International shipping and international aviation are the two sectors omitted from the Paris Agreement. But now the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed on an initial strategy to decarbonise international shipping and reduce CO2 emissions from ships by at least 50% by 2050. The agreement keeps a window open for the sector to help meet the Paris climate goals. Though a welcome first step, the IMO must now build on the agreed minimum target of 50% reductions in subsequent reviews to comply with its fair share of emissions under the Paris Agreement. Aviation still only intends to offset the carbon emissions from its anticipated fast future growth, rather than actually reduce them. Kelsey Perlman, speaking for the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) said: “Today’s outcome puts international shipping ahead of aviation … [it] should light a fire under ICAO, which has been dragging its feet for over a decade on a vision for long-term decarbonization, arriving only at the mid-term emissions target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 levels. The agreement on shipping emissions today should make people question whether aviation’s emissions should be allowed to grow with no concrete plan to decarbonize.”
IMO: Shipping sector gets on board to tackle climate change but faster near-term action needed to meet Paris climate goals
This plan serves as a welcome first step to phase out emissions from the sector, but the IMO must now build on the agreed minimum target of 50% reductions in subsequent reviews of the strategy to comply with its fair share of emissions under the Paris Agreement. It must commit to the rapid and strong implementation of near-term measures, which will be discussed later this year, to stay on track with the Paris climate goals to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Shipping accounts for 2% of global emissions and it is time the IMO got on board with the rest of the world to seriously tackle climate change.
Members and partners of the Climate Action Network reacted to the outcome:
Some of the many quotations from the article:
Kelsey Perlman on behalf of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) said: “Today’s outcome puts international shipping ahead of aviation, short of the type of ambition required by the Paris Agreement, but with a clear, long-term commitment to decarbonize in-sector and peak emissions as soon as possible. This decision should light a fire under ICAO, which has been dragging its feet for over a decade on a vision for long-term decarbonization, arriving only at the mid-term emissions target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 levels. The agreement on shipping emissions today should make people question whether aviation’s emissions should be allowed to grow with no concrete plan to decarbonize.”
Bill Hemmings, shipping director, Transport & Environment, said: “The IMO should and could have gone a lot further but for the dogmatic opposition of some countries led by Brazil, Panama, Saudi Arabia. Scant attention was paid to US opposition. So this decision puts shipping on a promising track. It has now officially bought into the concept of decarbonisation and the need to deliver in-sector emission reductions, which is central to fulfilling the Paris agreement.”
Manfred Treber, senior adviser climate/transport, Germanwatch said: “The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 had stated that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) should pursue the limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from international aviation, the IMO should do this for emissions from marine bunker fuels.
It took 19 years until ICAO agreed on CORSIA as a first global instrument to begin to fulfil this task. Now after 21 years – meanwhile the Paris Agreement had been adopted and has entered into force – we welcome that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is joining the world to combat climate change. We all know that their step is by far not sufficient to bring us close to the goals of the Paris Agreement with net zero emissions in the second part of this century.”
Aoife O’Leary, legal analyst, Environmental Defense Fund Europe said: “The shipping sector’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target represents an important step forward. The IMO has been talking about climate change for twenty years but the strategy agreed this week marks the beginning of a focused debate about the policies and measures that will help it to modernise and regain the status of a clean and efficient mode of transport. The target falls short on ambition but should be sufficient to drive policy development and consequently investment in clean fuels and technology. EDF remains committed to working with stakeholders including those in the industry to find the ways that will work in order to peak shipping emissions as soon as possible.”
For all the comments, see
Global shipping in ‘historic’ climate deal
By David Shukman (BBC) Science editor
13 April 2018
The global shipping industry has for the first time agreed to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.
The move comes after talks all week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.
Shippings has previously been excluded from climate agreements, but under the deal, emissions will be reduced by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.
One minister from a Pacific island state described the agreement as “history in the making”.
Shipping generates roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gas as Germany and, if it were accounted for as a nation, would rank as the world’s sixth biggest emitter.
Like aviation, it had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity while both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases.
The United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and a few other countries had not wanted to see a target for cutting shipping emissions at all.
By contrast the European Union, including Britain, and small island states had pushed for a cut of 70-100%.
So the deal for a 50% reduction is a compromise which some argue is unrealistic while others say does not far enough.
Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, who had chaired the controversial talks, said: “This initial strategy is not a final statement but a key starting point.”
Although it has the world’s second largest register of shipping, it had warned that failure to achieve deep cuts would threaten the country’s survival as global warming raises sea levels.
As the talks concluded, the nation’s environment minister David Paul said: “To get to this point has been hard, very hard. And it has involved compromises by all countries. Not least by vulnerable island nations like my own who wanted something, far, far more ambitious than this one.”
Mr Paul added: “This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back.”
Laurent Parente, the ambassador of Vanuatu, also a Pacific island nation, was not satisfied but hoped the deal would lead to tougher action in future.
“It is the best we could do and is therefore what this delegation will support as the initial strategy that we have no doubt will evolve to higher ambitions in the near future.”
By contrast, the head of the US delegation to the talks, Jeffrey Lantz, made clear his country’s opposition to the deal.
“We do not support the establishment of an absolute reduction target at this time,” he said.
“In addition, we note that achieving significant emissions reductions, in the international shipping sector, would depend on technological innovation and further improvements in energy efficiency.”
Mr Lantz reiterated that the US, under President Trump, has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
He also criticised the way the IMO had handled the talks, describing it as “unacceptable and not befitting this esteemed organisation.”
But a clear majority of the conference was in favour of action.
The UK’s shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as ” a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet”.
The move will send a signal through the industry that rapid innovation is now needed.
Ships may have to operate more slowly to burn less fuel. New designs for vessels will be more streamlined and engines will have to be cleaner, maybe powered by hydrogen or batteries, or even by the wind.
