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
Thousands of United Airline's frequent flyers and tens of thousands of its customers have urged them to stop opposing climate action and work with US and European agencies to reduce the aviation industry's impact. Signatories of an open letter to chief executive Jeff Smisek include more than 500 United Airlines premier status frequent flyers, of which 20 are members of the exclusive invitation-only Global Services programme. They are joined by around 85,000 other passengers, who have signed a petition demanding bolder climate action. This comes 2 days before United's annual shareholder meeting. They want United to stop blocking "common sense, low cost policies that would reduce airplane pollution", such as the EU's ETS. United has consistently spoken out against the EU ETS after it lost a 2011 lawsuit alongside American Airlines that challenged the legality of the ETS. United has also been accused of lobbying against US domestic action to combat airline pollution under the Clean Air Act. The open letter calls on United to work with the EPA to develop regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flights in and out of the US.
Birmingham Airport is expected to announce shortly that it is considering building a 2nd runway, and submit its plan to the Airports Commission. The airport wants to be considered as a major part of Britain's aviation plans for the future, and could be a hub for European airports. Back in 2007 the airport's plans for a second runway, in its Master Plans, were dropped in favour of the runway extension - due to open in 2014. If HS2 is built, Birmingham airport intends to benefit from it. Proposals include another terminal, incorporating HS2, as well as the runway. It is thought that the airport will say, in its submission, that the runway may not be needed for a long time, even decades as it currently caters for some 9 million passengers and could take over 25 million on its one runway. The airport's plans are reported to be supported by the West Midlands Economic Forum which will release a report expected to say that there is plenty more potential growth for Birmingham Airport as the world economy grows. MP Mark Garnier said the airport needed to capitalise on being at the heart of the motorway and potential high-speed rail networks.
The CAA has launched its consultation on the implementation of its new statutory duty to provide information. The various consultation papers can be found on the CAA’s website. The CAA says that under the Civil Aviation Act 2012, it has "new duties and powers to provide information to users of air transport to assist them in comparing services and facilities, and to the general public about the environmental impact of aviation." However, it seems that the CAA is adopting a minimalist and inadequate approach to the provision of environmental information - which is disappointing. It had been hoped that the CAA might have agreed to take its new duty to provide environmental information more seriously. However, the CAA is asking if it should develop a standardised methodology for calculating CO2 emissions - more accurate than those offered by airlines - and presenting it to consumers so they can assess flight emissions. The consultation closes on 31 August and the CAA will publish its final Statement of Policy in Winter 2013.
Carbon Market Watch reports that recent data by the European Commission reveals for the first time the choice of offsets used by airlines during the first compliance period in the EU ETS. This shows that in 2012 airlines favoured using offset credits from HFC-23 and N2O industrial gas destruction projects, credits meanwhile banned in the EU ETS since May 2013. They are just the cheapest available. Airlines used almost 11 million offsets, 5.6 million and 5.3 million coming from the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation respectively. The ten largest emitters amongst the aircraft operators in the EU, including Lufthansa, Ryanair and Easyjet, were responsible for almost half of all offsets used. Even though offsets with environmental and social benefits are readily available at cheap prices, the airlines chose the cheapest offsets which lack environmental integrity. NGOs are demanding strict quality restrictions for any future global offsetting mechanism under ICAO. Airlines should be choosing offsets with high environmental and social integrity.
IATA, the trade body comprising 240 airlines worldwide, has finally acknowledged the need for a global market–based measure (MBM) to reduce aviation's contribution to climate change. IATA called on their airline members to encourage their governments to agree at this year’s ICAO Assembly on a global carbon offsetting measure to take effect in 2020. However, IATA only endorses such a global scheme ‘as opposed to a patchwork of unilateral national and/or regional policy measures’. Environmental groups working on aviation emissions said though the IATA statement is welcome, rather than their usual position that better air traffic control, better planes and biofuels alone can solve the problem. However, it kicks the ball in the long grass, until after 2020, and sets out a string of unworkable conditions. It rules out the EU ETS as a stepping stone, as well as the raising of revenues, and impacts on traffic volume, which are inherent to any market-based measure. It also relies solely on out-of-sector offsets rather than real emissions reductions within the aviation sector itself. It merely compensates these emissions through investment in reduction projects in other sectors.
