is about to back-track.
Mr Osborne made his arguments against the fourth carbon budget on cost. The Committee on Climate Change will be examining these cost arguments in more detail when they publish their second report on December 11th.
But in fact, it is the delay and uncertainty which George Osborne is causing which will damage the economy, not action on climate change. He should announce that he will leave the fourth carbon budget well alone, and stop blocking the policies needed to deliver it.
This would be a welcome boost to the international climate negotiations starting in Warsaw on Monday, restore flagging trust in the UK’s international standing on climate change, and begin to repair confidence in Britain’s hugely promising green economy.
by Simon Bullock, Senior Campaigner, Climate and Energy Team
‘No case’ to water down CO2 targets, chancellor told
By Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment analyst
The UK is allowed to relax its targets for reducing emissions on CCC advice
The government will break the law if it waters down its plans to reduce greenhouse gases, its advisers say.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says there is no legal, environmental or economic case for lowering the fourth UK “carbon budget”, set in 2011.
It says the budget (running from 2023-2027) should be tightened if the EU agrees strict targets on emissions.
This is likely to displease Chancellor George Osborne, who believes the targets would threaten competitiveness.
Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is allowed to relax its targets for reducing emissions if the CCC advises that circumstances have materially changed since the budget was set.
The government asked the committee to review the budget to ensure it was still appropriate.
Last month the committee said there had been no change in the science, or in international policy to cut CO2. Its latest paper says there is no substantial domestic change either.
It repeats its calculation that low carbon policies will put £100 on the average household bill by 2020.
It assesses that fuel poverty will not be materially affected by the policies, and that risks to industrial competitiveness can be mitigated by government exemptions for energy-intensive firms.
The CCC believes low-carbon investments will actually save more than £100bn with gas at its current price, with much higher savings in a world with a high gas price.
The committee’s calculations have been challenged by some who believe they have underestimated the costs of providing new power lines and back-up for wind power.
The report bases its projections on the questionable assumption that the price of emitting carbon will rise as nations move to tackle climate change.
It says this is reasonable as all major nations have stated their determination to reduce emissions, but critics fear that the UK economy could be damaged if Britain presses ahead with progressive policies and the rest of the world fails to follow suit.
The CCC, an expert committee mainly comprising academics, says the fourth carbon budget will bring other benefits including less reliance on fuel imports, improved air quality and reduced noise pollution.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “This report shows the clear economic benefits of acting to cut emissions through the 2020s. This provides insurance against the increased costs and risks of climate-related damage and rising energy bills that would result from an alternative approach to reduce and delay action.
“While it is essential to understand affordability and competitiveness impacts associated with the budget, the evidence suggests that these are relatively small and manageable.”
The CCC says the Chancellor George Osborne has no legal basis for challenging the budget now, and green groups have indicated that they would take a judicial review if he attempted to do so.
There will be a particularly close focus on the effect of the advice on the Chancellor’s gas strategy unveiled last year.
The CCC says the core scenarios in the strategy are in line with the fourth budget, moving toward average emissions of no more than 50-100g per kilowatt/hour in 2030. But one scenario aims for 200g – in excess of the budget.
The CCC says if the government accepts its advice, that would narrow the range of scenarios and increase confidence for investors who are being asked to find more than £100bn to renew the UK’s electricity system.
The report is predictably being backed by green groups but it has also found support from a coalition of charities campaigning on air quality, including the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK and Clean Air in London.
A spokesman for the charities said: “We strongly support the CCC recommendations to halve UK emissions by 2027 – measures to cut carbon will also have significant benefits for air quality. Many of the root causes are the same, so efforts to tackle both issues go hand in hand.”
There are severe worries about the future cost of energy from large manufacturers, but the CCC has so far managed to keep the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on board.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, told BBC News: “It seems sensible to maintain the fourth carbon budget at this point in time.
“It would of course be prudent for the government to look again at the UK’s emissions reduction pathway once EU discussions have concluded, to make sure we remain aligned.”
This is a key issue. Benny Peiser from the climate sceptic group GWPF told BBC News: “Given the EU’s manifest reluctance to follow Britain’s lead, there is no chance that the government will adopt new unilateral targets until and unless there is a legally binding agreement at the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris.”
Lit Ping Low, climate economist for the consultancy PwC, said: “The committee’s endorsement of no change to the budget is important because it sets the tone for the direction of the policies investors and businesses need.
“But it’s important to remember it’s an endorsement of a target that is the minimum we should achieve, when what the IPCC report would tell us is that we need more ambition from all countries.”
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Writing in the Hindustan Times, in India, Mary Robinson – who is a former president of Ireland and president of the “Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice” – talks of the impacts of climate change on the poor in the developing world. Shailesh Nayak, secretary, Indian ministry of earth sciences, said climate change may be causing extreme weather. It is the poor who are picking up the tab for the carbon profligacy of developed nations. Taking into account all the climate impacts of aviation, estimates put aviation’s overall contribution to global warming at 4.9%. ICAO anticipates CO2 emissions from international aviation (about 60% of total aviation emissions) will grow from about 400 million tonnes in 2010 to 650 million tonnes by 2020. So aviation bears a share of responsibility for the accelerated drought-flood cycle that climate change will bring to countries like India. “The time for everyone to take their share of the responsibility and to act is now. And this must include the aviation industry.”
Who bears the cost of airline emissions?
by Mary Robinson
November 6, 2013 ( Hindustan Times)
The tenement blocks collapsed like sandcastles. Landmarks were swallowed up like Lego bricks. But most devastating of all was the massive loss of life — families torn apart by a disaster of frightening proportions. More than 5,700 people are missing and thought to have been killed as a result of the monsoon floods, which tore through northern India earlier this summer. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany has linked global warming to the extreme rainfall, bringing home the shocking consequences climate change can have on those least responsible for it.
Shailesh Nayak, secretary, Indian ministry of earth sciences, has made the same link, saying: “Extreme weather is becoming more common, the June 17 rains might be read in the context of climate change.”
Carbon emissions come from multiple sources, but the fastest growing of them — international aviation — is one that few of northern India’s dead will ever have enjoyed.
Carbon dioxide emissions correspond surprisingly closely to social class. So in an inversion of the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it is the poor who are picking up the tab for the carbon profligacy of developed nations. This is the injustice of climate change.
Aviation is today responsible for some 2% of the planet’s man-made CO2 emissions. But when the effects of nitrogen oxide emissions, water vapour, soot and sulphates, contrails and enhanced cirrus cloud formations are also factored in, the best scientific estimates put aviation’s overall contribution to global warming at 4.9%.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has forecast that CO2 emissions from international aviation (about 60% of total aviation emissions) will grow from approximately 400 million tonnes in 2010 to 650 million tonnes by 2020. Unchecked, there may be a 274% increase in the fuel used by airlines by 2050, measured against 2006 levels.