Read more »
The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) has commented on the Government’s Aviation Strategy, produced on 7th. They say that while the UK aspires “to be a world leader in aviation when it comes to facilities and services, the same cannot be said for environmental protection, at least when it comes to climate change. A world-class package of environmental protection doesn’t currently seem to be on the agenda.” They say “The Aviation Strategy objectives should include an environmental objective that is not wrapped up in a commitment to growth, and the implications of this objective should be considered from the start.” AEF reiterate that aviation’s “unlimited growth is incompatible with achieving environmental commitments” and the DfT is not even questioning whether aviation growth was a positive outcome to aim for. Instead of the 3 separate consultations on aspects of UK aviation policy over the next 18 months, (with environment at the end) there will be a single Green Paper this autumn. The AEF hopes this allows for environmental impacts to be considered throughout the period of policy development and not as an afterthought (as it originally appeared). The DfT policy is focused on airline passengers and improving the service to them, but it should instead be in the interest of the whole population, including those affected by airports and aircraft.
Government publishes its ‘next steps’ towards an aviation strategy
13.4.2018 (Aviation Environment Federation)
On Saturday 7thApril the Government published the outcome of its call for evidence on the Aviation Strategy ‘Beyond the Horizon’. It’s not a particularly inspiring read in terms of environmental ambition. While the Government aspires for the UK to be a world leader in aviation when it comes to facilities and services, the same cannot be said for environmental protection, at least when it comes to climate change. A world-class package of environmental protection doesn’t currently seem to be on the agenda.
But the document does at least put many of the right issues on the table (including some, such as aviation’s non-CO2 impacts, that have long been neglected) and we plan to engage actively with the Government and others on the environmental aspects of the strategy between now and publication of the Green Paper. We’ve taken a look back at five points we argued in our response to the call for evidence, looked for evidence in the outcome document of any changes in the Government’s position on these, and set out what we’ll be calling for as the policy develops.
We said: The Aviation Strategy objectives should include an environmental objective that is not wrapped up in a commitment to growth, and the implications of this objective should be considered from the start
In our response to the call for evidence, we highlighted evidence that unlimited growth is incompatible with achieving environmental commitments, and that these objectives could not properly be dealt with together.
The outcome document notes that “Environment and community groups felt that the document gave insufficient prominence to carbon emissions and downplayed other environmental impacts as secondary to supporting growth, without questioning whether growth was a positive outcome to aim for.”
Nevertheless the Government plans to stick with its original wording for the objective to “support growth while tackling environmental impacts” with the justification that “the interdependencies of these issues has confirmed the Government’s view that they should all be addressed together as part of a single objective in the aviation strategy”.
Meanwhile, the plan to run three separate consultations over the next 18 months, with environment at the end, has been replaced by a proposal for a single Green Paper this autumn. We hope that this allows for environmental impacts to be considered throughout the period of policy development and not as an afterthought (as it originally appeared).
What we’ll be arguing for in the Green Paper
We’ll continue to present evidence for the need to keep environmental impacts within acceptable limits, whether or not they align with industry and government aspirations for growth.
We said: The commitment to put consumer interests at the centre of the strategy could prevent effective policy-making
The aviation strategy will be strongly consumer-focused and market-driven, the call for evidence had specified. We argued that government policy on aviation, including on its environmental impacts, should be in the interest of the whole population, not just consumers, including the half who don’t take a single flight in any given year.
The ‘market-driven’ language is less evident in the outcome document, but the consumer focus remains clear. In particular, the document makes clear that action on environment, and investment in new technologies, will be considered only if that’s not too costly for consumers and the industry. UK action on climate change could, for example, put our airlines at a competitive disadvantage and increase fares for passengers, the document argues, while the possibility of noise reduction will be considered “in the context of airport growth”. The possibility that environmental objectives should be met even if they conflict with direct passenger interests is not addressed.
What we’ll be arguing for in the Green Paper
AEF will continue to make the case that the Government won’t be able to meet its own aim of a sustainable aviation sector if its key test for all policy decisions is focused narrowly on serving direct consumer interests, and that Government policy should focus on the wider public interest.
We said: Heathrow expansion should not be decided till the strategy is in place
It makes no sense, we argued, for expansion of the UK’s biggest, noisiest airport (in terms of the number of people affected), and its biggest single source of CO2 emissions from any sector, to take place in the absence of national policy on environmental impacts. The outcome document has not acknowledged any concern about this issue.
Meanwhile some airports, such as Luton, have set out expansion plans that are large enough in scale to fall under the NPS process (the one being used for Heathrow expansion). It’s unclear at present how the Government plans to treat such applications – whether it would amend the current Airports NPS (which deals only with Heathrow) or draft new legislation.
What we’ll be arguing for in the Green Paper
Heathrow expansion is not yet a done deal and we’ll continue to argue that MPs should vote against the National Policy Statement in the absence of convincing evidence that it can and will be compatible with meaningful environmental limits. These limits should be set out or reflected in the Aviation Strategy, to ensure a common baseline for all UK airports, and to allow the impact of UK aviation as a whole to be considered.
We said: The proposal to take action to support airports where there is urgent need for growth, in advance of the strategy being finalised, is either meaningless, or a cause for concern
The call for evidence had an odd section on ‘Making Best Use of Existing Capacity’ that noted likely demand among airports to increase passenger throughput and argued that “Due to the recent rise in growth, the Government believes that this issue cannot wait until the publication of a new Aviation Strategy.”
We said that it was unclear what the proposal was, since applications would still need to go through the planning process and the Government doesn’t typically stand in the way. We would nevertheless strongly oppose, we said, a policy whereby these authorities were encouraged to approve any applications for growth in the absence of strategic guidance from Government on how to assess environmental impacts.
