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
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.
Writing in the Observer, Andrew Simms (fellow at the NEF and author of the book, "Cancel the Apocalypse") says that the UK needs to learn to live within the biosphere's thresholds, its ability to absorb our waste and replenish its productivity. We are not doing this at present, and act as if there were infinite resources available and the planet has infinite capacity to deal with our wastes. He says Britain's economy is in the grip of an Icarus complex. " It touches everything from, appropriately, the debate on aviation expansion, to our increasing dependence on fossil fuels and more." By operating within the biosphere's thresholds, "this introduces an urgent and immediate decision tree. If something like a new airport runway, or expansion of fossil fuel extraction, is going to take you closer to, or further beyond, one of the biosphere's tolerance thresholds – such as potentially runaway climate change – you branch off and do something else .... that would mean no enlargement of Heathrow, or having to identify compensatory carbon savings elsewhere. The latter is not as easy as it sounds as some official projections for expansion lead to the aviation industry using up the UK's entire fair global share of safe carbon emissions before too long."
The Scottish Government has saved more than £500,000 and shrunk its carbon footprint through cutting back on business flights. Their figures show that in the past 5 years, the Scottish government has reeduced yearly flights from 11,169 to 8,036. That is reported to mean a cut of 650 tonnes of CO2. The cuts have means an annual saving of some 31%, from £1.85 million to £1.27m. The total distance flown dropped by 23%, from nearly 8 million kilometres to 6 million kilometres. The reductions are due to the government taking part in the WWF "One in Five Challenge" to cut one flight in every five, in 5 years. The Scotland government is the first administration in the UK to successfully fulfil the WWF's challenge. WWF Scotland said: “By successfully completing WWF’s One in Five Challenge, the Scottish Government has clearly demonstrated that many business flights are unnecessary and can easily be replaced with lower-carbon alternatives such as rail travel or video conferencing." Much time is saved by public servants if they can use video-conferencing instead of flying, and that saves money. Time spent travelling by train, not air, is generally useful time in which work can be done. Scotland is aiming to cut its CO2 emissions by 42% by 2020.
Chris Huhne, writing in the Observer, says the poorer countries, that have been adversely affected by climate change, have an increasingly strong legal argument against the rich countries that have been the historical main emitters. The more certain is the attribution for blame, the more justified many developing countries will feel in protesting. There is the possibility that the victims of climate change could begin to take international legal action against the countries responsible, particularly the early industrialisers, such as Britain, Belgium and Germany, whose carbon continues to warm the planet a century after it was emitted. "Legal action is not a substitute for politics, but it could highlight the evidence in an uncomfortable way." Philippe Sands QC, the UCL professor of international law, said: "There will definitely be a case in my lifetime and probably within five to 10 years .... The only questions now are where, how and to what purpose." Huhne says: "It is not a defence that we did not know what we were doing, nor does a case have to target everyone who might have historic responsibility: countries are jointly and severally liable."
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has announced it will report to parliament in July 2014 on the impact of the Airports Commission's plans on the UK's climate commitments. The Commission's report referred to the previous recommendations of the CCC, but was opaque on how those targets could be met, if expansion is permitted. The Commission said aviation CO2 emissions could be kept at 2005 levels by 2050 if passenger demand growth is kept to 67% by 2050. [The earlier CCC advice in 2009 was maximum 60% passenger growth over 2005 level by 2050]. The CCC's David Kennedy said: "The expansion of Heathrow by one runway would stay within the 60% limit, depending on the extent of demand growth at other locations." But a second runway probably would not. The Commission itself suggested that to meet the CO2 targets, the carbon price would have to rise to £600 per tonne of CO2 by 2050, as opposed to the current price of £3 per tonne, if runway capacity was totally unconstrained. The cost of flights would have to rise substantially. The CCC said that the cost of long-haul flights would need to rise by up to £200 to curtail demand and stay within the UK's carbon emissions targets. "The higher the level of aviation emissions, the deeper the emissions cuts required in other sectors to meet the economy-wide targets".
