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
In April a deal was agreed between Airbus and China that they would buy 18 long-haul A330s because of the ETS being temporarily stopped. Now Reuters reports on a letter from the Airbus Chief Executive, Fabrice Bregier to China's top aviation official shortly after the EU back-pedaled on its ETS in November, (4 days after the ETS climb down) saying AIrbus had been "very active" in supporting China's preference for a broader global system. The letter gives a glimpse into the intensity of the lobbying in the dispute, which helped persuade the EU to freeze the ETS. Behind the scenes, Airbus claimed partial credit for the EU climb-down and cheered what its chief executive described to Beijing as "joint efforts" to limit damage to Chinese airlines. Bregier said "Through our joint efforts, we have managed to ensure that Chinese airlines are not unfairly impacted by the scheme as previously planned." Airbus needs certainty on its future plane sales far in advance, in order to order parts. Reuters says more valuable deals for Airbus from the Chinese remain on hold as China awaits the outcome of international talks on aviation carbon emissions.
Following the European Parliament’s vote approving the Commission’s proposal to “Stop the Clock”, Conservative MEP Peter Liese, aviation EU ETS and “Stop the Clock” Rapporteur, hosted a public briefing for MEPs in Brussels on 24th April to review progress of the ICAO High Level Group on Climate Change (HGCC) formation. The conference was attended by Jos Delbeke (Director–General DG Clima), Prof David Lee (Manchester University), IATA’s Paul Steele and Green MEP Satu Hassi. T&E have written a report on the meeting. Unless things changed, and ICAO made rapid progress leading to a constructive agreement on both the need for a global market-based mechanism (MBM) to address international aviation emissions and for a Framework to govern national/regional schemes such as the EU ETS , then the original aviation Directive would “snap back” automatically next January. The Directive wouldn’t be amended “because of pressure from China, the US or Airbus”. Jos Delbeke insisted that if the whole problem couldn’t be solved now it couldn’t be solved later and, consequently, the credibility of ICAO’s global goals was squarely on the table.
In the European Parliament, MEPs have voted narrowly to reject plans to bolster the price of carbon in the EU ETS by delaying or 'backloading' the sale of 900 million carbon allowances, prompting accusations that they have badly dented the bloc's reputation as a global leader in the fight against climate change. The proposals were defeated in by 334-315, forcing the plan to return to the committee stage. It is now expected that the price of carbon allowances will hit record lows in the next few days as the market responds to confirmation that short to medium-term action is unlikely to be taken to address the chronic oversupply of carbon allowances in the market. Trading after the vote saw the price of EU allowances (EUAs) fall to a new record low of €2.63 a tonne. The EC proposals to remove the 900 million allowances, in order to boost the price, were defeated by a coalition of mainly centre-right MEPs (saying it would be interference with the market-based mechanism and could lead to higher energy bills in some markets) and also climate sceptic MEPs (some UK Conservatives), who have rejected any steps to try and tackle climate change.
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence, according to an analysis by scientists, at the University of Reading, of the impact of global warming on weather systems over the next 40 years. The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The increasing clear air turbulence results from the impact of climate change on the jet streams, which are at the altitude at which airliners fly. The jet streams are driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. More turbulence will cause more injuries to passengers and aircrew every year, as well as delays and damage to planes. There is an estimate of this costing some £100m each year. The Reading study indicated the frequency of turbulence on trans-Atlantic flights will double by 2050 and its intensity increase by 10-40%. Rerouting flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence could increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices. Ironic. Aviation helps drive climate change - and gets some of its adverse impacts.
AEF (the Aviation Environment Federation) has commented on the discussion paper published by the Airports Commission, on aviation and climate change. AEF notes that the paper appears keen for the UK to avoid disadvantaging itself economically through constraints on airport capacity. The paper also acknowledges that there have also been problems with the effectiveness of EU ETS in recent years due to over-supply of credits and that the ETS is currently partly suspended. The paper also appreciates that if UK aviation expands above its 2005 level, this would require "more challenging reductions" in other sectors of the UK economy. AEF comments that even with constraints on aviation growth from capacity constraints, taxes and inclusion in the ETS, "forecast demand growth remains significantly higher than the level compatible with climate targets. In other words, if we want to meet these targets, new measures should be considered for constraining emissions, and unconstrained aviation growth with new runways should be out of the question."