The outcomes document doesn’t shed any light, that we can see, on this issue. Some airports have been hoping that the strategy will include specific policy support for expansion at particular airports or in particular regions. There’s no evidence so far that the Government plans to get involved in this level of detail.
What we’ll be arguing for in the Green Paper
Airport development decisions taken at the local level should be guided by a strong policy framework on environmental impacts, which provides a common baseline, and takes into account cumulative impacts, where relevant, from more than one airport.
We said: The proposed ‘policy tests’, including that policy should be evidence-led, should be rigorously implemented
The Call for Evidence proposed that the Government’s approach to developing the strategy would be guided by a set of policy tests:
- What is the rationale for action?
- What is Government’s role?
- What does the evidence say?
- Have all of the options been considered?
- What is the effectiveness of any proposed action?
We said that we fully supported the application of these tests. There is no mention of them, however, in the outcome document.
What we’ll be arguing for in the Green Paper
We’ll be making the case for effective, evidence-led government action on aviation’s environmental impacts, focusing on areas where the market won’t deliver what’s needed unless the Government gives the right policy steer.
Read more »
For a masterful summary (2 pages with all references) of the reasons why the UK government should not be persuaded into allowing a 3rd Heathrow runway, see this briefing by Sally Cairns and Carey Newson, from Transport for Quality of Life. They sum up all the ways in which the business case for the runway is flawed and the environmental case rests on hugely optimistic assumptions. They list these as: “planes will get cleaner and quieter at a faster rate than has previously been expected; cars and vans will also get dramatically cleaner; freight movements will somehow be optimised; the latest National Air Quality Plan will deliver all anticipated air quality improvements; the fledgling international aviation carbon offsetting scheme will generate a high enough carbon price; the national Aviation Strategy (not yet written) will come up with cost-effective mechanisms for constraining aviation emissions further; the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise will prove effective; a review of airspace (that has not taken place for over 40 years, as it is so controversial) will take place soon; HS2, Crossrail and the Piccadilly line upgrades will attract air passengers and airport staff in sufficiently large numbers; funding will be found for Western and Southern rail access; etc. It seems very unlikely that all of these will fall into place.”
Radical Transport Policy Two-Pager #2
Reality Check: Why politicians should reject the third runway
by Sally Cairns and Carey Newson (Transport for Quality of Life.com)
The business case for a third runway is flawed and the environmental case rests on hugely optimistic assumptions.
Given how long the debate about Heathrow expansion has worn on, it may be tempting for politicians to think “let’s just get on with it”. There is a danger that the sheer weight of paper generated, the time spent debating the issue, and the dogged persistence of the airport’s operator, which has spent £30m promoting its cause1 , now tips the scales towards development, whatever the social and environmental cost. But a third runway represents a very serious threat to the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of people living around the airport2 and could also compromise the UK’s ability to deliver on its climate change commitments3 . The decision should be the right one, not just the easiest.
Proponents of expansion argue that there is an urgent economic need for the runway; that mitigating measures will protect the health of those affected; and that we will still be able to meet our climate targets. Up close, however, these claims rest on a web of tenuous assumptions and highly optimistic predictions. And, although the House of Commons transport committee has just come out in favour of expansion 4 , the endless caveats to its judgment only highlight the huge uncertainties surrounding the scheme.
Take, first, the claim that we urgently need new capacity for business travellers. In practice, over the last ten years, the number of flights made for business at the UK’s five largest airports, including Heathrow, has not increased5 . Latest DfT forecasts also suggest that a new runway will make little difference to the number of flights taken for business across the UK in the future 6 .
Instead, the argument made is that business travellers will enjoy more services to key destinations, fewer delays, and (even) cheaper fares 7 . However, this is all subject to future business decisions made by the airport’s operator. The level of fares, for instance, depends on whether Heathrow avoids passing on costs of the new runway to its users – something the airlines are deeply sceptical about 8 , and one of many areas where the transport committee is now calling for safeguards. Meanwhile, although Heathrow’s hub status may enable it to offer services to more obscure places, there is no guarantee that flights will therefore go to emerging business destinations, rather than more lucrative holiday hotspots.
We might expect the Government’s economic assessment to tell us about the effects on UK-wide prosperity. However, the majority of calculated economic benefits for expansion come from adding together estimates of small reductions in journey times or fares for individual passengers. Making flying quicker and cheaper is not beneficial for ferry or rail operators, or thousands of UK businesses that depend on domestic tourism. In 2016, UK residents flying abroad for leisure spent £33.5bn, whilst overseas visitors flying here for leisure spent only £14.5bn – a deficit of £19bn 9 . This loss to the UK’s tourism economy is not even factored into the cost-benefit analysis of the third runway.
And latest Government forecasts also suggest that regional airports will lose out from expansion, since, with the third runway, they will have 17 million fewer passengers by 2050 than they would without it10 .
The validity of the case for expansion is further undermined by the sheer volatility of the figures presented. The maximum estimated benefits (over 60 years) have been repeatedly revised, from £211bn in 2014 11, down to £74bn in 2017 12. When the costs of the project are then added in, latest official figures show that, in some scenarios, the overall ‘net present value’ for the expansion is actually negative 13 .
Worse still, the environmental case for the runway relies on a series of hugely optimistic forecasts. In evidence to the transport committee, advocates of the runway argued that there will be no additional road traffic, that air quality will stay within legal limits, that noise impacts can be effectively managed, and that Climate Change Act requirements will not be breached.