The Aviation Environment Federation has set out three tests, to apply to the Airports Commission's Interim Report, published on 17th December 2013. These are on climate: "Does the Commission demonstrate a pathway to meet our national climate change target in a one or two new runways scenario using realistic assumptions?". On quality of life: "Does the Airports Commission only short-list options that will not worsen the quality of life for communities around airports?" and on Social Cost Benefit Analysis: "In light of extensive challenges to the assumptions of economic benefits of expansion and recommendations by a well known economic consultancy firm, does the Airports Commission commit to carrying out a Social Cost Benefit Analysis of each of the short-listed proposals over the course of 2014?" They have had a quick, initial look at the Interim Report, and set out areas on each of these where there is evidence of "positive steps" and areas of "missed opportunities". On climate AEF regret that there is uncertainty on international agreements, and that non-CO2 impacts of aviation may need to be taken into account in the future - but are not yet. On quality of life, AEF regrets that noise, air quality and local impacts have not yet been satisfactorily addressed. AEF say a clear and transparent social cost benefit analysis of each of short-listed options is needed as part of the Commission's appraisal in 2014.
France, Germany, and the UK governments have come out jointly to oppose the European Commission’s proposal to amend the aviation ETS to cover emissions from all flights within EU airspace. They want to continue to “stop the clock”, which exempts all long-haul flights. That means 75% of emissions from flights using European airports are uncontrolled or unregulated. Such a move is clearly not motivated by environmental considerations. Four NGOs (Transport & Environment, the Aviation Environment Federation, Réseau Action Climat France, and Bund (Friends of the Earth – Germany) ) have written to French president François Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and UK prime minister David Cameron to express deep concerns about their governments’ continued efforts to weaken aviation ETS. The NGOs are calling on the leaders to urgently withdraw the UK/Germany/France joint proposal and lend their government’s support to base the ETS on regional airspace. They also urge the leaders to support the European Commission's proposal to ensure enforcement measures are taken against airlines which have failed to comply with their 2012 obligations.
The prospects of carbon emissions from aviation being adequately accounted for by the EU ETS in future look bleak. The Commission has proposed changing the law so aviation emissions that take place outside EU air space are exempt. But Germany, France and the UK want to exempt foreign airlines from the ETS entirely - even for the portions of flights that take place within EU airspace - because anything less would not be politically acceptable to China, India, Russia and the United States. Some MEPs are now lining up against the Commission as well. The Parliament is still likely to be evenly split, when it comes time to vote, between those who oppose any retreat, those who support the Commission's semi-retreat, and those who support the member states' full retreat. The problem with the partial retreat is that foreign airlines (other than those from small developing countries) would still be liable for emissions taking place within EU airspace for flights landing or taking off at EU airports. Even the most stalwart European lawmakers have admitted privately that they could not hope to hold out against the combined pressure of Beijing, Washington and Airbus. The choice now lies between partial retreat and (more likely) full retreat. There will be a vote in January about the draft proposal.
The European Parliament's environment committee rapporteur, Peter Liese, wants to tighten an EU directive on aviation in the EU ETS. The German liberal MEP, who is steering the draft directive through Parliament, is backing the EC's compromise proposal, while proposing amendments to further strengthening the ETS. Peter Liese is advising the EU to revise its relevant legislation by 2016, not 2020, to put more pressure on ICAO to reach a global deal sooner rather than later. ICAO agreed in October to develop a global MBM to reduce aviation CO2 emissions, at its next general assembly in 2016. That could take effect in 2020. But European trust in the ICAO outcome is waning, as its record on action on CO2 in the past is dismal. Liese said: “....it is not at all sure that the ICAO Assembly in 2016 will really succeed to adopt clear rules for the MBM.” His draft proposal is effectively threatening the ICAO that the EU will revert to a full ETS from 2017 if global agreement is not reached. Already aviation gets special treatment in the ETS as only 15% of its permits are auctioned (higher % for other sectors) and the cap on emissions is only 5% lower, while other sectors have to reduce their emissions by 21% from their 1990 level by 2020. Environmental organisations reacted warmly.