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
Dave Southgate is an Australian aviation expert, with many years of experience of working on the measurement of aviation emissions. He has produced a new e-book, on the carbon footprint of global scheduled domestic and international passenger flights in 2012. It contains detailed information covering some 85% of global aviation emissions, and gives some interesting insights. For the UK, domestic flights are a very much smaller proportion than in larger countries. However, Heathrow remains by a very large margin the airport with the largest carbon emissions of any worldwide, about 16,584 thousand tonnes of CO2 per year, with Los Angeles in second place with some 11,866 thousand tonnes. The book also shows the UK ranks 9th in the world for carbon emissions per capita from aviation, with (of European countries) Switzerland in 6th place, the Netherlands in 8th place, far above Germany (12th) and France (13th), with the highest per capita aviation emissions being Qatar, UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong, Australia and USA. By total emissions per airline, Lufthansa and British Airways are almost the same, ranked 5th and 6th, with Air France ranked 8th and Ryanair ranked 20th.
A long and comprehensive piece in Aviation Week, discusses the likely outcomes from the ICAO Assemby, on the issue of aviation carbon emissions. The most likely scheme to be agreed in the next two weeks is for aircraft emissions during the part of the flight in EU airspace (including Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to be taxed. There are some technical challenges in implementing it. It would not include overflights. Whether ICAO's 191 contracting states will support the deal at the Assembly is not known, but according to one commentator: “it seems unlikely that delegates will wish to reopen substantive debate on such a hard-won consensus text.” However there are concerns about the impact of this tax on European airlines. The Federal Association of German Aviation and Space Industry, of which Lufthansa is a founding member, objects to the compromise, claiming it represents “a massive distortion of competition for European airlines.” The European Low Fares Airline Association also says it is discriminatory. An effective market based measure agreed globally still seems a very long way from agreement.
The Assembly of ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) takes place in Montreal between 24th September and 4th October. A decision on how to deal with global aviation emissions needs to be taken - if aviation globally was a country, it would rank 7th highest, after Germany. It is widely acknowledged that a market based measure (MBM) would be the most effective mechanism through which to do this. James Lees, from the Aviation Environment Federation, and Bill Hemmings, from Transport & Environment, writing in GreenAir online, say the solution to aviation’s runaway emissions is a "global MBM decided on now and to be introduced by 2016. It is no longer an option for continued disagreement in ICAO to prevent action on aviation’s contribution to climate change. At a time when President Obama has said so much about leading the way [on climate], the White House must finally ensure that the US becomes the global leader for action at the ICAO Assembly. It is time for everybody to take responsibility, stop shielding such a high emitting industry and act...now."
TUI Travel, which owns six European leisure airlines including Thomson Airways and TUIfly, has called for an industry standard on reporting fuel and carbon efficiency for UK airlines. TUI says a set of common metrics to report airline carbon emissions would ensure greater transparency so customers can make informed decisions about which airlines to choose. TUI Travel currently reports its airlines’ carbon emissions on a per revenue passenger kilometre (gCO2/RPK) basis, a common standard but, it points out, not yet the standard unit of measurement used by all airlines to communicate their efficiency, and it accuses some airlines of failing to measure or report their carbon emissions. New carbon reporting legislation has been announced by the UK government for the largest companies and the UK Civil Aviation Authority has been tasked with communicating the environmental impact of aviation.
The RSPB had an email action, to ask people to write to Sir Howard Davies, the Chairman of the Airports Commission, to remind him of the biodiversity, habitat and climate change implications of his committee's decisions on airports. Proposals to build new airports or expand existing ones could have devastating impacts on some of our most vulnerable wildlife and habitats, and our ability to tackle climate change. The Thames estuary is under threat from airport development, and is a globally recognised and protected area as it is a vital home for wildlife, including hundreds of thousands of wintering wildfowl and wading birds. Climate change is the greatest threat to wildlife and biodiversity, and carbon emissions from aviation are increasing rapidly. The RSPB believes there should be no further aviation expansion unless the Government can demonstrate how such expansion can take place within the UK’s legally binding climate change limits. The email action closed at the end of September, at the closing date for submissions.