However, this rests on the following assumptions:
- planes will get cleaner and quieter at a faster rate than has previously been expected 14,15;
- cars and vans will also get dramatically cleaner 16;
- freight movements will somehow be optimised 17;
- the latest National Air Quality Plan will deliver all anticipated air quality improvements 18;
- the fledgling international aviation carbon offsetting scheme will generate a high enough carbon price 19;
- the national Aviation Strategy (not yet written) will come up with cost-effective mechanisms for constraining aviation emissions further 20;
- the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise will prove effective; a review of airspace (that has not taken place for over 40 years, because it is so controversial) will take place soon 21;
- HS2, Crossrail and the Piccadilly line upgrades will attract air passengers and airport staff in sufficiently large numbers;
- funding will be found for Western and Southern rail access 22; etc
It seems very unlikely that all of these will fall into place.
Doubts about the timing and effectiveness of such measures are also expressed by the Commons Transport Committee, which is calling for more safeguards to be written into the Airports National Policy Statement, including conditions withholding the use of new capacity if targets are not met. However, for Heathrow to open in 2026, the scale of what would have to be delivered in the next eight years is immense. It is unclear how, at this stage, any re-written paperwork can provide the certainty needed. Nor does it seem credible to believe that, after billions have been spent on building the runway, politicians will tell Heathrow they can’t use it.
Surely, instead, before taking any decision, it makes sense to wait and see whether, as promised, in the next few years, air quality improves, planes get quieter, airspace becomes better organised, carbon emissions can be managed, and an increasing share of air passengers and staff start using public transport. If these things don’t happen – or, indeed, if the airport operator then decides that it is no longer financially viable to build the runway – politicians will have made the right choice, safeguarding both the health of local communities and the UK’s climate commitments. Giving a green light to expansion now is an enormous gamble with the future.
Sally Cairns and Carey Newson are independent researchers and Associates of specialist transport consultancy, Transport for Quality of Life. Input to this article was also provided by Cait Hewitt and Tim Johnson of the Aviation Environment Federation. A version of this Two-Pager was first published as an article in Local Transport Today: “Approving a third runway at Heathrow is the easy option. But it would also be wrong.” LTT Issue 744, 3rd April 2018.
1 John Holland-Kaye, CEO Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd: [In response to a direct question about the amount of money spent ‘solely on promoting the third runway’] “Solely on promoting it, the number I have in mind is £30 million.” Emma Gilthorpe, Executive Director Expansion, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd: “More than that has gone into community engagement, which I would not consider to be promotional. I would consider that just being a good responsible business.” Q360, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 5/2/18.
2 Val Shawcross CBE, Deputy Mayor of London: “..something like three quarters of a million people are already affected, so the potential expansion could push one million people to experience significant noise nuisance.” Q264, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 15/1/18.
3 The aviation forecasts currently suggest that Heathrow expansion will lead to total UK aviation emissions from departing aircraft of 39.9MtCO2 p.a. by 2050, which exceeds the total needed to meet the Climate Change Act requirements (DfT 2017 UK Aviation Forecasts, Table 39, p110). A review of theoretical additional carbon abatement measures was published in conjunction with the revised NPS, however, critics have highlighted the potentially high costs and practical challenges to implementing them. https://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/2017/12/AEF-comments-on-NPS-reconsultation.pdf
4 House of Commons Transport Committee (2018) Airports National Policy Statement. HC548. Third report of session 2017-19 5 Airports Commission (2015) Final Report shows the trend in the number of international terminal passengers travelling for business at the UK’s
5 largest airports between 2000 and 2013, Figure 3.1, page 70. According to Civil Aviation Statistics, the total number of terminal passengers travelling for business at the UK’s five largest airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Manchester) was 40.5 million in 2006, 34.9 million in 2011 and 34.8 million in 2016.
6 DfT (2017) UK Aviation Forecasts. Table 31, page 100. In the unconstrained capacity scenario, the forecast is for 93 million business passengers p.a. (including UK business, foreign business and domestic business) in 2050. In the constrained scenario, the forecast is for 91 million. The forecast difference in total passenger numbers is 494 mppa compared with 410 mppa. Allowing a third runway at Heathrow (which is expected to reduce constraints, but not reach the ‘unconstrained’ scenario) is expected to result in total passenger numbers of 435 mppa (Table 34). The Transport Committee’s report (page 17) states that “the passenger growth facilitated by a NWR scheme is accounted for almost entirely by leisure passengers (i.e. those travelling for holiday purposes or those visiting friends and relatives sometimes referred to as VFR) and international transfer passengers”.
7 Caroline Low, Director of Airport Expansion and Aviation and Maritime Analysis: “The number of people travelling is not dissimilar, because in any scenario, business travellers will pay to travel…” “…the benefits we monetise are reduced delays, increased frequency and reduced fares…” Q464 and 465, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 7/2/18
8 Craig Keeger, CEO Virgin Atlantic: “…we find ourselves today – being quite concerned that we or our customers, or some combination thereof, would effectively be left holding the bag for any overspending in what is now, at this point, a very unpredictable outcome.” Q578 Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group: “It is a huge cost, and the risk at this stage is completely unknown, because we do not know what we are talking about…We are being asked to sign a blank cheque.” Q585, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 20/2/18
9 Office for National Statistics (2017) Travel trends: 2016. Figures taken from the underlying data tables (2.09 and 3.09), in order to exclude international travel done for business, or by sea or channel tunnel. Leisure includes holidays, visiting friends or relatives, and ‘miscellaneous’. In 2012, the equivalent figures were £23.2 billion versus £11.5 billion, a difference of £12 billion. It is also notable that, in 2016, 78% of leisure spending by UK residents flying overseas was on holidays, whereas this was only the case for 48% of leisure spending by overseas visitors. Inbound foreign holiday makers (travelling by air) only spent £7 billion in the UK in 2016. This is a significant difference to the figure of ‘over £22 billion’ for ‘inbound tourism’ given on page 14 of the revised NPS. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/articles/traveltrends/2016
10 Department for Transport (2017) Updated appraisal report: airport capacity in the South East. Table 3.7, p21.
11 Airports Commission (2014) Consultation document: Gatwick Airport Second Runway, Heathrow Airport Extended Northern Runway, Heathrow Airport North West Runway, p75, para 3.128
12 Department for Transport (2017) Revised Draft Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England. p23, para 3.26
13 Department for Transport (2017) Updated appraisal report: airport capacity in the South East. Tables 9.2 and 9.3, p44 and 46.
