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
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.
Damian writes that the turbo-charge to the lobbying for more airport capacity comes from the prospect of short-term economic growth, sought at any cost by the government. In contrast, the issue of the heavy and fast growing impact of aviation emissions on climate change has faded like a vapour trail in the hurricane force PR campaign. The fundamental problem is that aviation is a rogue industry, darting across international borders to escape climate justice. While paying lip service to environmental concerns, its masters use the complexity of attempting to curb the carbon emissions of a global business to avoid any curbs at all. With many UK airports, particularly Stansted, very underused, the argument for new runways is shaky at best. But it is the global problem of climate change that is fundamental to UK aviation growth. So far the industry has cleverly used the global nature of the problem to avoid action. When the permissible CO2 emissions come to be divided up between flights, farming, factories and fuelling the UK, it's quite possible that soaring emissions from aviation are not seen as the top priority. At that point, any new runways will stand only as multi-billion-dollar monuments to the hubris of an industry accustomed to operating without constraints.
A PhD student at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research recently attended the public evidence session by the Airports Commission, on aviation and climate change. He writes in a blog that aviation's climate impact is a strategic question that the Airports Commission will have to try to answer – but that ultimately we as a society will have to answer. In deciding on future runway capacity the Commission will need to make a very stark decision on climate change mitigation: rely on a highly optimistic outlook on energy efficiency development, put forward by the aviation industry, to materialise; or fail the UK target under the Climate Change Act. (Or else build airport infrastructure that we will have no use for in the future - stranded assets). The Tyndall Centre says flying is one of the most carbon intensive activities you could possibly engage in (the most efficient aircraft, when fully seated, burn about one million kcal per person, per hour – try that for a workout – equating to about 100kg of CO2 added into the atmosphere). It is about the highest carbon activity known to man, on a per hour basis.
ENDS reports that Switzerland has asked for compensation from the EU on the grounds that international flights to and from its airports are unfairly included in the ETS. Switzerland's position is that if the compensation is not provided in cash, it could take the form of free emission allowances. But a number of solutions to the dispute are on the table and nothing has been agreed yet. Switzerland is unhappy at being implicitly treated as an EU member state by being excluded from the ‘stop the clock’ derogation, and EFTA countries were not included. EFTA-member Switzerland considers this to be legally unjust, particularly as member states benefit from EU ETS inclusion through revenues from auctioning emission allowances, while Switzerland does not. Swiss airlines and industrial facilities will be included in the carbon market link with the EU, likely to begin in 2015. At present, aviation is not part of the Swiss ETS.