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
Barack Obama has signed a law excluding US airlines from the ETS, which is a blow to hopes for stronger climate action during the president's 2nd term. Environmental campaigners had urged him to veto the aviation bill as a sign of his commitment to fighting climate change. The White House said in a statement Obama still saw climate change as a priority but that he disagreed with subjecting US and other foreign airlines to the ETS. They said the Obama administration would work to resolve airline emissions through the ICAO. But this is disappointing to European officials and to campaigners in the US who had urged Obama to veto the bill. After winning re-election Obama listed climate change as one of the three main challenges facing the country. Connie Hedegaard tweeted: Aviation ETS: So far the re-elected Pres. #Obama #climate policies look EXACTLY as in first term. Wonder when we'll see the announced change?"
The Doha talks are taking place at present, on global carbon emissions. The UN has confirmed that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to record levels last year, reinforcing scientists' warnings that the world is on course for dangerous global warming. TravelMole reports that this will cause more pressure to minimize tourism-related carbon emissions - principally from air travel and accommodation. Global warming will also threaten tourism destinations - principally small islands, delta destinations and winter sports destinations. Global CO2 was at 391 ppm in October, compared to the pre-industrial era level of 280 ppm. About 375bn tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial era in 1750, and much of it remains there for centuries. Temperatures have already risen 0.8 C and stopping an increase of over 2C is not likely. The carbon emissions from global aviation are around 5% of anthropogenic climate change, taking into account the non-CO2 impacts. World Tourism Organisation says tourism accounts for about half of all global air passengers
One step forward, two steps back ... A top official at the UN's ICAO - Secretary General Raymond Benjamin - has said he welcomed the EU's suspension of its ETS in order to give ICAO time to thrash out a plan to reduce the aviation's carbon footprint globally. On Monday the EU put its ETS scheme on hold for a year as ICAO had said it would set up a committee to work through difficult political issues that are blocking its progress, such as how to deal fairly with developing nations. Benjamin now says he cannot rule out further delays in ICAO's work. Benjamin said in June that he believed the agency would narrow down the three "market-based measures" still being considered and put its weight behind a single option by March 2013. But now he cannot guarantee this would happen before next fall's ICAO general assembly in Montreal in November 2013. Announcing the one year delay in ETS, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said of ICAO: "If this exercise does not deliver - and I hope it does - then needless to say we are back to where we are today with the EU ETS - automatically." Possible schemes by ICAO are a cap and trade scheme, global carbon offsets, and offsetting with a revenue-generating mechanism.
Less than 48 hours after the EU had announced it was suspending the inclusion of flights to and from Europe from the EU ETS, the US House approved a Senate version of a bipartisan bill that aims to prevent US aircraft operators from complying with the EU legislation. The bill authorises the Secretary of Transportation to prohibit compliance if deemed in the public interest. It now goes to the President for signature. An amendment by the Senate calls for pursuance through ICAO of a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions. The final passing of the EU ETS prohibition bill by Congress has been welcomed by US airline and aviation representatives, although US NGOs said the bill was superfluous and counterproductive. There is strong feeling in the US that the EU does not have sovereignty in the US and has no right to levy taxes on it. A spokesman for Connie Hedegaard said it is now up to the US to show that they are serious about pushing for a global solution.
A day before is set to clear a bill to shield US airlines from the ETS, the Europeans capitulated in announcing a one year delay to the ETS. If a solution can’t be reached through ICAO by November 2013, then the EC says “we are back to where we are today with the EU ETS. Automatically.” The Democratic-led Senate passed the measure in September. On 13th November the House of Representatives, which is led by Republicans, is scheduled to clear the bill, but many, especially in the airline industry, viewed it more as leverage to get the EU to pull back its mandate. The airline industry had been pressing the White House to do more than just negotiate at ICAO — it had wanted the US to open a formal dispute with the EU over the mandate, known as article 84. When asked if the airline industry will continue to press the government to initiate article 84 even after the EU announcement, Airlines for America (A4A) said “Since the EU has insisted on keeping the threat of reimposing an illegal tax on US passengers and carriers, A4A will continue to urge that the US remain vigilant to ensure that all efforts are focused on finding a global solution through ICAO.”