Put plainly, the aviation industry bears a share of responsibility for the accelerated drought-flood cycle that climate change will bring to countries such as India.
We know some of the effects that global warming brings in its wake — more tropical storms, melting glaciers, freshwater shortages, increase in disease, and rising sea levels that will eventually drown low-lying coastal cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata.
We still have a sliver of time in which we can act to stop our mindless march to planetary disaster. The question of whether to implement a Market Based Measure (MBM), which could put a price on the carbon emissions of airlines, is now centre stage in ICAO’s consideration of how to address the impacts of aviation’s emissions.
The World Bank estimates that, with a carbon charge of $25 per tonne of CO2, $40 billion a year could be raised from the aviation and shipping sectors by 2020.
Research suggests that an aviation MBM could provide up to $26 billion in climate finance in 2030. This would be a significant amount, given that a total of $97 billion is currently flowing into low carbon and climate resilient development activities, according to the Climate Policy Initiative.
It could mean more flood barriers, better-built houses, and infrastructural support after climate disasters, to make the people most vulnerable to weather shocks less at the mercy of the climate we are creating for them.
If nothing is done, disasters like this year’s monsoon floods will only get worse, and more frequent. Doing nothing is not an option. The time for everyone to take their share of the responsibility and to act is now. And this must include the aviation industry.
Mary Robinson is a former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice
The views expressed by the author are personal
Mary Robinson served as the 7th, and 1st female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. After leaving the UN in 2002, Robinson formed Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which came to a planned end at the end of 2010. Its core activities were 1) fostering equitable trade and decent work, 2) promoting the right to health and more humane migration policies, and 3) working to strengthen women’s leadership and encourage corporate responsibility. The organisation also supported capacity building and good governance in developing countries. Robinson returned to live in Ireland at the end of 2010, and has set up The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which aims to be ‘a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world.’
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The Emissions Gap Report 2013 has been produced by UNEP, in the run-up to the climate conference in Warsaw. It was produced by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries. It says that if the global community does not immediately embark on wide-ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse gas emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century will swiftly diminish and open the door to a host of challenges. Not cutting emissions enough by 2020 will make later cuts more expensive and difficult – as there will be locked-in carbon-intensive infrastructure – as well as increasing the risk of not meeting the 2°C target. Even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be 8 to 12 GtCO2e above the “safe” level. Emissions should be a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020, 40 GtCO2e by 2025, 35 GtCO2e by 2030 and 22 GtCO2e by 2050. The report says “Some sectors, notably international transport, are not covered by national pledges. The mitigation potential in these sectors is 0.3 GtCO2e”
2013 Gap Report Strengthens Case for Wide-Ranging Global Action to Close Emissions Gap
Raising Ambition is Key to Keeping Global Temperature Rise below 2°C
Berlin/Nairobi, 5 November 2013 (UNEP press release)
Should the global community not immediately embark on wide-ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse gas emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century will swiftly diminish and open the door to a host of challenges.
The Emissions Gap Report 2013—involving 44 scientific groups in 17 countries and coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)—is released as leaders prepare to meet for the latest Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Warsaw.
It finds that although pathways exist that could reach the 2°C target with higher emissions, not narrowing the gap will exacerbate mitigation challenges after 2020.
This will mean much higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium term; greater lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; greater dependence on often unproven technologies in the medium term; greater costs of mitigation in the medium and long term; and greater risks of failing to meet the 2° C target.
Even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be 8 to 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level that would provide a likely chance of remaining on the least-cost pathway.
If the gap is not closed or significantly narrowed by 2020, the door to many options to limit temperature increase to a lower target of 1.5° C will be closed, further increasing the need to rely on faster energy-efficiency improvements and biomass with carbon capture and storage.
In order to be on track to stay within the 2° C target and head off the negative impacts outlined above, the report says that emissions should be a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020 to set the stage for further cuts needed—to 40 GtCO2e by 2025, 35 GtCO2e by 2030 and 22 GtCO2e by 2050. As this target was based on scenarios of action beginning in 2010, the report finds that it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet this goal.
“As the report highlights, delayed actions means a higher rate of climate change in the near term and likely more near-term climate impacts, as well as the continued use of carbon-intensive and energy-intensive infrastructure. This ‘lock-in’ would slow down the introduction of climate-friendly technologies and narrow the developmental choices that would place the global community on the path to a sustainable, green future,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “
“However, the stepping stone of the 2020 target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and by further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy,” he added. “Even agriculture can contribute, as
direct emissions from this sector are currently responsible for 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more if its indirect emissions are taken into account.”
Total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, the last year for which data are available, already stood at 50.1 GtCO2e, highlighting the scale of the task ahead. Should the world continue under a business-as-usual scenario, which does not include pledges, 2020 emissions are predicted to reach 59 GtCO2e, which is 1 GtCO2e higher than estimated in last year’s gap report.
Scientists agree that the risks of irreversible damage to the environment would increase significantly should the global average temperature rise above 2°C in relation to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that human activity is ‘extremely likely’ (95 to 100 per cent probability) to be the cause of this warming.
“As we head towards Warsaw for the latest round of climate negotiations, there is a real need for increased ambition by all countries: ambition which can take countries further and faster towards bridging the emissions gap and a sustainable future for all,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
However, increased national ambition will not be enough to meet the scientific realities of climate change, which is one reason why a universal new agreement—able to catalyze international cooperation—is urgently needed by 2015.”
Without heightened focus and resolve now, more rapid and expensive emission reductions will be required later, resulting in higher mitigation costs and greater economic challenges during the transition toward a comprehensive climate-policy regime.
A separate report from UNEP finds that adaptation costs for Africa could reach $350 billion per year by 2070 should the two-degree target be significantly exceeded, while the cost would be $150 billion lower per year if the target were to be met.
Meeting the 2020 goal is possible
Even though the window of opportunity is narrowing, it is still possible to attain the 2020 goal of 44 GtC02e/year through firm and rapid action. Studies reveal that, at costs of up to US$100 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, emissions could be reduced by 14 to 20 GtCO2e compared to business-as-usual levels.
For example, simply tightening up the rules governing pledges in the climate negotiations could narrow the gap by about 1-2 GtCO2e, while if countries implement the maximum reductions already pledged without conditions could narrow it by 2-3 GtCO2e. Expanding the scope of pledges could narrow the gap by further 2 GtCO2e. These include covering all emissions in national pledges, having all countries pledge emission reductions, and reducing emissions from international transport.
[The main report says, on international transport: Additional reductions from sectors not covered by national pledges (0.3 GtCO2e): Some sectors, notably international transport, are not covered by national pledges. The mitigation potential in these sectors is 0.3 GtCO2e (UNEP, 2011a).
