Climate Change News
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
A group of 32 leading economists, including 8 Nobel Prize winners and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) board member, is urging President Obama to adopt a global market-based measure to reduce carbon emissions from aviation. Unregulated carbon emissions from the aviation sector currently are a large and growing source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change. The open letter states that: “Pricing carbon in the aviation sector will incentivize appropriate investments and changes in operations that would reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. If climate change is to be slowed appreciably at tolerable cost, it is wise to use the market to provide incentives for individuals and firms to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.” And: "We urge you to immediately advance a US proposal for a global market based measure for aviation. In the long run it will be in aviation's interest, as well as that of all society, to use the price mechanism to efficiently allocate over time the uncertain remaining capacity of the atmosphere to safely absorb emissions."
A new authoritative study shows that only adoption of a global ‘market-based measure’ (MBM) can bring the ICAO goal, and aviation industry’s shared goal of 2020 ‘carbon neutral growth’ by 2050 within reach. The total impact of all other CO2 reduction measures currently on the table (improved technology and fuel efficiency of aircraft, improved operational efficiency and some use of biofuels) is shown to be insufficient. The report comes just before the March meetings of ICAO’s Council and its High Level Advisory Group, charged with advising on a resolution to address global emissions for ICAO’s triennial Assembly next September. Projections of future aviation emissions show by 2050 the cuts ICAO and IATA aspire to will not be met, without MBM, such as the ETS. The study demonstrates that claims from industry, ICAO and some governments that current measures being discussed will be sufficient to tame aviation emissions are false. It shows definitively that pricing carbon via a global MBM is the only way to arrest aviation’s climate impact – already at 5% of the global total, with traffic growing at 4-5% a year. The ETS, on which progress has been halted for a year, needs to be protected.
The Committee has rejected a proposal related to the offset limit for airlines. This proposal would have allowed intra-European flights to offset nearly 100% of their reduction obligations. Offsets are international credits, from carbon cuts outside the EU, and are not actual European carbon reductions. Allowing aviation to offset all their reduction obligations with offsets from outside the EU would add about 20 million international credits into the EU ETS. International credits are already responsible for two-thirds of the current EU ETS oversupply. The use of offsets has recently been criticised in lacking environmental integrity and further undermining the EU ETS. As the proposal has been rejected, only 15% of aviation allowances can be offsets, rather than up to almost 100% if the amendments had gone through. Carbon Market Watch hopes a global deal by ICAO will also contain strong quality provisions for international offsets.
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in support of the EU Commission’s “Stop-the-Clock” proposal which delays the inclusion of flights to and from Europe from the EU ETS for just one year. This is conditional on progress being made by ICAO and the aim of the delay is to give ICAO time to negotiate a global agreement to address emissions from international aviation by autumn 2013, and they should have a realistic timetable through which to apply it. The one year suspension could only be extended if « clear and sufficient » progress is made within ICAO. Funds generated by the ETS would be used for a variety of measures to cut carbon emissions. The European Parliament Environment Committee also rejected a proposal on the offset limit for flights within the EU. This proposal would have allowed intra-European flights to offset nearly 100% of their reduction obligations, while adding about 20 million international credits into the EU ETS.
In a very interesting and detailed opinion by Bill Hemmings, of the Brussels-based European transport NGO, he explains what is happening - or rather not happening - at ICAO to deal with international aviation CO2 emissions. After the EU "stopped the clock" on the inclusion of emissions from flights into and out of Europe, ICAO was meant to be working diligently to find a global solution. If ICAO is to retain any credibility on this, some form of progress is needed so there is a realistic proposal by September, at its triennial general assembly. However, though the ICAO expert group had concluded that the favoured basis for a global market-based measure was either global carbon offsetting or emissions trading, it has spent little time moving these options forward. Instead, leading members are questioning the fundamental premise of why developing countries should participate at all in a global scheme. And as regards regional schemes like the EU’s, they are insisting that foreign carriers participate only by mutual agreement. It has opened a bottomless pit of national self-interest claims. Constructive progress looks unlikely any time soon.