14 The aviation forecasts assume that there will be a 46-48% improvement in fuel efficiency between 2016 and 2050 (DfT 2017 UK Aviation Forecasts. Table 8, page 55). In 2013, the expectation, in line with mid-point technology assumptions used by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation, was for a 32% improvement, according to the Aviation Environment Federation. https://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/2017/12/AEF-comments-on-NPS-reconsultation.pdf
15 Stephen Clark, No Third Runway Coalition: “… a heroic gamble is being taken on a quieter fleet. Some of these changes are not happening… The new generation A380s are not being ordered at the moment. There are other new types of quieter planes where production has been scaled right back. This is a huge gamble, and it has not been properly investigated.” Q304, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 15/1/18
16 BEIS (2017) The Clean Growth Strategy refers to intentions for almost every car and van to be zero emissions by 2050 and to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 (p85). Meanwhile, the Defra/DfT (2017) Draft UK air quality plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide: technical report includes graphs in Annex H, which indicate the scale of reduction in nitrogen dioxide expected over time, most of which is anticipated to come from reductions in NOx from vehicles.
17 Alex William, Director of City Planning, Transport for London: “..the NPS sets out no objectives to reduce, manage or consolidate that [freight] to reduce the impacts on the wider network. HAL would like an arrangement where there is no increase in the overall volume of trips. We see no strategy from HAL as to how that will be achieved. It is the right objective in our view, but there is no detailed evidence base to say how it will be achieved.” Q244, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 15/1/18
18 The updated air quality analysis highlights that there is a ‘high’ risk that the Heathrow scheme could delay or worsen compliance with limit values, and that “the mitigation of risks relies on the effective implementation of the Government’s 2017 Plan measures and RDE legislation to reduce emissions from road transport.” DfT/WSP (2017) 2017 Plan Update to Air Quality Re-Analysis, p4
19 The aviation forecasts assume that a theoretical global carbon trading scheme is operational, with BEIS estimating the associated cost of carbon to be £77/tonne in 2030 (DfT 2017 UK Aviation Forecasts, para 5.16, p78). This cost feeds through to fares, and thereby causes some suppression of demand, resulting in lower carbon emissions than would otherwise occur. However, in reality, aviation will not participate in a global trading scheme, as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has agreed to introduce an offsetting scheme, known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). ICAO analysis suggests the carbon costs of CORSIA will be only £11/tonne in 2030, and will therefore fail to have the same effect on demand and CO2 reduction. https://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/2017/12/AEF-comments-on-NPS-reconsultation.pdf
20 See footnote 3
21 Lilian Greenwood, Transport Select Committee Chair: “…ultimately, you are having to make choices about who is affected – who is going to be overflown. These are hugely contentious and have proved very difficult issues in the past, have they not?” Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport: “They are very difficult issues…” Q535, House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 7/2/18
22 Alex Williams, Director of City Planning, Transport for London: “We hear warm words in the NPS [about western and southern rail access], but we do not hear firm statements about commitment… We see them as essential to getting anywhere near the mode shift targets.” Brendon Walsh, Chairman of the Officer Group, Heathrow Strategic Planning Group: ”The Heathrow Strategic Planning Group represents 12 local authorities and the local LEPs in the area. We too agree that it is essential rather than desirable to see southern and western rail access.” Q238 House of Commons Transport Committee Oral evidence: Airports National Policy Statement HC548, 15/1/18
Read more »
The government has published its Aviation Strategy, which the DfT says “will set out the longterm direction for aviation policy to 2050 and beyond.” The first phase of its development was the publication of a call for evidence in July 2017. The Aviation Strategy says it will now “pursue 6 objectives, which are unchanged following the consultation.” It is very much focused on the passenger, the passenger experience, helping the aviation industry, expanding aviation and “building a global and connected Britain.” The Strategy “sets out further detail on the challenges associated with these objectives and some of the action that the government is considering and which will form part of further consultation later in the year.” The DfT says: “The government will continue the dialogue that has already begun on these issues. The next step will be the publication of detailed policy proposals in a green paper in the autumn of 2018. This will be followed by the final Aviation Strategy document in early 2019.” There is mention of the environmental problems (carbon, noise, air pollution) but they are given scant attention, and it is presumed they can all be reduced – even while the sector has huge growth. A 3rd runway at Heathrow is assumed to happen.
DfT says: “Government puts consumers at heart of the aviation industry”
- greater focus on passengers, to improve their experience throughout their journey
- creating an ever cleaner, greener sector which prioritises sustainable growth
- building a global and connected Britain with more trade opportunities
The government will today (7 April 2018) set out its plans to make the country’s aviation sector world-leading in prioritising passengers, fostering sustainable growth and promoting trade.
The aviation strategy next steps document outlines proposals which will build on the aviation industry’s work to improve the flying experience for passengers at every stage of their journey. Read it here
This will include new measures to help passengers make a more informed choice about their flight including providing more transparency on additional costs.
The document also outlines how the government will work with industry to ensure all passengers have a dignified and comfortable travelling experience, including ways to improve accessibility at airports and on aircraft and tackling the issue of disruptive passengers.
Work will be carried out to improve the compensation scheme for consumers, ensuring passengers are properly informed about their rights to claim when things go wrong and exploring greater powers to enforce regulations.
Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister, said:
Our world class aviation industry has a proud and accomplished history, from pioneering the first international routes to championing consumer choice.
Working with industry, we want to improve the flying experience from booking to arrival, ensuring passengers are truly at the heart of the aviation sector.
This demonstrates our commitment to creating a transport system which works for passengers as we build a Britain fit for the future.
The government is also providing more details about its ambitious plan to make Britain’s aviation sector the world’s greenest, including proposals to tackle issues around noise, greenhouse gas emissions and airspace congestion.
Environmental proposals include the introduction of new noise targets, strengthened noise controls at airports and improved compensation for people living near airports. The government will work with industry to reduce the usage of single use plastics and improve recycling rates.
The government will also explore measures with industry to support the use of quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft, as well as the emergence of electric and hybrid technology.
The ‘next steps’ document makes clear the government’s commitment to ensuring the aviation sector continues to grow.
The sector already contributes at least £22 billion to the UK economy each year and the strategy will examine what can be done to help it develop even further.
The strategy will examine the agreements UK has with other countries to operate flights, identify opportunities to improve connectivity and open up new routes for overseas investment.
Other proposals include reviewing the allocation of airport landing slots to ensure the process is fair, transparent and fosters a competitive marketplace which benefits consumers by offering more choice.
An initial call for evidence for the aviation strategy was launched in July of last year, receiving almost 380 responses. The proposals being outlined in the ‘next steps’ document will be consulted on further in the autumn, with the final strategy due for publication in early 2019.
The aviation strategy is designed to achieve a safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector that meets the needs of consumers and of a global, outward-looking Britain. It will look to:
- help the aviation industry work for its customers
- ensure a safe and secure way to travel
- build a global and connected Britain
- encourage competitive markets
- support growth while tackling environmental impacts
- develop innovation, technology and skill
Beyond the horizon
The future of UK aviation
Next steps towards an Aviation Strategy
The section on carbon is on Pages 60 – 63.
The section on noise is on Pages 63 – 67
On biofuels, it says Page 63:
“6.22 Sustainable alternative aviation fuels are widely seen as essential to the long term sustainability of the aviation sector. The government has legislated to extend eligibility of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation to aviation fuels and through the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition government has made £22 million of matched capital funding available to support the production of low carbon fuels for aviation and Heavy Goods Vehicles. Through the Aviation Strategy the government will consider policies it can put in place to further assist the long term uptake of sustainable alternative fuels in this sector which is particularly difficult to decarbonise.”
A part of its section on carbon states:
“6.14 In Europe, aviation has been included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) since 2012. As set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, the government is considering the UK’s future participation in the EU ETS after our exit from the EU. Whatever our future relationship with the EU, the government will seek to ensure that our approach is at least as ambitious as the existing scheme and provides a smooth transition for the relevant sectors.
“6.15 It has long been the government’s position that international aviation emissions are best tackled at the international level. This reflects the inherently global nature of both the aviation industry and the challenge of climate change. Airline schedules are designed so that an aircraft may fly between any number of states in any given day and be registered to an operator in a different state altogether. Assigning portions of the aircraft’s emissions to different states is problematic, particularly in the absence of an agreed international methodology.
“6.16 Stronger action at the UK level without an equivalent level of action internationally is likely to impose greater costs on airlines flying to and from the UK, thereby putting UK airlines at a greater competitive disadvantage compared to foreign airlines and potentially increasing fares. Passengers may, as a result, choose to travel through other airport hubs which would simply move the emissions elsewhere rather than reducing them (known as carbon ‘leakage’).
“6.17 In addition to the government’s emphasis on international action, it has always been willing to consider all cost effective measures to ensure that the sector continues to contribute to the UK’s emissions reduction obligations, including under the Climate Change Act and Paris Agreement.”
DfT’s webpage on its Aviation Strategy
Beyond the horizon: the future of aviation in the UK
The next steps towards a new aviation strategy
The aviation industry is a British success story; rooted in a deep heritage of being at the forefront of global aviation.
To build on this success we are developing a new strategy to support industry in delivering even greater improvements for passengers, the environment and our country.
Between July and October 2017 we asked for views on how we should consult to develop this new strategy as well as what issues we should cover.
We have now published a ‘next steps’ document, which identifies the challenges for aviation in the years to come and discusses how we can respond to them.
It also sets out how we will engage with industry throughout 2018. This will result in a final aviation strategy by early 2019.
Read the ‘aviation strategy next steps’
Our 6 objectives for a new aviation strategy
Aviation matters – it drives economic growth across the whole United Kingdom, connects us with the world, removes barriers to trade and supports jobs and skills. We have an aviation history to be proud of and we’re building on a track record of success.
But we also recognise the challenges that our aviation sector faces in maintaining this leading position. So the time is now right to develop a new aviation strategy that will set out the long-term vision for aviation taking us to 2050 and beyond.
These are our 6 objectives for a new aviation strategy.
Help the aviation industry work for its customers
Enhancing the consumer experience through improved accessibility, better information and support when things go wrong.
Ensure a safe and secure way to travel
Championing the UK’s aviation security and safety record and ensuring our approaches remain cutting edge and responsive to new challenges.
Build a global and connected Britain
The importance of aviation to building a global Britain that is outward looking, with a strong economy that benefits the whole of the UK.
Encourage competitive markets
Examining the sector to see whether market failures exist and how government can encourage more competition.
Support growth while tackling environmental impacts
Building capacity and promoting regional growth and connectivity whilst balancing this with the need to tackle environmental impacts.
Develop innovation, technology and skills
How we can make best use of new technology and build on the aviation sector’s track record of success in encouraging innovation.
Download the full outcome
The aim of the new aviation strategy is to achieve a safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector that meets the needs of consumers and of a global, outward-looking Britain.