The EU has agreed to a deal to scale back its inclusion of aviation in the ETS as UN negotiators at ICAO agreed at talks in Montreal to only include emissions from flights over European airspace. This is a substantial scaling down of the initial plan to include all flights to and from Europe. The ICAO deal, which still needs to be signed off by a full meeting ending October 4th and by EU lawmakers, was immediately criticised by green groups. ICAO will delay implementing any more effective mechanism for another 7 years. The deal falls short of the worldwide pact the EU had hoped for in November 2012 when it exempted foreign flights for one year ("stopping the clock") to give ICAO more time to develop a global deal. At present airlines need only surrender carbon permits for flights within the EU, so requiring permits for the miles in European airspace is a slight improvement. However, it means that for a long haul flight to or from the EU, most of the carbon is not included in the ETS. Peter Liese, a senior member of the EU Parliament, said "It is far from an ideal solution... (but) I'm really concerned that if we just oppose what is on the table then we may see a total collapse of our effort." .
A global deal to reduce emissions from the aviation industry is looking increasingly unlikely to be agreed at the ICAO international negotiations taking place next week in Montreal. The text is still in its draft stage, and will be debated by the ICAO Council on the 4 September before being presented to the General Assembly on the 24th. It proposes that states should work towards the development of a market based mechanism (MBM) to reduce emissions. But in a move branded by NGOs as “disappointing” and promising little except more talk and delay, it states that no decision will be taken until the 39th General Assembly in 2016 – one year after countries are set to cement a binding UN climate agreement in Paris. The document requests the ICAO Council to “make a recommendation on a global MBM scheme that addresses key design elements … and the mechanisms for the implementation of the scheme from 2020.” There has been little action to reduce the aviation sector’s growing greenhouse gas emissions since ICAO was assigned the task under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. This additional delay is likely to be seen as another victory for the airline industry.
A new scientific report produced by CATE (Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Air Transport and Environment) called “Mitigating future aviation CO2 emissions – timing is everything” shows that the real climate benefit of any action to cut aviation's carbon emissions depends on the cumulative emission reductions between now and a future date, and not just on achieving a certain amount of emission reductions by a specific year (as ICAO has focused on). This is because CO2 has a long lifetime so concentration levels are determined by cumulative emissions over time. Early reductions result in a lower emissions trajectory than equivalent annual savings made at a later date. This highlights the critical importance of ICAO taking early action to cut emissions quickly, and increases the pressure on ICAO not to defer a decision on the adoption of a market-based measure (MBM). The report finds that biofuels are not effective as a solution to the aviation emissions problem, but that improvements in technology and operational improvements offered the second best mitigation potential as a single measure.
A new report has found that meeting the aviation industry’s "carbon-neutral growth" target from 2020 could add as little as $1.50 to $2 to the price of a transatlantic one-way ticket in 2030. Aviation intends to make its growth "carbon neutral" buy buying carbon offsets from other sectors, rather than making actual cuts in the sector's own CO2 emissions. The report is by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF - Guy Turner, Chief Economist) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF - Annie Petsonk, International Counsel). Their analysis shows that surplus offset credits already available in the world’s carbon trading systems could, in principle, meet just under 50% of the industry’s potential need for the 2020 to 2050 period. The cost of carbon credits to the aviation industry would represent less than 0.5% of international aviation revenue, or roughly 25% to 33% of what airlines bring in from ancillary revenues such as checked bags and selling snacks. Under a moderate scenario for aviation growth, the amount of carbon credits needed range is 8 to 14 billion tonnes, over the period 2020 - 2050.
Peter Liese, a key member of the European Parliament from Germany, who has led Europe's efforts to curb aviation CO2 emissions, has urged Barack Obama to live up to his sweeping promises to act on climate change, and help advance stalled negotiations for a global aviation deal. He said Obama must act fast to avoid a trade war over the battle caused by the EU ETS (Emissions Trading System) . Liese, speaking after meetings with administration officials in Washington this week, said he feared efforts to reach a global deal on aviation carbon had stalled. He thought there was a 50% chance that the ICAO talks would fail to produce a deal by its early September meetings, triggering a transatlantic trade and diplomatic crisis. "For me and I think for the European parliament this is a test case: how serious is Obama on climate change? Is it only a speech, or is it serious? " Liese said. He said he was disappointed with the state department's position in the aviation talks, saying it lagged behind Obama's sweeping climate change speech last month.