Adding up the reduction from the tightening of rules, implementing ambitious pledges, and expanding the scope of the current pledges could bring the global community about halfway to closing the gap. The report says that the remaining gap could be bridged by further international and national action, including through “international cooperative initiatives”.
International cooperation could bring huge gains
There are an increasing number of international cooperative initiatives, through which countries and other bodies cooperate to promote technologies or policies that have climate benefits, even though climate change mitigation may not be the primary goal of the initiative.
The report identified several areas ripe for such initiatives, with many partnerships already in place that can be expanded and replicated to bring the needed gains:
Energy efficiency, which could cut the gap by up to 2 GtCO2e by 2020. For example, electricity for lighting accounts for approximately 15 per cent of global power consumption and five per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. More than 50 countries have joined the en.lighten Global Efficient Lighting Partnership Programme and agreed to phase out inefficient incandescent lamps by the end of 2016;
Renewable energy initiatives could cut 1 to 3 GtCO2e from emissions by 2020. A total of $244 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2012 and 115 GW of new renewables were installed worldwide—a record year according to REN21’s Renewables 2013 Global Status Report. Over the last eight years, the number of countries with clean energy targets has tripled from 48 to 140, indicating that the shift to renewables is gaining pace;
Fossil fuel subsidy reform, which could bring benefits of 0.4 to 2 GtCO2e by 2020;
However, in order for international cooperative initiatives to be effective, the report finds that they must have:
A clearly defined vision and mandate;
The right mix of participants appropriate for that mandate, going beyond traditional climate negotiators;
Stronger participation from developing country actors;
Sufficient funding and an institutional structure that supports implementation and follow-up, but maintains flexibility;
Incentives for participants;
Transparency and accountability mechanisms.
Agriculture offers opportunities
This year’s report pays particular attention to the agriculture sector as, although few countries have specified action in this area as part of implementing their pledges, estimates of emission-reduction potentials for the sector range from 1.1 GtCO2e to 4.3 GtCO2e.
The report outlines a range of measures that not only contribute to climate-change mitigation, but enhance the sector’s environmental sustainability and could provide other benefits such as higher yields, lower fertilizer costs or extra profits from wood supply.
As examples, three key practices that should be scaled-up more widely are highlighted:
No-tillage practices. No-tillage refers to the elimination of ploughing by direct seeding under the mulch layer of the previous season’s crop. This reduces emissions from soil disturbance and use of farm machinery.
Improved nutrient and water management in rice production. This includes innovative cropping practices that reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Agroforestry. This consists of different management practices that deliberately include woody perennials on farms and the landscape, and which increase the uptake and storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in biomass and soils.
Notes to Editors
The report, which involved 70 scientists from 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, was funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
The full report can be downloaded here: http://www.unep.org/emissionsgapreport2013/
The executive summary is at http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgapreport2013/portals/50188/Executive_summary_en.pdf
UNEP’s Climate Change portal: http://www.unep.org/climatechange/
UNEP press release at http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgapreport2013/portals/50188/emissionsgapreport_pressrelease.pdf
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At the ICAO Assembly last month, it was agreed it would work towards a global market based measure (MBM) for aviation emissions, by 2020 - itself a weak position taking too long to start to deal with the issue. GreenAir online reports that now China says the adoption of a carbon-neutral growth goal from 2020 without differentiated responsibilities would impede development of its international aviation activities. China and other emerging countries, with fast expanding aviation, say that though they may want goals to reduce international aviation emissions, it should be the responsibility of the developed countries to make the cuts. ie. this is further wrangling within the ICAO, which is why the organisation has failed over decades to get any agreement on practical action on aviation emissions. To add to the obstacles in getting progress on a MBM, the USA has objected to the de minimis provisions [ie. that the smallest countries, which contribute each below 1% of global aviation CO2 are excluded] in the Assembly climate resolution and the inclusion of the differentiated responsibilities principle. The deep divisions remain on this issue, between the developed and developing world.
Count us out of carbon-neutral growth measures, China and other major emerging countries tell ICAO
Mon 4 Nov 2013 (GreenAir online)
In its formal reservation letter to the ICAO Secretary General sent after the conclusion of the recent ICAO Assembly, China says the adoption of a carbon-neutral growth goal from 2020 without differentiated responsibilities will impede development of its international aviation activities.
Although it supports the establishment of goals for reducing international aviation emissions, China says it is the responsibility of developed countries to take the lead in reduction measures, which includes offsetting the growth of emissions by developing countries. Another emerging power, Brazil, has similarly written to the Secretary General to say there should be a reassessment of common global aspirational goals agreed by ICAO.
By contrast, the United States has written to object to the de minimis provisions [ie. that the smallest countries, which contribute each below 1% of global aviation CO2 are excluded] in the Assembly climate resolution and the inclusion of the differentiated responsibilities principle.
The 38th ICAO Assembly earlier last month was heralded as a great success since Member States took a step forward by agreeing to develop a global market-based measure (MBM) to limit the growth of international aviation emissions. States are expected to make a decision at the next Assembly in 2016 on whether to adopt a global MBM with a start date of 2020.
However, proceedings during the Assembly did not hide the deep divisions that exist between the developed and developing world on which countries should take part, not only in interim national and regional schemes such as the EU ETS, but also in the global scheme. Negotiations in the Executive Committee on the issue came close to collapsing on the penultimate day.
It is apparent from the first batch – more are expected – of reservation letters sent by Member States, just posted on the ICAO Assembly website, that given present positions, the scheme could be ‘global’ in name only.
In its letter dated October 8, the Chinese delegation to ICAO makes clear that although all parties must be accommodated, the developing countries have key concerns that must be addressed. It points out that China and 11 other States presented papers to the Assembly proposing amendments to paragraphs on MBMs, the global MBM scheme, the goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and guiding MBM principles.
As such, it has placed a reservation objecting to Paragraph 7 of the resolution, which states “that without any attribution of specific obligations to individual States, ICAO and its member States with relevant organizations will work together 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 …”.
Although the paragraph goes on to recognise the goal should take account of the special circumstances and respective capabilities of States, in particular developing countries, as well as the maturity of aviation markets, China believes this does not go far enough. “It must be specified that the developed countries should take the lead in taking reduction measures in order to offset the growth of emissions from international aviation of developing countries,” says the letter.
Brazil, also on behalf of Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, too has placed a reservation on Paragraph 7. “Brazil engaged the discussions [at the Assembly] on this topic in a constructive manner, which we intend to keep in the future rounds of talks related to the issue, as ICAO now has the task of working towards a global MBM mechanism,” writes the country’s ICAO Permanent Representative to the Secretary General of ICAO. “Brazil understands, on the other hand, that our common global aspirational goals still need reassessment and further analysis, as to reflect the different stages of development of ICAO’s Member States. This is a matter of utmost importance, when faced with the current and future growth perspectives of the international civil aviation sector.”