We sought views on the aviation strategy from industry, business, consumers, environmental groups and anyone with an interest in aviation.
The next steps document outlines our 6 key objectives for the strategy, challenges ahead and actions the government is considering to address these.
We will hold a consultation on the policy detail for all 6 of the strategy objectives later this year, leading to the publication of a final aviation strategy in 2019.
This call for evidence is the first stage of developing a new aviation strategyfor the UK.
This document sets out our overall aims and approach and seeks views on:
- our proposed approach
- the issues that we would like to explore through the development of the strategy
We want to be guided by you. This is your opportunity to shape the future of aviation.
An updated version of this document was published on 9 August 2017 correcting a typographical error in figure 12 on page 43.
Read more »
The Transport Select Committee (TSC) recently released their report on the government’s plans to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow. It shows how the plan is completely incompatible with the UK’s climate obligations. Yet the carbon emissions from a 50% larger Heathrow were given the briefest of mentions in the summary, and crucial issues are tucked away in the final annex of the TSC report. The Campaign Against Climate Change has explained some of the dubious assumptions being made by the DfT, in order to imply carbon is not a key limiter of the scheme. One assumption is that CO2 emissions from air travel can be excluded from calculations of economic impact – but the CO2 from flights is over 96% of emissions resulting from aviation. Then there is the assumption that carbon trading is an effective way of compensating for the increase in aviation emissions. The DfT hopes – unjustifiably – that aviation CO2 can be ignored, since they will be completely removed through carbon trading. The Committee on Climate Change has consistently warned against relying on carbon trading. And there is the assumption that biofuels could be used to reduce aviation CO2. The only economically viable fuel would be palm oil, with devastating environmental impacts. MPs voting on the NPS need to be aware of these facts.
Heathrow third runway: carbon emissions still the elephant in the room
by Claire (Campaign Against Climate Change)
28th March 2018
The Transport Select Committee recently released their report on the government’s plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. If you read the report in full, it is clear why this plan is completely incompatible with our climate obligations.
Yet carbon budgets are given the briefest of mentions in the summary, and crucial issues tucked away in the 9th and final annex (Annexe I) to the report, entitled ‘Carbon’. (See pages 147 – 156 of link )
Unsurprisingly, media coverage focused on those issues which were given more prominence, including air pollution, noise and public transport limitations.
But the committee’s evidence-gathering can shine a light on some of the more extraordinary ‘assumptions’ being used by the government in its calculations around climate impact. These ‘assumptions’ are being used to avoid discussion of the damaging impact a third Heathrow runway would have on our climate targets, keeping MPs in the dark in the run up to this summer’s Parliamentary vote on the scheme.
Assumption #1: CO2 emissions from air travel can be excluded from calculations of economic impact
The Airports Commission included an estimate of the economic damage done by additional carbon emissions from a new runway in its cost/benefit analysis. But this excluded the over 96% of emissions resulting from air travel itself. Apparently, these do not need consideration since they will be completely removed through carbon trading. [Which, of course, is utter nonsense…. AW comment]. The Department for Transport has revised the figures but continued to exclude emissions from air travel.
Assumption #2: Carbon trading is an effective way of compensating for the increase in aviation emissions
This assumption underlies the government’s dismissal of the hefty carbon emissions from around 700 extra flights a day from economic calculations around a third runway. It is also being used to justify ignoring the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations for a cap on aviation emissions of 37.5Mt CO2.
This would be a significant step – the first time since the Climate Change Act was passed that the government dismissed outright the Committee’s recommended limitations for emissions.
The Committee on Climate Change has consistently warned against relying on carbon trading. Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, told the Transport Select Committee that carbon trading was “a very limited concept”. “As we move on, nations will be doing more and more, and they will find it more and more difficult. The idea that there will be a whole lot of spare and quite cheap trading to be done seems unlikely.”
Other witnesses to the committee pointed out that the European emission trading scheme (ETS) has been scaled back to cover only flights travelling within the EU (and is not very efficient), while the details of the international scheme CORSIA were yet to be agreed and there were still significant questions about how effective it would be (more on the problems with CORSIA here)
Another major problem with using carbon trading for aviation is that aviation’s climate change impact is around double what it appears from looking at CO2 alone (from other gases emitted and the formation of contrails). Professor Piers Forster informed the committee that once these were accounted for, the cost estimate for climate damages for flying would be doubled from £18.5 billion to over £36 billion – and carbon trading would only limit less than half of this.
Assumption #3: Biofuels could be used to reduce aviation emissions
Witnesses to the committee questioned the assumption that sustainable biofuels would be available in sufficient quantity.
This has been examined in more detail elsewhere. For example, a report by Biofuelwatch argues that the only biofuel which currently appears feasible for use at scale is palm oil – and the expansion of palm oil cultivation would be far from good news for the climate.
Assumption #4: Other technical/regulatory fixes can further reduce emissions, allowing aviation to expand unchecked
In the most recent figures produced by the Department for Transport, the expected future carbon emissions have been reduced, compared to those produced four years previously.
This is attributed to predictions that more efficient aircraft will be built sooner, and that passenger numbers per aircraft will increase. Other measures that were proposed as means of reducing emissions (without limiting demand) included incentivising the use of single-engine taxiing at UK airports and regulations to improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft.
There was no fall-back plan explained if these were not as effective as was hoped.
While there are many environmental and economic reasons to reject the building of a third runway at Heathrow, the most important one is that it would seriously undermine our climate targets.
As the world heats up, no government that claims to take climate change seriously could approve this plan. We need to make it clear that any MP voting for Heathrow expansion is voting to put the profits of Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd (HAL – formerly BAA) above the wider interests of the UK and the future of our planet.