The formal proposal, which will likely be released in a few weeks, will allow airlines to surrender CO2 allowances by April 2014 and not by April 2013, as originally foreseen. With the new announcement by the EC today, in delaying implementation of the ETS, a press release from Transport & Environment in Brussels (speaking for green NGOs involved in aviation, such as the Aviation Environment Federation, and WWF UK) says it is vital that the one-year deferral does not end up as a definitive one. This is definitely a deferral rather than a suspension - the aviation industry will lobby very hard on this, trying to get it made permanent. The green NGOs think today’s concession is bigger than necessary, because it is more than commensurate with the limited progress made in last Friday’s ICAO Council meeting towards a global market-based mechanism (MBM) to address greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation. The environmental groups say no excuse is left for ICAO not to come up with a concrete and global measure at its triennial assembly in September-October 2013.
The EU has announced that it will delay the date by which airlines have to pay for their emissions on flights to and from Europe. This is very disappointing news. However, they will only delay until there is progress by ICAO on producing a global deal on aviation emissions. If there is not adequate progress by ICAO when it meets in November 2013, the EU ETS will continue to include international aviation, as it does now. Flights within Europe remain in the ETS as before - whether by EU airlines or non-EU airlines - the change is only for flights to and from the EU. Connie Hedegaard, announcing the change, said EU member states will still have to formally endorse the Commission's exemption for non-EU carriers. The change has occurred because of intense pressure from countries such as the USA, India and China - and lobbying from Airbus on fears the ETS is causing it to lose plane sales. China and India have far more to lose than us if they start a trade war, because they export far more to us than we export there. Nonetheless, the EU and UK have meekly conceded to blackmail from China instead of doing the right thing. We understand that David Cameron was lobbying the EU to defer ETS. It demonstrates, yet again, the UK and EU leaders prefer to sacrifice action on climate change in favour of narrow business interests. The EC has repeatedly said it only included aviation in the ETS after more than a decade of inaction at the ICAO. Unfortunately the concessions made by the EC are much larger than required, and there is no expectation that ICAO will come up with anything worthwhile in the next year - but on the positive side, the EC can no longer be accused of not doing anything in response to voluble continuing criticism over its approach to aviation and climate change.
European Commission plans to force airlines to buy carbon permits have been put on hold, heading off the threat of a global aviation trade war. Commissioner Hedegaard said: "To create a positive atmosphere, we have agreed to stop the clock”. She also set ICAO 12 month to come up with its own scheme, warning the EU would resurrect its own plans if it failed to do so. A spokesman for WWF UK added: “The Commission’s move on aviation in the ETS buys some time for ICAO, who were arguably galvanised into action by the EU in the first place after years of foot-dragging on this issue. Now it’s up to other countries which have been opposing action on tackling the climate impacts of aviation, especially the United States, to show that they are serious about pushing for a global solution. This is a great chance for ICAO members to show leadership and push for a global agreement on this issue.”
The Council meeting of ICAO has agreed on some important issues relating to so-called ‘market based measures’ (MBMs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation. These recognise that global MBMs are technically feasible, while in the past there have been objections. In the past there has been insufficient political will, but now the decisions have moved to a political level. Tim Johnson, Director of Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) said: “ICAO has shown that with coordinated effort the technical issues can be resolved. Similar and rapid effort is now required to resolve the political questions in a spirit of fairness and equity while remembering that addressing aviation’s climate change impacts is a necessity. Everyone says a global approach is the way to go – now it’s time to match these words with deeds." ICAO will now set up a High Level Group which will make proposals on an MBM as well as a so-called ‘framework’ for MBMs on how countries would implement them. These proposals will be put to the triennial Assembly in September 2013.
The ICAO meeting on 9th November is their last chance to see meaningful action on controlling CO2 emissions from international aviation this decade. ICAO has been under particular pressure to act ever since its 2004 decision not to develop a global measure to curb aviation greenhouse gases opened the way for the EU to move regionally by including aviation in its ETS. Opponents of the ETS say a global solution through ICAO is needed, but the USA and others have repeatedly blocked all possible options. A year ago the ICAO Secretary General pushed publicly for ICAO to agree a proposal for global action by March 2013. That deadline won’t be met but there is still a chance over the next 3 months that ICAO’s Council can finalise a proposal in March 2013 to be approved at its triennial meeting in September 2013. However, to achieve this, ICAO’s Council needs to agree this week on a much accelerated work plan and resolve the many pending political questions which prevent substantive progress. President Obama’s re-election presents the US with a real opportunity to lead.