Airlines are making so-called ‘windfall profits’ of up to €1.3bn by charging passengers for permits to pollute, through the EU Emissions Trading System. The airlines no longer need to hand the permits over to the EU as the ETS has has been suspended for one year (except for flights within Europe). Transport & Environment is calling for the airlines not to retain these windfall profits, as keeping them is a betrayal of passengers’ contributions to fight climate change. T&E aviation manager Bill Hemmings said: ‘Passengers have paid towards fighting climate change, so it is unjust for airlines to retain these revenues as windfall profits." Instead, T&E is calling for any such profits to fund developing countries’ efforts to deal with the effects of climate change, through the UN's Green Climate Fund. There is little doubt that airlines raised their fares at the start of 2012, citing aviation’s entry into the ETS. Delta, for example, publicly announced ‘environmental’ charges on each leg of transatlantic flights.
On February 19th, Europe’s emissions-trading system (ETS) faces a potentially fatal vote. A European Parliament committee will vote on whether to back a Commission plan to remove some of a huge surplus of carbon allowances from the ETS. It would delay the sale of about 900m tonnes of carbon allowances from around 2013-16 to 2019-20, and give the EC the power to rearrange the ETS’s schedule of auctions. Opposition to the proposal has been led by heavy industry and EU member Poland, which is highly dependent on carbon-intensive coal and argues there is no case for intervention in the market. The vote could not only determine whether the world’s biggest carbon-trading market survives but delay the emergence of a worldwide market, damage Europe’s environmental policies across the board and affect the prospects for a future treaty to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. However, even if the sale of the 900m tonnes was delayed, the oversupply of allowances would continue unless the auctions were cancelled, not just rescheduled
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a policy briefing arguing that climate change considerations should rule out building any new runways in the UK. The paper shows how the latest official forecasts indicate that both passenger demand and CO2 will exceed the levels deemed compatible with the Climate Act by the Government’s independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, unless new constraints are imposed on aviation emissions. The growth in air passengers and in aviation carbon emissions exceed the levels required by the Climate Act even in the DfT's so-called "constrained" forecasts, released this January. The constrained forecasts are for future air passenger demand with no new runways being built, with Air Passenger Duty (APD) continuing, and with carbon costs being incorporated into ticket prices though the EU ETS or a comparable global scheme. So even with these constraints, the UK's aviation carbon emissions would be too high. Let alone with more runways.
In a speech on 12th February at the Royal Society, Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, criticised climate sceptics - including some on the government's back benches - and their efforts to undermine action on climate change. He accuses climate sceptics of adopting a "dogmatic" and "blinkered" stance. He said he was reminded of the sentiment of the famous USA Today cartoon: "If we really are wrong about climate change, we will have created a better world for nothing. In reality, those who deny climate change and demand a halt to emissions reduction and mitigation work, want us to take a huge gamble with the future of every human being on the planet, every future human being, our children and grandchildren, and every other living species. We will not take that risk." Ed Davey wants scientists and researchers to play an even more proactive role in supporting the development of the green economy. [By contrast, the Davies Commission will be considering options to increase UK hub airport capacity, which would inevitably increase UK carbon emissions from air travel].
An article appeared in the Telegraph on 30th January, by Louise Gray, reporting on a paper by an Economics lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It was about consumer behaviour in relation to carbon emissions, and makes the case that cutting down on flying has no effect on total EU carbon emissions, as flying is taken into account in the Emissions Trading System (ETS). It also made out that other actions, like reducing use of electricity also have no effect, but cutting consumption of meat, reducing use of petrol or diesel, or using less gas for house heating would have an impact - as those sectors are outside the ETS. Being told that flying has no impact on climate is an appealing message. However, many commentators have explained that this just is not correct. The ETS would only have this effect if the system was working optimally, which it is not. It would only work if the caps on carbon were tight, and tightening (which they are not at present) and if the price of carbon was high (it is at an all time low at present, at around €2 - 3). The non-CO2 emissions from flying are not taken account in the ETS. Therefore the argument that not flying has no effect is not borne out. It is just not correct.