A late change to the climate change resolution passed at the Assembly was the addition to the list of guiding principles when designing and implementing MBMs for international aviation, of a new principle which states MBMs should take into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR), the special circumstances and respective capabilities (SCRC), and the principle of non-discrimination and equal and fair opportunities.
In a Statement of Reservation, the United States says it objects to this inclusion. “For reasons that are well known, the United States does not consider that the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the principle of CBDR, apply to ICAO, which is governed by its own legal regime.”
The US also reserves on paragraph 16(b) of the resolution, which states that when States or groups of States design and implement national or regional MBM schemes, exemptions should be granted on routes to and from developing States whose share of international aviation revenue ton kilometres (RTKs) is less than 1%. The US says that although it supports the de minimis concept, it does not believe that 1% is an appropriate threshold, that the threshold should be based on the aviation activities of states as opposed to operators or that accommodations should depend on whether routes are to or from developing states.
“These criteria amount to an inappropriate means of addressing the de minimis concept, particularly in light of ICAO’s principle of non-discrimination and commitment to the avoidance of market distortion,” says the Statement. “If applied, this de minimis threshold would have the effect of excluding the vast majority of the world’s countries from participation in an MBM. Further, and consistent with the language of the provision, the United States sees such a threshold as having no bearing on the development of a global MBM.”
The United Arab Emirates, which is defined as a developing country under the UNFCCC but as a developed country by the EU in new proposals for the continuation of its emissions trading scheme, has also submitted a letter reserving on paragraph 16(b). It argues that the de minimis provision may lead to significant market distortions and put some aircraft operators at a considerable disadvantage.
“This is in direct conflict with Article 11 of the Chicago Convention,” says the letter. “The provision’s language is extremely imprecise. This will inevitably create confusion.”
As ICAO embarks on its three-year work programme to develop and design the practicalities of a global MBM, attention will also have to focus on how the conflicting ICAO/UNFCCC principles can be satisfactorily resolved. The almost unprecedented roll-call voting that took place on the MBM issue towards the end of the Assembly demonstrated the power of the emerging nations in getting support for their demands from other developing countries, which form the majority of ICAO States.
ICAO 38th Assembly – Climate change resolution reservations to date
ICAO 38th Assembly – Climate change resolution
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Eight of the key environmental organisations in the UK have written an open letter to Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, to express their concern about the Commission’s “emerging thinking” that more runway capacity is needed for the south east, as expressed in Sir Howard’s speech on 7th October. They have serious concerns about how adding a new runway could be compatible with UK climate targets, and they call on the Commission to demonstrate how its recommendations will avoid gambling on our future ability to meet the UK climate target. The NGOs say the Committee on Climate Change’s analysis concluded that stabilising UK aviation’s emissions at their 2005 level could translate to a maximum 60% growth in the number of passengers at UK airports. They set out 4 key arguments why no new runway capacity is needed even if passenger numbers are permitted to grow by up to 60%. They also urge the Commission to retain a “no new runways” option in its deliberations as the best way of achieving the targets set in the UK Climate Change Act. The eight green NGOs which have signed the letter are: Aviation Environment Federation; Campaign for Better Transport; Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; RSPB; Stop Climate Chaos; The Woodland Trust; WWF-UK.
Green organisations tell Sir Howard Davies that allowing another runway jeopardises UK climate goals
Green groups have written to Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies challenging his view that new runway capacity is compatible with the Government’s climate change goals (1). Letter The letter is a response to a recent speech by Davies which he used to rule out a “no new runway solution”(2). Speech
The eight national environmental NGOs argue that the Airports Commission’s intention to look at additional runway capacity in the South East cannot be reconciled with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendations on how the UK should achieve its national climate goal (3).
The UK organisations to sign the letter are Aviation Environment Federation, the Campaign for Better Transport, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, Stop Climate Chaos, the Woodland Trust and WWF-UK.
The organisations argue in the letter that the Commission should explicitly recommend keeping aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels by 2050, in line with the CCC guidance. They argue that even this level of emissions gives aviation a very generous target, when compared to the very deep cuts required of other sectors of our economy. For the UK to achieve overall cuts of 80% in CO2 emissions in 2050, compared to their 1990 levels, which means cuts of some 85% for other sectors of the economy.
The CCC’s analysis concluded that stabilising UK aviation’s emissions at their 2005 level could translate to a maximum 60% growth in the number of passengers at UK airports. The NGOs set out four key arguments why no new runway capacity is needed even if passenger numbers are permitted to grow by up to 60%:
1. Such growth is achievable within existing runway capacity.
2. Any new infrastructure will require capping of capacity at other airports. This will impact airports both in the South East and the rest of the UK.
3. Future climate targets will need to take account of aviation’s non-CO2 contribution to climate change. As suggested by the CCC.
4. Carbon trading in the EU or globally cannot be relied on to bring aviation’s emissions down.
The group of environmental organisations are urging the Commission to retain a “no new runways” option in its deliberations as the best way of achieving the targets set in the UK Climate Change Act.
Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said: “Building new runways when there can be no confidence that aviation will meet its fair share of climate change emissions constraints is an economic and environmental gamble. The expansionist agenda of the aviation industry needs to be contained until we properly understand what the climate consequences would be.”
Jean Leston, Transport Policy Manager, WWF-UK said: “Although we are pleased that Sir Howard has taken on board the importance of climate change, his emerging views—which favour expansion—aren’t backed by any clear evidence. We’d like to see Sir Howard come clean on his assumptions so that we have more confidence in his final conclusions.”
Sue Armstrong-Brown, RSPB head of policy, said: “Climate change is the biggest long term threat to wildlife and we must do all we can to keep a lid on damaging carbon emissions. But building airports will have a massive immediate impact on our natural environment if precious green spaces which are home to threatened wildlife are destroyed to make way for roads, runways and terminals.”
“For these reasons we are calling on the Government to think longer term about what our country needs. We need to look more seriously at sustainable transport alternatives and smarter use of the aviation capacity we already have. We can have good transport links and a healthy countryside in the future if we make the right decisions today.”
Hilary Allison, Policy Director of the WoodlandTrust said: “The environmental impact of airport expansion is of key concern to the Trust, especially as we know that loss and damage to ancient woods is highly likely to follow. Increased emissions from aviation also threaten to build on the long-term impacts of climate change which adds further pressure to the rare wildlife and vulnerable ecosystems found within irreplaceable woodland habitats which cannot easily adapt, as well as intensify the risks to the UK’s woods and trees of pests and diseases. With just 2% ancient woodland remaining in the UK, this must be avoided.”
Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation said: ” The only thing we can predict with certainty is that a new runway will lead to an increase in emissions: but there is no guarantee that we will have the right technological innovation, policy measures and regulations to ensure this doesn’t threaten our climate targets. With sufficient capacity already available to meet growth, this is not a gamble we need to take now.”
Notes for Editors
(1). Letter Joint NGO response to the Airports Commission’s emerging thinking on airport capacity in the UK
(2). Speech given on the 7th October, “Emerging thinking: aviation capacity in the UK”. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/aviation-capacity-in-the-uk-emerging-thinking
(3). The Committee on Climate Change are the Government’s official advisers. Their analysis concluded that stabilising UK aviation’s emissions at their 2005 level (37.5MtCO2) could translate to a maximum 60% growth in the number of passengers at UK airports. http://downloads.theccc.org.uk/Aviation%20Report%2009/21667B%20CCC%20Aviation%20AW%20COMP%20v8.pdf
The eight green NGOs which have signed the letter are:
Aviation Environment Federation
Campaign for Better Transport
Friends of the Earth
Stop Climate Chaos
The Woodland Trust
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Twenty-one Nobel prize winners, many of whom have won Nobel Peace Prizes, have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as higher carbon (“dirtier”) than other fuels. The Nobel laureates say the extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change. The powerful letter has attempted to restart the discussion about how tar sands and oil shale should be treated in the EU, a discussion that has been delayed for too long, following a massive lobbying campaign by Canada, the US and the global oil industry. Conventional oil has been given a value of 87.5g of CO2 equivalent per megajoule. In comparison, tar sands oil has a value of 107g, oil shale 131g and coal-to-liquid 172g. The laureates quote IEA warnings that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and its calculation that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground ‘to avoid catastrophic climate change’. The letter says the time for positive action is now. The EU can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership on this.
Nobel laureates demand European Commission action on tar sands
October 28, 2013 (Transport & Environment)
Twenty-one Nobel prize winners have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as dirtier than other fuels.
“The extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,” wrote the laureates in a letter to European commissioners and environment ministers earlier this month.
The powerful letter
[copied below] has attempted to restart the discussion about how tar sands and oil shale should be treated in the EU, a discussion that has been stalled following a massive lobbying campaign by Canada, the US and the global oil industry. The lobbyists want to stop the EU valuing fuels from unconventional oil sources differently from those made from conventional crude oil.
The FQD was adopted in 2009 and sets a target of a 6% reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels used for transport by 2020.
To achieve that, it has to set values for CO2 emissions from different fuel production processes. Conventional oil has been given a value of 87.5g of CO2 equivalent per megajoule.
Following an assessment of the production process of unconventional fuels, tar sands oil has a value of 107g, oil shale 131g and coal-to-liquid 172g. [ Euractiv link 5.10.2011 ] Yet a Commission proposal on how to implement the FQD has been delayed because of lobbying.
The laureates quote International Energy Agency warnings that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and its calculation that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground ‘to avoid catastrophic climate change’.
Their letter adds: ‘The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles.’
An unpublished impact assessment prepared for the Commission is believed to say applying higher values to unconventional fuels would have only a tiny effect on the fuel prices paid by motorists. The European news agency EurActiv quoted
an unnamed Commission official as saying that ‘pump price impacts for all production methods are roughly the same at substantially less than one cent per litre’.
T&E clean fuels manager Nusa Urbancic said: “There isn’t much fuel from unconventional sources in Europe at present, but the battle is over what signal the EU sends to the world about how the climate impact of a fuel’s production process will be assessed. Canada is lobbying so hard, because it wants key oil markets like Europe to keep ignoring that the production of tar sands is essentially dirtier than conventional fuels. If Europe is serious about decarbonising its transport energy, it shouldn’t listen to the siren voices on the other side of the pond.”
Letter to EU Commissioners and Environment Ministers re EU climate legislation and unconventional fossil fuels
The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today. The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.
For this reason, we are writing to urge you to support the immediate implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Quality Directive in order to fulfill its 6% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for transportation by 2020. We have no doubt that the Directive must be applied fairly to unconventional fuels to ensure their climate impacts are fully taken into account. It follows that the fuel-producing companies should report their climate emissions and be held responsible for any emissions increase.
We welcome the EU’s scientific analysis—as it is now proposed for the implementation of the EU Directive—that the extraction and production of fuels from unconventional sources fuels including oil sands, coal-to-liquid, and oil shale leads to higher emissions and that this should be reflected in the regulations.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and is concerned that these fuel sources are now increasingly competing on a par with conventional fuel sources. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IEA calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.
Now is the time to transition swiftly away from fossil fuels, with a special focus on those that pollute the most. We must all move toward a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy. Fully implementing the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive will send a clear signal that the European Union is committed to action that supports the rights of future generations to a healthy planet.
It is not too late to avert our actions that only amount to palliative care for a dying planet. The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles. We look forward to working together as we move forward to confront this frightening challenge to our global survival.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976, Ireland
Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977, France
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984, South Africa
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992, Guatemala
Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, United Kingdom
Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, Netherlands
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, United Kingdom
José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996, East Timor
John Walker, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1997, UK
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997, USA
John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize, 1998, Ireland
Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000, USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, Iran
Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2007, Germany
Mark Jaccard, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada
John Stone, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada
Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008, USA
Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009, USA
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Liberia
Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Yemen
The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in 2006, and is led by Nobel Peace laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and Mairead Maguire. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.
UK signals support for EU import of Canadian tar sands oil
Leaked papers show UK rejects proposal to classify oil from tar sands as highly polluting, a label that would deter EU countries from importing it
European Commission recognises climate impact of unconventional oils
The EU is committed to cutting the CO2 impact of fuel production by 6% by 2020
from 2010 level. So it has to set “values” for each fuel, on the carbon intensity
of the extraction process. Conventional fuels have a value of 87.5 gCO2/ MJ of
energy. Fierce lobbying from Alberta, which has huge tar sands reserves, led to
a delay in setting a tar sand oil standard.. The EU plans to give oil from tar
sands a value of 107g CO2/MJ and oil from shale 131.5 g. To be decided in December.
UK is one country to oppose the higher tar sand level.
Commission recognises climate impact of unconventional oil in fuel quality directive
26.10.2011 (Transport & Environment)
Petrol and diesel made from tar sands, coal, gas and oil shale will be assigned
a different carbon footprint than fuels from conventional oil, if a proposal from
the Commission is supported by EU member states. After years of lobbying by Canada
and some sections of the oil industry, the Commission has stuck to its original
plan to assign different values to fuels dependent on their source. The values
are needed as part of EU efforts to reduce the climate impact of fuel production
by 6% by 2020.
Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive, proposed in 2008 and agreed a year
later, sets the target of a 6% reduction in climate-changing emissions from the
fuel production process by 2020, based on the level in 2010. In order to achieve
that, it has to set ‘values’ for each fuel depending on the carbon intensity of
the extraction process. Conventional fuels produced from crude oil have a value
of 87.5 grams of carbon per megajoule of energy.
Most other fuels had been given their value by the end of last year, but fierce
lobbying from oil interests in the Canadian state of Alberta, which has huge tar
sands reserves, led to a delay in setting a standard for that source. Very little
oil from these sources is currently used in Europe, but Alberta was worried that
a high-emissions value from the EU would set a precedent that would reduce the
market for its oil in the future.
At one stage the Commission was considering giving oil from tar sands the same
value as conventional fuels, but following loud protests from MEPs, NGOs and private
citizens, it has now reverted to its original plan. It will therefore assign oil
from tar sands a value of 107g CO2/MJ and oil from shale 131.5g CO2/MJ.
T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘This move sends a signal to the oil industry
that dirty fuels should either clean up or stay away. In particular, the climate
commissioner Connie Hedegaard should be applauded for not backing down in the
face of huge pressure from Canada and the oil industry. It’s now up to member
states to give this proposal the green light, and thereby give producers a real
incentive to invest in cleaner technologies and stop dirty habits such as flaring.’
German research institute pulls out of Canadian tar sands project
“A 2011 report commissioned by the EU from Adam Brandt, an Assistant Professor at Stanford University, found that the lifecycle emissions of fuel from tar sands – also known as oil sands – were between 12-40% higher than conventional crude, with the most likely barrel being 22% more carbon intensive.
“Brandt wrote that tar sands were “significantly different enough from conventional oil emissions that regulatory frameworks should address this discrepancy with pathway-specific emissions factors that distinguish between oil sands and conventional oil processes.” ”
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India has said it will oppose the EU’s plan to include flights from all airlines in European airspace (other than airlines from most developing countries). The USA also opposes the plan, with a US politician saying the EU proposal is contrary to a law intended to shield US airlines from such charges. Last week the European Commission proposed making all airlines pay for emissions only over European airspace – rather than the original system in which the carbon from the full length of all flights using EU airports. USA, India and China want the EU to back down, so no aviation emissions anywhere are included in a charging system. India and China contribute well over 1% of global aviation CO2, so they were included, unlike smaller and poor countries. Reuters says that along with China, India has defied the EU, even refusing to submit emissions data before the EU suspended it for a year amid threats of a trade war. The US might go as far as invoking a law signed by President Barack Obama in November 2012 that would shield Us airlines from what US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx may deem to be an unfair charge.
India, US dig in against EU air carbon charge
By Valerie Volcovici and Devidutta Tripathy
WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI | Tue Oct 22, 2013 (Reuters)
India voiced firm opposition on Tuesday to EU plans to impose a scaled-back carbon charge on flights over European airspace while a senior U.S. lawmaker said the EU proposal runs afoul of a law intended to shield U.S. airlines from such charges.
The European Commission, the EU executive, last week proposed to make all airlines pay for emissions over European airspace in a retreat from a suspended EU law that covered the duration of flights using EU airports.
India said the EU proposal defies a global aviation agreement hammered out in Montreal earlier this month at an assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the U.N. body in charge of civil air travel.
“What they (the European Commission) have now done is in total conflict with what the ICAO has decided. The multilateral body has to intervene in this matter,” K.N. Shrivastava, India’s aviation secretary, told Reuters.
Along with China, India has defied the European Union move, even refusing to submit emissions data before the EU suspended it for a year amid threats of a trade war.
The EU proposal also could push the U.S. government to invoke a law signed by President Barack Obama in November 2012 that would shield U.S. airlines from what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx may deem an unfair charge.
Republican Senator John Thune, who introduced the measure in the Senate, will raise the issue in a letter to Foxx and other U.S. officials, his office said. The law gives the secretary of transportation the authority to ensure that U.S. carriers are not penalized by unilateral EU emissions charges.
“Senator Thune believes that any such effort by the European Commission would be in direct violation of the legislation that was signed into law last year to hold U.S. air carriers harmless from such unilateral actions,” Thune spokesperson Andi Fouberg told Reuters.
ICAO negotiators this month reached a consensus on a market-based system to curb carbon emissions from airlines by 2020, but rejected a proposal to let Europe apply its own plan to foreign carriers in the meantime. The deal averted a looming global trade dispute over aviation emissions.
U.S. airlines hope that because the European Commission’s most recent proposal was a draft, the Europeans will revise the plan in line with what was agreed to at ICAO, according to Vaughn Jennings, spokesman for the industry group Airlines for America (A4A).
The European Commission said it is acting in good faith.
“Limiting it to EU airspace and not touching on somebody’s else’s airspace. That’s our interpretation of what was said in Montreal,” Artur Runge-Metzger, director for international climate strategy in the Commission’s climate department, told Reuters.
For the proposal to go into effect, it needs the approval of member states and the European Parliament.
