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
If EU governments have kept their word, letters should now be landing on the doormats of the airlines across the world who haven’t complied with the ETS. This last minute notice of penalties for non-compliant airlines is a desperate last minute attempt to show that EU laws will be applied when airlines operate in Europe. Sandbag say that though the EU data is sketchy, a number of airlines, including China Eastern and Air India, were missing from EU records, despite the law saying they should pay for their CO2 when they flew from one EU airport to another (the UK won't currently confirm who isn't compliant). Now the proposals for a change to the scheme are in trialogue discussion between the three pillars of the EU government, the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. MEP Peter Liese, who is leading the ETS proposals, has said he is willing to compromise further, and allow the current limited scheme to continue for 2 more years. This unsatisfactory and weak position suits EU member states afraid of confrontation or trade wars with China, India etc. Peter Liese wants EU member states to agree that the ETS should revert to full coverage (not only within Europe as at present) in 2016.
Speaking in London, Christine Lagarde - Head of the International Monetary Fund - said a deal by the UN on emissions deal, and cuts in subsidies to fossil fuels are global priorities. She said the planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business. She said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world. People should pay for the climate damage - the carbon emissions - they cause. “We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale. Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.” Describing the predicted consequences of climate change as “merciless”, she said leaders had to engage in what she called a “new multilateralism”, rekindling the “Bretton Woods spirit” which saw the creation of the IMF in 1945. She said investment in poorer regions was essential to ensure they can cope with a range of extreme weather caused by climate change.
MEPs on the Environment Committee have stood up to political pressure from member states and industry by voting to endorse the European Commission’s proposal for an aviation ETS covering all of Europe’s airspace. Although the proposal regulates only 35% of airline emissions compared to the original EU ETS, it crucially captures a portion of long-haul flights – where most of aviation’s greenhouse gases originate. The proposal would see an end to a restricted ETS covering just intra-EU flights. Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport & Environment, said: “By backing coverage of airspace, MEPs are ensuring the system captures emissions from all flights – both intra-Europe and long-haul over European territory. The decision also reinforces EU sovereignty, something a number of member states seem reluctant to uphold ...Any EU measure to fight climate change needs to be enforced. It is untenable that France, Germany and the UK are failing to enforce the 2012 legislation. This should be a precondition before talks between Parliament and Council members on agreeing changes to the ETS.” .
Euractiv reports that members of the European Parliament and industry representatives say the ETS for aviation is rapidly turning into a “political question of the EU’s influence on the world stage”. There will be a key vote by the European Parliament's environment committee on 30th January. The Parliament's rapporteur on aviation ETS, Peter Liese MEP, has threatened to block the EU's efforts to amend the existing legislation if the EC does not mention which countries have undermined the ETS so far. There remain foreign carriers operating intra-EU flights without paying their ETS share, including Air China (Athens - Munich) and China Eastern (Frankfurt - Hamburg) and even intra-German ones. Airbus stakeholder states – the UK, France and Germany – have surrendered to “economic blackmail” from China, which threatened to no longer buy Airbus planes if the EU carried on with its legislation. Peter Liese is pushing the EC to shorten its current 2020 deadline and revert to a full-scope ETS from 2016, if no agreement on global measures is found in ICAO. T&E commented that "Pursuing anything less than coverage of emissions in EU airspace is environmentally unacceptable. At the same time, not enforcing the existing ETS sends a clear signal to third countries that EU sovereignty doesn't matter and it won't advance efforts to secure agreement on global measures either."
The European Commission has announced new energy and climate targets for the EU. It has 3 current targets - on (1) greenhouse gases, (2) renewable energy, and (3) energy efficiency - to see it through to 2020. The current announcement is about what the EU would do to 2030. Carbon Brief gives a handy short summary of the key points. (1) The target for cutting EU carbon (excluding international aviation and shipping, and embodied carbon in imports) is for a 40% cut by 2030. This will have to be done by the member states' cutting emissions at home, instead of funding projects abroad as offsets. This target is weaker than many green campaigners had called for, but stronger than the alternatives that some member states and commissioners were championing right to the final stages of the negotiations. The 40% is not ambitious, but it might be considered to be broadly in line with the EU's longer term target to reduce emissions by 80% of their 1990 level by 2050. However it is not enough to help prevent the world warming by 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels - the minimum level of ambition agreed by 192 countries in 1992. Others suggest the level should be a 55% cut, or more, by 2050 to make a serious contribution. Aviation needs to play its part in this, rather than being allowed to increase its carbon emissions.