Airlines in Europe such as EasyJet and Ryanair, which almost entirely fly within Europe, continue to need to buy carbon permits through the EU Emissions Trading System. The ETS has been temporarily suspended this year ("stopping the clock") for flights to and from Europe. For intra-EU flights, the ETS means airlines need to buy 15% of the carbon permits they need, and the cap for 2012 was for 97% of their average emissions between 2004 - 2006. This falls to 95% for 2013 and future years. Therefore airlines that have grown significantly since 2004 -6 such as Ryanair and EasyJet have to pay more than airlines that have barely grown, or shrunk their emissions since then (the older legacy airlines). It seem Ryanair emitted about 34% more carbon in 2012 and so has a shortfall of 1.9 million tons CO2 which would cost it €8.4 million based on a price of €4.44 a metric ton. Easyjet's emissions were 25% above, so their shortage last year would amount to about 910,000 tons (costing about €4 million).
The Airports Commission has published its 3rd discussion paper, on Aviation and Climate Change, through which it will assemble advice and opinion on which to base its airport decisions. The consultation period lasts till 17th May. In a thoughtful document, covering a wide range of issues in relation to aviation and climate change, it sets out the usual range of issues (carbon emissions, role of international negotiations though the EU ETS and ICAO, the role of biofuels in future, role of operational improvements, impact of aviation's non-CO2 impacts) but it also looks at the effect of both carbon constraints on future aviation growth and the effect of UK airport capacity constraints on overall emissions. It looks at the likely consequences of more long haul flights from the UK being taken from European hub airports, and the CO2 and climate effects of this happening more ("carbon leakage"). The Airports Commission has the problem of attempting to decide on CO2 issues at a time when the future of the ETS is uncertain, and effective progress by ICAO is not likely to be swift. Therefore UK policy on aviation carbon emissions is also on hold, with even agreement on non-CO2 impacts undecided.
NATS, the body that deals with UK air traffic control, has been attempting to reduce aircraft fuel consumption and carbon emissions by getting planes to take more direct routes, and land and take off at a continuous rate. They have devised a programme they call Flight Profile Monitor, which helps them achieve this. It uses radar data to monitor the 3 dimensional flight profiles of individual aircraft and to then record which of those were achieving smooth, continuous climbs and descents. Ian Jopson from NATS claims that from a 12 month trial last year between NATS, BMi, BMi Regional, Loganair, easyJet, Ryanair and Edinburgh Airport they achieved a saving of "at least 800 tonnes of CO2 and 250 tonnes of fuel" (tiny in comparison with the UK total). This was done by analysing each flight to see where savings could be made. They got a 20% increase in continuous descent landings, to around 55%. They also got around 95% with a continuous climb rate. NATS hopes to get more savings in future.
The European Parliament has approved a proposal to suspend the inclusion of third-country flights (the 'stop-the-clock' proposal) from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Parliament had reached an agreement with Council beforehand. The decision was unanimous in Council and agreed on by over 90% of MEPs. The EU reaffirms again its position on this agreement. Rapporteur Peter Liese said "The EU will consider any further legal action only on the basis of a substantial outcome at the ICAO Assembly. This either means that ICAO finds a solution or we will continue to cover intercontinental flights in our scheme as foreseen".
ICAO continues to try and find a way to find an agreed way in which to deal with international aviation emissions. The ICAO high level group was formed last November, to provide guidance on an international approach to the problem . At ICAO’s next triennial assembly in September, governments will try to agree on the outlines of such an approach. If they do not, then the EU ETS - which has had its clock "stopped" for one year - will resume for flights into and out of Europe. Aviation accounts for so much carbon pollution that it would rank seventh in the world if it were a country, and its emissions are projected to quadruple in coming years. Something needs to be agreed urgently for the sector. However, there are continuing disagreements between countries - on whether portions of flights over oceans are counted; whether countries could charge for over-flying; how to fairly deal with emissions from countries with rapidly growing airline industries, compared to those with mature and stagnant aviation sectors; and how to create effective but low cost solutions. There is some hope of a lead from President Obama and John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State.