Earlier news stories about this are below:
European Commission proposes applying EU ETS only to European regional airspace from 1 January 2014
October 16, 2013
The European Commission has proposed amending the ETS so that aviation emissions would be covered just for the part of flights that takes place in European regional airspace (including over the North Sea or Mediterranean). The adjustment in the legislation would apply from 1 January 2014 and until a planned global market-based mechanism (MBM) becomes applicable to international aviation emissions by 2020, according to ICAO. European Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said “Europe is taking the responsibility to reduce emissions within its own airspace until the global measure begins’. Also that the aviation sector, like other sectors, has to contribute to cuts in EU carbon emissions, as aviation emission are increasing fast – doubling since 1990. The proposal needs to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Counci, before April 2014. The proposal covers all CO2 emissions from flights between airports in the European Economic Area (EEA), including Norway and Iceland. Parts of flights outside the EEA are not covered, and flights of developing countries – of which their aviation emissions are less than 1% of the global whole – are not included. Click here to view full story…
Grey day for environment as Europe reduces its aviation ETS coverage to only European airspace
October 16, 2013 The European Commission has, under intense international pressure, proposed to reduce its ETS for aviation to only cover flights in European airspace. The proposal would only cover 35% of aviation emissions compared to the original aviation EU ETS. It would cover flights by all airlines, except from less developed countries, which contribute 1% or less of global aviation CO2. Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, said: “It is disgraceful that foreign and industry pressure has obliged Europe to shrink its own aviation emissions law to the bare minimum.” The EC’s text comes shortly after the conclusion of the ICAO triennial assembly, where delegates, in a political decision, finally agreed to talk about the details of a global market based measure for 2020 but rejected interim measures like the EU ETS. The current proposal would leave the vast bulk of EU aviation emissions – which come from long-haul flights – unregulated. T&E urges the European Parliament and Member States to include an option to extend the aviation emissions coverage of the ETS to a 50/50 basis in 2017. Click here to view full story…
WWF: ICAO forgoes immediate emissions reductions for only promise of a future global plan
October 4, 2013 .In their response ot the disappointing outcome of the ICAO negotiations on curbing global aviation emissions, WWF said ICAO had missed the opportunity to start reducing emissions immediately. They have only committed to possibly agree an MBM in 2016, to come into effect in 2020. There is no guarantee they will agree it. This means little will be done before 2020. WWF said the science is clearer than ever – and 2020 is too late. Jean Leston, Transport Policy Officer of WWF-UK, said: “The world has waited 16 years for ICAO to demonstrate its serious commitment to reducing aviation emissions. What we got today seems a very small return for that effort. We expect a lot more ambition and commitment from ICAO over the next three years if a global, market-based mechanism is ever going to materialize. …..By essentially restricting the EU’s ETS for aviation to its own carriers and airspace, ICAO has handicapped the world’s leading legislation to put a price on aviation pollution and once again allowed skyrocketing emissions to continue climbing.” With the IPCC saying we need to cut CO2, leaders need to be taking every opportunity to do so. Click here to view full story…
EU Emissions Trading System reduced to only intra-European flights
October 4, 2013 .The EU was defeated in its efforts to have ICAO recognise its right to continue charging aviation in its own market-based mechanism, the ETS. Earlier this month the EU offered to exclude emissions emitted outside EU airspace from being covered by the ETS in exchange for a deal at ICAO. Even this did not happen. “ICAO is going even beyond what the Chicago Convention allows,” said Bill Hemmings of campaign group T&E. “They’re telling the EU what it can do in its own airspace.” A spokesperson for the Commission said the EU would have to consider its next steps. Any change to the ETS scope, whether to exclude non-EU airspace or to go further and exclude all foreign airlines, would need approval from member states and the European Parliament. The European aviation industry would be likely to fiercely resist any move to exclude foreign airlines but leave them included, as it would raise competitiveness concerns. Green MEPs reacted with dismay to the ICAO outcome. “The international aviation organisation (ICAO) is both seeking to block EU action and once more stalling on urgently-needed international measures” Click here to view full story…
Weak ICAO aviation emissions deal with action delayed till at least 2016 strikes harsh blow to EU ETS
October 4, 2013 .The ICAO talks in Montreal are now closed. ICAO cobbled together a weak resolution, that lays the foundation for a Market Based Measure (MBM) perhaps some time in future. This is to be brought to the next ICAO Assembly in 2016. ie more years of delay. The resolution states that, if an agreement on a global MBM is decided upon at the next Assembly, it must be implemented by 2020 – the year after which any growth within the industry must be carbon neutral. Jean Leston, Transport Policy Manager at WWF-UK, said: “There is nothing in this resolution that guarantees an MBM. All we’ve got is a decision to develop one over the next 3 years and then that has to go to Assembly for agreement in 2016.” Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, said, “The EU put its faith in the ICAO process, and because of unacceptable weakening and delay, this faith has now been shattered.” The ICAO agreement has also decimated the EU’s ETS, which has been reduced to the bare minimum. The EU can now only impose its ETS on flights that both depart and land from within its own airspace. For aircraft emissions emitted in EU airspace by planes that have come from outside the EU, this can only be done with the consent of the other country. Click here to view full story…
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The aviation industry knows it is provides an exceptionally high carbon way to travel, and is keen to find ways to try to disguise this fact. In reality, a passenger on a medium length flight (2,000 – 4,000 miles or so) in a modern plane is probably responsible for roughly the same amount of carbon as someone driving the same distance alone in a car that does an average around 48 miles per gallon (like at Toyota Yaris). That is excluding non-CO2 climate effects. Approximate figures – each car trip (including number of passengers) is different, as is each plane trip. Saying that air travel per passenger is lower carbon than a car journey is missing the point for two important reasons: 1. Most people would think twice about driving 3,000 or 4,000 miles. And back. It is easy and quick (as well as much cheaper) by plane. So people make these trips more often, and are encouraged to travel more. 2. Figures do not take in to the non-CO2 impacts of aircraft emissions, which are likely to approximately double the climate impact. So now Virgin are trying to make out that flying is lower carbon than driving. This is disingenuous nonsense – comparing chalk and cheese – and is choosing very carefully which figures to use. As WWF-UK point out, Virgin is increasing its number of passengers, and getting people to fly more often, as fast as it can, so raising the overall emissions. Don’t be hoodwinked by the greenwash!
Aviation growth in passenger kilometers flown, with tiny reductions in per passenger carbon emissions: “Like beating your wife more often, but with a slightly smaller stick…”
Virgin’s Sustainability Report 2013 2 page summary They say “In 2012 our total carbon footprint was 5.9 million tonnes CO2″
The Virgin Sustainability Report 2013 full report
Less CO2 per passenger by air than by car says Virgin
Investment in new, more efficient aircraft has cut CO2 by 30% in some cases, says Virgin
Virgin Atlantic has claimed that travelling by air is greener than travelling by car.
In its 2013 sustainability programme update, published this week, the airline states that last year its CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre (PK) fell to 119.3g.
This is “interesting”, the company states, given that in the UK the average new car emissions were “133.1gCO2/km in 2012″. (see http://www.smmt.co.uk/co2report/)
119 gCO2/km is about 48 mpg.
133 gCO2/km is about 49 miles per gallon.
187 gCO2/km is about 35 mpg.
The airline said the fall in UK emissions is due to carrying “more passengers at higher load factors”.
Virgin also confirmed that it continues to cut its overall carbon footprint – 80% of which comes from flying. Huge investment in new, more efficient aircraft has cut CO2 by 30% in some cases, it said.
Environmental groups have questioned whether Virgin is focusing on the wrong impacts, with more people flying than ever before. The company’s carbon footprint, though reduced by 6% since 2007, still stands at 5.9m tonnes.
WWF-UK head of business, Dax Lovegrove, told edie.net that Virgin Atlantic and other airlines should “focus less on per passenger and per kilometre CO2 efficiencies and more on managing the overall carbon footprint from the general rise in passengers travelling over great distances”.
He cited a raft of changes that are required to ensure “climate smart mobility” including electric vehicles, better public transport and more car sharing. Indeed, a Virgin spokeswoman admitted that the car emissions are based on one person travelling in the car.
Aviation emissions have doubled since 1990 due to increasing passenger demand, with most growth coming from international flights, according to the Committee on Climate Change.
