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
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.
Carbon trading, one of the major European Union policies designed to combat climate change, is failing. A combination of successful lobbying by industry bodies, political interference and lack of economic growth has wrecked the scheme. It is now cheaper to pollute the atmosphere than to invest in becoming energy-efficient. At its peak, the cost of a tonne of carbon reached €30 in 2008. It was around €10 - 15 in 2011; around €7 - 9 in 2012. Earlier this month dropped below €5 for the first time, and it has now fallen to €2.81 - an all time low. For it to work, the ETS depends on the price of the units of carbon being high enough to give polluters an incentive to reduce their emissions - but the price is to low to do this. Joanna Cabello from Carbon Trade Watch said: “The ETS is not fit for purpose. It has generated windfall profits for polluting corporations, postponed the needed transition away from fossil fuels, and its unintended consequences are locking the EU into another generation of energy production based on fossil fuels." Non EU airlines may be exempted from inclusion in the ETS for one year, if this is endorsed by the EU member states - this is still to happen. If it is not endorsed they will need to submit their allowances in April, as will EU airlines. The cost of these carbon allowances is now very low indeed.
ICAO has the task of working out a mechanism by which international aviation carbon emissions can be allocated, so they can be subject to market based mechanisms (MBM), in order to control them. It is not a simple task to work out a fair mechanism for doing this, that will be acceptable to all countries. The three main options that have been identified by the MBM experts are to impose obligations based on (1). On all departing international flights from a State. (2). On all international flights carried out by operators registered in a given State. (3). On international flights on the basis of the nationality of airspace travelled through. There could then be sub-options. This article explores those options, and assesses them on their transparency/trust (it is important that third parties can independently verify carbon emissions); Simplicity (complex allocation systems are inefficient and threaten transparency); Fairness/equity (carbon obligations need to be placed on the entities that are emitting the CO2). The writer concludes that the first option, of allocating carbon to all flights departing from a State is best on all 3 criteria.
NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) produces monthly reports on global climate. Every month since April 2012 has been in the top 5 warmest, for combined global land surface and ocean surface temperatures. Between April and September 2012, in every month either the land, or the ocean, or the combined figure was in the top three ever for that month.
F Ruth Wood, Alice Bows & Kevin Anderson have produced a useful 4 page article in the current edition of Carbon Management . Their paper looks at the economics of UK aviation, and whether there are real benefits from allowing its expansion. They say that given the difficulties of carrying out robust analysis on the economics of aviation, the presumption that further aviation growth is good for the economy is at best premature and may yet prove dangerously misleading. As it stands, the debate is ongoing as to whether investment in aviation generates returns over and above similar investment levels elsewhere in the UK economy. Any resilient decision on investment must heed the carbon intensity of the activity in generating such returns and the likely upwards trajectory of a carbon price. A new runway or hub airport, "coupled with existing regional expansion plans, would facilitate passenger growth over and above that recommended by the CCC and be incommensurate with the emission constraints imposed by the EU-ETS."
The government was legally required to make a statement to Parliament by the end of December on whether it will include CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping (IAS) in the UK's climate target under the Climate Change Act. Today Ed Davey went against the advice from the Committee on Climate Change, and postponed the decision, using some ambiguous wording. His exact words were that the government "is deferring a firm decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions within the UK’s net carbon account" and that it "will revisit this issue when setting the fifth Carbon Budget (2028 - 2032)." ie. in 2016, which is after the next general election. IAS will continue to be excluded from the first 4 carbon budgets, which run until 2027. The Chancellor and many Conservatives are reluctant to do anything that can be seen as strengthening environmental regulations. If the greenhouse gases from IAS were included in the UK targets, other sectors, including electricity generation and industry, would have to make steeper cuts in their emissions. Government justifies its postponement by arguing that there is uncertainty about the EU ETS at present, and also whether there just might be progress on a global aviation carbon scheme through ICAO in 2013.