German centre-right MEP Peter Liese, the European Parliament’s environment committee rapporteur, wants the European Parliament to refuse to ratify proposed changes to the law on the ETS unless member states start enforcing the existing law. He is supported in this by both the environmental groups, who want better control of aviation carbon emissions, and from a very different perspective, the European Low Fare Airlines Association, which fears that if non-EU airlines are not forced to pay for carbon permits, while EU airlines are, they will be at a competitive disadvantage. Since the freeze ("stop the clock") ended in October, the Commission proposed to change the legislation so that only the portions of flights taking place within EU airspace would be charged. But France, Germany and the UK are pushing to exempt until 2016 all emissions from any flight that enters or leaves EU airspace. At present the EU is not charging foreign airlines for the flights they operate within EU airspace. These flights are mostly American and Chinese. Liese wants the Parliament to withhold its backing until the regulators start punishing the foreign airlines for not paying their ETS charges. And to do it before May - Germany and France don't want to do this.
In a blog for Business Green, James Murray writes on the important - and generally ignored - topic of human myopia when it comes to considering future generations, and what the impact of our current actions will be on them. Most climate models indicate that by 2100 the global temperature may be 4-6C higher than now. "But the world will not end in 2100. Unless we get a handle on climate change in the next few decades we risk bequeathing the next century environmental challenges so great they will make our current problems look like the Garden of Eden. " "Projections for the 22nd Century based on business as normal emissions suggest that climate change and ocean acidification could leave generations just a few decades hence with a biosphere only science fiction directors would recognise. Does any of this matter? None of us will be around to see it and we all know that economists discount future generations." Yes, it does matter. Taking a relaxed approach to climate change and arguing "something will turn up to address the problem" is not enough. We cannot blindly take the view that the current generation must take primacy.
At the first Prime Ministers' Questions of the New Year, David Cameron revealed that he "very much suspects" increased incidents of extreme weather are linked to climate change. In comments that may not please his climate sceptic Conservative colleagues, the Prime Minister acknowledged that climate change was likely to be contributing to an increase in extreme weather experienced by the UK and underlined his commitment to the Climate Change Act and the government's Green Investment Bank. Responding to a question from Lib Dem President Tim Farron in which he asserted that there was "no doubt" climate change was having some impact on extreme weather and urged Cameron to commit to climate change targets, the Prime Minister stopped short of confirming that he would block any changes to the current fourth carbon budget when it is reviewed this year. But he insisted the government was "committed to carbon reduction targets" and had taken steps to ensure that they are met, such as the launch of the Green Investment Bank. Earlier the shadow Environment team implied that the Secretary of State Owen Patterson's well-documented climate scepticism could undermine the UK's ability to respond to worsening extreme weather impacts.
The world’s addiction to flying shows no signs of slowing, despite increasing concerns over the industry’s impact on climate change. New data from the Worldwatch Institute shows the number of people taking flights in 2012 hit 2,957 million, a 4.7% increase on 2011. That’s triple the number of people flying in 1986. Boeing predicts world passenger numbers and air cargo traffic will rise 5% annually until 2032. The“insatiable” desire for air travel is bad news for climate change, as growth in the sector is faster than fuel efficiency improvements - giving a large net increase in CO2 emissions each year. In 2012, aviation produced 689 million tonnes of CO2, or around 2% of the global total. A 2009 paper in the Atmospheric Environment journal calculated air travel was responsible for 4.9% of man-made climate change. As their affluence increases,people travel more and more. International flights are responsible for the majority of air miles travelled. In 2012, while only 39% of passengers were on international flights, they accounted for 62% of the overall distance travelled. The world's aircraft fleet is expected to grow to 36,500 carriers by 2032, says Airbus, or to more than 41,000, says rival Boeing.
Connie writes that one of the major dilemmas facing political leaders across the world today is how to combine economic prosperity with bold climate action. It is obvious that climate policy-makers must anticipate the economic impacts of climate policies. Anything else would be irresponsible. Everybody agrees to this elementary reasoning. But, she says, how come it is not equally elementary to all that economic policy-makers must anticipate the climate impacts of their proposed economic policies? Global economic leaders are finally beginning to understand that, beyond the global economic crisis, the world is experiencing a climate crisis. And none can be resolved without addressing the other. In January the European Commission will propose a new climate and energy framework for 2030. Europe's ambition will be seen by many countries as a benchmark, both in terms of timing and ambition, and an important driver in securing ambition for the domestic preparations of other countries and, as a result, for the 2015 agreement in Paris. The summit of world leaders on climate change that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host in September 2014 will be a crucial milestone on the road to Paris.