In 2011 the aviation sector accounted for 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, with the vast majority (95%) resulting from international flights.
Writing in the company’s 2013 sustainability update, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger claimed: “We fully accept our part in reducing the negative consequences of air travel so that we can all continue to make the most of its benefits. Our number one priority is to reduce the carbon emissions from flying our aircraft.”
Earlier this month, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed on a global strategy to progress technology, operations and alternative fuels in a bid to reduce emissions.
However, the European Commission’s proposal to have foreign airlines included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was opposed by China, India, Russia and the US, who argue that the scheme impacts flights far outside the EU.
Virgin Atlantic also confirmed that work on its low carbon aviation fuel, in partnership with LanzaTech, continues; the aim is to make the fuel “a commercial reality” within the next couple of years.
The technology uses a microbe to convert waste carbon monoxide gases from
steel mills into ethanol. The alcohol is then converted to jet fuel through a second stage process.
Some comments from Airport Watch members:
The devil is, as always, in the detail of the base data and the assumptions: both for aircraft and cars. Everyone knows that vehicle manufacturers’ fuel consumption data is obtained by such artificial means as to be meaningless to anyone outside the EU bureaucracy, and most also for most people going on a holiday, the average load factor for car journeys is in excess of unity. ie. not one person holidaying alone. [Most plane trips are for holidays or leisure].
The derivation of the figures in the Sustainability Report are not clear. Are Mr. Branson’s men are speaking with forked tongue before we look at exactly what fuel burn figures they’re using for aircraft: e.g. are they using the cruising-speed consumption figures and conveniently ignoring the 30% of fuel that’s burned during climbout and approach for “the average flight”?
A key thing is that the climate impacts of aviation are likely to be twice that of the CO2 alone, (NOx, water vapour, contrails) so by that reckoning they are still roughly double the climate impacts of car travel even with 1 pasenger per car. In addition it is hard for a car driver to frivolously drive 8000 miles, but easy to fly to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, so the real impacts are much higher.
What they are doing is using the worst case scenario for a car (pretty much) and comparing it with the average case scenario for flying. All per KM of course, failing to take any form of totals into account.
No surprise, based on this comparison, that flying is “greener” than driving. Typical of the greenwash spouted by the industry on a daily basis.
Below are some indicative figures of CO2 emissions for various ranges of cars, from tiny to huge.
From a website called Clean Green Cars.
Environmental Scores by Vehicle Type
We have rated each model range according to its CO2 output within its segment. The reason for categorising CO2 by segment is that an MPV like a Ford Galaxy is bound to produce more CO2 than a city car – but if you have a large family it is not very helpful to be told that a Toyota Aygo is environmentally-friendly. We have rated each model against the average for its segment, so a CO2 output of 140g/km would be very good for a large family car like a Vectra, but very poor for a city car like a Ford Ka.
Incidentally we have taken the average CO2 figure for each model range. That does not mean that every version of a model range has the same star rating (e.g. a Focus TDCi is much better than a Focus ST). However, it shows how well the model range performs overall.
For reference, these are the upper limits to earn a five star CO2 rating in each segment:
|City car (e.g. Ford Ka):
|Supermini (e.g. Renault Clio)
|Small MPV (e.g. Vauxhall Meriva)
|Small Family (e.g. VW Golf)
|Small Sports (e.g. Mazda MX-5)
|Large Family (e.g. Ford Mondeo)
|Medium MPV (e.g. Vauxhall Zafira)
|Compact Executive (e.g. Audi A4)
|Executive (e.g. BMW 5 Series)
|Large MPV (Renault Espace)
|Off Road (e.g. Toyota RAV4)
|Performance sports (e.g. Porsche 911)
|Luxury (e.g. Mercedes S Class)
and another assessment of the issues:
Flying vs Driving: Which is Better for the Environment?
Driving emits less carbon than flying, but flying costs less on long trips
By Earth Talk
How can I determine if it is more eco-friendly to fly or drive somewhere?– Christine Matthews, Washington, DC
The simple answer is that driving in a relatively fuel-efficient car (25-30 miles per gallon) usually generates fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than flying. In assessing the global warming impact of a trip from Philadelphia to Boston (about 300 miles), the environmental news website Grist.org calculates that driving would generate about 104 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2)—a leading greenhouse gas—per typical medium-sized car, regardless of the number of passengers, while flying on a commercial jet would produce some 184 kilograms of CO2 per passenger.
Flying vs Driving: Carpooling Generates Fewest Greenhouse Gases Per Passenger
What this also means, of course, is that while even driving alone would be slightly better from the standpoint of greenhouse-gas emissions, carpooling really makes environmental sense. Four people sharing a car would collectively be responsible for emitting only 104 kilograms of CO2, while the same four people taking up four seats on a plane would generate some 736 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Flying vs Driving: Cross-Country Calculations Show Stark Contrasts
Journalist Pablo Päster of Salon.com extends the comparison further, to a cross-country trip, and comes to similar conclusions. (Differences in the math are attributable to the use of slightly varying assumptions regarding fuel usage and source equations.) Flying from San Francisco to Boston, for example, would generate some 1,300 kilograms of greenhouse gases per passenger each way, while driving would account for only 930 kilograms per vehicle. So, again, sharing the drive with one or more people would lower each individual’scarbon footprint from the experience accordingly.
Flying vs Driving: Air Travel Most Economical for Long Distances
But just because driving might be greener than flying doesn’t mean it always makes the most sense. With current high gas prices, it would cost far more in fuel to drive clear across the United States in a car than to fly nonstop coast-to-coast. And that’s not even factoring in the time spent on restaurants and hotels along the way. Those interested in figuring out driving fuel costs can consult AAA’s nifty online Fuel Cost Calculator, where you can enter your starting city and destination as well as the year, make and model of your car to get an accurate estimate of what it will cost to “fill ‘er up” between points A and B.
Flying vs Driving: Carbon Offsets Can Balance Travel-Related Emissions
Once you’ve made your decision whether to drive or fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets to balance out the emissions you are generating with cash for renewable energy development.TerraPass, among others, makes it easy to calculate your carbon footprint based on how much you drive and fly (as well as home energy consumption), and then will sell you offsets accordingly. (Monies generated through carbon offsets fund alternative energy and other projects, such as wind farms, that will ultimately take a bite out of or eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions).
Flying vs Driving: Public Transportation Beats Both Car and Air Travel
Of course, an individual’s emissions from riding a bus (the ultimate carpool) or a train would be significantly lower. Paster adds that a cross-country train trip would generate about half the greenhouse-gas emissions of driving a car. The only way to travel greener might be to bicycle or walk—but the trip is long enough as it is.
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