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
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence, according to an analysis by scientists, at the University of Reading, of the impact of global warming on weather systems over the next 40 years. The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The increasing clear air turbulence results from the impact of climate change on the jet streams, which are at the altitude at which airliners fly. The jet streams are driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. More turbulence will cause more injuries to passengers and aircrew every year, as well as delays and damage to planes. There is an estimate of this costing some £100m each year. The Reading study indicated the frequency of turbulence on trans-Atlantic flights will double by 2050 and its intensity increase by 10-40%. Rerouting flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence could increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices. Ironic. Aviation helps drive climate change - and gets some of its adverse impacts.
AEF (the Aviation Environment Federation) has commented on the discussion paper published by the Airports Commission, on aviation and climate change. AEF notes that the paper appears keen for the UK to avoid disadvantaging itself economically through constraints on airport capacity. The paper also acknowledges that there have also been problems with the effectiveness of EU ETS in recent years due to over-supply of credits and that the ETS is currently partly suspended. The paper also appreciates that if UK aviation expands above its 2005 level, this would require "more challenging reductions" in other sectors of the UK economy. AEF comments that even with constraints on aviation growth from capacity constraints, taxes and inclusion in the ETS, "forecast demand growth remains significantly higher than the level compatible with climate targets. In other words, if we want to meet these targets, new measures should be considered for constraining emissions, and unconstrained aviation growth with new runways should be out of the question."
Airlines in Europe such as EasyJet and Ryanair, which almost entirely fly within Europe, continue to need to buy carbon permits through the EU Emissions Trading System. The ETS has been temporarily suspended this year ("stopping the clock") for flights to and from Europe. For intra-EU flights, the ETS means airlines need to buy 15% of the carbon permits they need, and the cap for 2012 was for 97% of their average emissions between 2004 - 2006. This falls to 95% for 2013 and future years. Therefore airlines that have grown significantly since 2004 -6 such as Ryanair and EasyJet have to pay more than airlines that have barely grown, or shrunk their emissions since then (the older legacy airlines). It seem Ryanair emitted about 34% more carbon in 2012 and so has a shortfall of 1.9 million tons CO2 which would cost it €8.4 million based on a price of €4.44 a metric ton. Easyjet's emissions were 25% above, so their shortage last year would amount to about 910,000 tons (costing about €4 million).
The Airports Commission has published its 3rd discussion paper, on Aviation and Climate Change, through which it will assemble advice and opinion on which to base its airport decisions. The consultation period lasts till 17th May. In a thoughtful document, covering a wide range of issues in relation to aviation and climate change, it sets out the usual range of issues (carbon emissions, role of international negotiations though the EU ETS and ICAO, the role of biofuels in future, role of operational improvements, impact of aviation's non-CO2 impacts) but it also looks at the effect of both carbon constraints on future aviation growth and the effect of UK airport capacity constraints on overall emissions. It looks at the likely consequences of more long haul flights from the UK being taken from European hub airports, and the CO2 and climate effects of this happening more ("carbon leakage"). The Airports Commission has the problem of attempting to decide on CO2 issues at a time when the future of the ETS is uncertain, and effective progress by ICAO is not likely to be swift. Therefore UK policy on aviation carbon emissions is also on hold, with even agreement on non-CO2 impacts undecided.
NATS, the body that deals with UK air traffic control, has been attempting to reduce aircraft fuel consumption and carbon emissions by getting planes to take more direct routes, and land and take off at a continuous rate. They have devised a programme they call Flight Profile Monitor, which helps them achieve this. It uses radar data to monitor the 3 dimensional flight profiles of individual aircraft and to then record which of those were achieving smooth, continuous climbs and descents. Ian Jopson from NATS claims that from a 12 month trial last year between NATS, BMi, BMi Regional, Loganair, easyJet, Ryanair and Edinburgh Airport they achieved a saving of "at least 800 tonnes of CO2 and 250 tonnes of fuel" (tiny in comparison with the UK total). This was done by analysing each flight to see where savings could be made. They got a 20% increase in continuous descent landings, to around 55%. They also got around 95% with a continuous climb rate. NATS hopes to get more savings in future.
The European Parliament has approved a proposal to suspend the inclusion of third-country flights (the 'stop-the-clock' proposal) from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Parliament had reached an agreement with Council beforehand. The decision was unanimous in Council and agreed on by over 90% of MEPs. The EU reaffirms again its position on this agreement. Rapporteur Peter Liese said "The EU will consider any further legal action only on the basis of a substantial outcome at the ICAO Assembly. This either means that ICAO finds a solution or we will continue to cover intercontinental flights in our scheme as foreseen".
ICAO continues to try and find a way to find an agreed way in which to deal with international aviation emissions. The ICAO high level group was formed last November, to provide guidance on an international approach to the problem . At ICAO’s next triennial assembly in September, governments will try to agree on the outlines of such an approach. If they do not, then the EU ETS - which has had its clock "stopped" for one year - will resume for flights into and out of Europe. Aviation accounts for so much carbon pollution that it would rank seventh in the world if it were a country, and its emissions are projected to quadruple in coming years. Something needs to be agreed urgently for the sector. However, there are continuing disagreements between countries - on whether portions of flights over oceans are counted; whether countries could charge for over-flying; how to fairly deal with emissions from countries with rapidly growing airline industries, compared to those with mature and stagnant aviation sectors; and how to create effective but low cost solutions. There is some hope of a lead from President Obama and John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State.
Three lobby groups representing businesses in favour of using markets to tackle climate change (the International Emissions Trading Association, the Climate Markets and Investment Association and the Project Developers Forum) want the UN to force airlines to offset their carbon emissions. They want this as a first step reducing their carbon footprint, and to help towards resolving the disputes at ICAO on getting some global framework on international aviation emissions. The lobby groups say getting airlines to buy and cancel carbon offsets would provide an easy and effective short term fix while a longer term plan is agreed. An ICAO panel is meeting this week to try and agree on proposals to deal with aviation carbon. It is under pressure to get an agreement at its annual meeting in September after the EU agreed to "stop the clock" on its ETS last year, for flights into and out of Europe. At present the price of carbon has collapsed and is a very cheap way for airlines to offset their emissions.
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.