Officials from 17 countries are working with ICAO to shape an agreement acceptable to its 191 member countries to reduce aviation's carbon footprint through market measures. ICAO needs to agree on progress by its September Assembly meeting. Progress has been glacially slow over the past decade, and there appears to be no real progress now. A high-level group (HGCC) of senior officials and negotiators was set up last November to accelerate discussions and find compromises between states on MBMs, but its process has now ended. It appears that very little progress had been made and there were significant diverging views. GreenAir reports that Russia’s representative firmly rejected MBMs and even called for a reassessment of ICAO’s 2% annual fuel efficiency goal. Some ICAO representatives remained mildly optimistic that some form of an agreement could be reached by ICAO Assembly by September, with further progress towards a global scheme being achieved by 2016. It appears a number of differences between ICAO member states in key areas have not been resolved by the HGCC and time is running out for full consensus by the September Assembly - realistically it seems unlikely.
In October 2012 "Make" architects put forward outline proposals for a 4 runway Stansted. Now Stuart Blower from "Make" says: “One of the great advantages of our Stansted proposal is no aircraft need to fly over London” so reducing the aircraft noise, over London. "Make" are also saying that there is a low population density around Stansted, compared to that around Heathrow, so far fewer people would be affected. They do at least condescend to acknowledge that a huge Stansted would create more noise for residents living near the airport. At present the average journey time by rail beween Stansted and Liverpool Street is about 47 minutes, and the airport is lobbying to get this journey time cut. "Make" is proposing that the new Crossrail line should be extended to Stansted, so it would only take 25 minutes from Canary Wharf to Stansted. However, the extra cost of this Crossrail link would be some £5 billion. The anticipated cost of the "Make" airport scheme would be £18 billion, so the total would be £23 billion. Along with all the other airport and runway proposals, this scheme will be submitted by "Make" to the Airports Commission by the mid July deadline. Any plans to expand Stansted, let alone to become a monster mega-airport, will be strenuously opposed locally.
China is the world's largest emitter of CO2 (about 25%) and the US (about 17%) is the second largest. Until now neither China nor the US has made any commitment to a cut of their absolute CO2 emissions. However, now China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the agency responsible for planning the country's social and economic development, has proposed a putting a ceiling on CO2 emissions by 2016. Lord Stern considered this as very exciting news, which "should encourage all countries, and particularly the other large emitters such as the United States, to take stronger action on climate change. And it improves the prospects for a strong international treaty being agreed at the United Nations climate change summit in 2015.” Also Ed Davey believes that China's changing attitude improves prospects for a global deal in 2015. The US has still not agreed any comparable cap. China has agreed to cut its carbon intensity - the amount of CO2 produced per dollar of economic output - by about 40% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels - but that still means a large rise in their emissions.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports have submitted their responses to the Aviation Commission's discussion paper on Aviation and Climate Change. Both base their aspirations of high growth rates over coming decades on evidence from the industry body "Sustainable Aviation". Not surprisingly, both airports' submissions are attempts to justify the unjustifiable: to claim that emitting huge amounts more carbon dioxide can be achieved with no net emissions, by various probable and improbable means. They hope improvements in efficiency by airlines and air traffic control, as well as improved aircraft design, will cut their emissions. They place unrealistic hopes in "sustainable" biofuels, with Gatwick's submission saying "...by 2050, sustainable fuels could offer between 15 and 24% reduction in CO2 emissions attributable to UK aviation." Gatwick also wants considerable Government support (ie public expense) to develop biofuels for the industry. And both depend to an enormous extent on international agreements through ICAO, and systems for carbon trading that do not currently exist.
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.