Read more »
Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Clare Perry, has confirmed that Britain intends to remain in Europe’s emission trading system (ETS) until at least the end of its 3rd trading phase (running from 2013-2020). The status of Britain’s participation in the scheme following the country’s exit from the European Union in March 2019 had been unclear until now. Formal agreement is still needed, but BEIS wanted to provide certainty for companies covered by the scheme until at least 2020. Currently aviation is included in the ETS, but after serious earlier opposition and difficulties, it covers only flights made within Europe, between European countries – none leaving, or entering, Europe. Clare Perry said Britain is committed to using a price on carbon as a means to reduce emissions but would use the country’s exit from the European Union to “take the opportunity to see if there are other opportunities” to achieve this.
Britain intends to stay in Europe’s carbon market until at least 2020
By Reuters Staff
The status of Britain’s participation in the scheme following the country’s exit from the European Union in March 2019 had been unclear until now.
Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said it had yet to be formally agreed with European lawmakers but the government wanted to provide certainty for companies covered by the scheme until at least the end of phase three.
She was speaking to members of the cross-party EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, in the upper house of parliament.
Britain is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe and as a result its utilities and industry are among the largest buyers of permits in ETS, which charges power plants and factories for every ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit.
Companies from these sectors have urged Britain to stay in the scheme until the end of the current trading phase to avoid disruption, but are divided over Britain’s longer term participation in the scheme.
Perry said Britain is committed to using a price on carbon as a means to reduce emissions but would use the country’s exit from the European Union to “take the opportunity to see if there are other opportunities” to achieve this.
Rules of the ETS are set by the European Parliament, and enforced by the European Court of Justice, and industry experts have said it could be politically difficult to justify staying within the scheme.
Britain has a legally binding target to cut emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, such as those produced by fossil-fuel-based power plants, by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
Reporting by Susanna Twidale;
Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair
European Commission moves to Brexit-proof Emissions Trading System
The European Commission has agreed on a new measure to protect its Emissions Trading System (ETS) against a potential breakdown in Brexit negotiations. The EU ETS sets a cap on the total emissions from electricity generation and enables UK-based industries to purchase emissions reductions from overseas. Member States met on 18th October to agree in principle to change ETS regulations to nullify any permits to emit greenhouse gases under the scheme if they are issued by a country that leaves the EU from January 2018 onwards. The UK is the 2nd largest CO2 emitter in the EU, and research suggests that a UK departure from the EU ETS would tighten the supply-demand balance of the system by around 745 million tonnes. The new measure is intended to stop potential sell-offs of permits if UK businesses are ejected from the market because of Brexit. The Committee on Climate Change found that if the UK did leave the ETS, the 5th carbon budget should be extended to a 61% emissions reduction by 2030. The recently-announced Clean Growth Strategy outlines the trajectory towards the approved 57% reduction, but analysis suggests the strategy will fall short. Aviation is only partly included in the ETS, with just intra-European flights.
Click here to view full story…
European Parliament make progress on dealing with aviation non-CO2 impacts
The meeting on 17th October between the European Council and EU Parliament has finally come to an agreement on how to deal with non CO2 emissions. This is at least 9 years overdue. It opens a fundamentally new and important avenue of aviation climate mitigation work. The non-CO2 impacts on climate forcing are short-lived but they are potentially of great magnitude – potentially more than double CO2 according to the EC’s own assessment. A research consortium led by Professor David Lee will publish early next year a fresh report on non CO2 climate impacts. Then it will be necessary to follow through with further research including into ways to mitigate. The non-CO2 impacts issue is much more important in the northern hemisphere than the southern as there is where most land, and most flights, are. Europe is well placed to begin assessing what measures could potentially be implemented, such as operational re-routeing (altered flight levels) action on NOx, particulates and black carbon. The meeting reached a provisional agreement on a regulation to extend existing ETS provisions covering aviation beyond 2016 and to prepare for the implementation of CORSIA from 2021.
Click here to view full story…
MEPs place limits on aviation ETS exemption and put airlines on intra-EU flights CO2 reduction path
MEPs have voted to limit the exemption from the EU ETS of flights to and from Europe until 2021, pending further information regarding ICAO’s offsetting measure ‘CORSIA’ (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). It would be much more effective, in limiting aviation CO2 emissions by flights using European airports to have them all included. However, only flights between EU airports are now included in the ETS. But sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes this vote saying an indefinite exemption of flights to and from Europe would have been a blank cheque to ICAO. It would have been reckless, as it is not yet known how the CORSIA scheme will operate or how effective it will be. There is still no clarity on CORSIA rules on offset quality and enforcement, for future aviation carbon emissions. “Europe now has a leverage to make aviation contribute to our collective climate efforts as proportionally as other sectors of the EU economy should the global measure fail.” For intra-EU flights, MEPs have also voted to start reducing the cap in CO2 allowances from 2021, thus bringing aviation into line with other sectors covered by the EU ETS scheme. This is an important shift in the EU’s approach to aviation’s climate impact. They are also to look at aviation’s non-CO2 impacts, so far ignored.
Click here to view full story…
Read more »
Alistair Osborne, Chief Business Commentator in The Times, has written scathingly about Heathrow’s runway plans, and the lunacy of MPs being asked to vote on them – in the absence of just about all the key information they would need. He says: “MPs are always voting on things they don’t know much about. But you would think that, by now, a few facts would have been established ahead of this summer’s big vote — on the £14 billion third runway at Heathrow.” And the main message from Heathrow’s current consultation is “how much is still up in the air — a point you hope MPs on the Transport Committee will raise in their report [on the Airports NPS] due by Friday.” …”Yet it’s on the basis of these sketchy plans that MPs will vote for or against the project.” Heathrow are not even sure of the length and exact location of their 3rd runway. That is, says Alistair “One reason, maybe, for one glaring hole in the consultations: no news on flight paths. Indeed, Heathrow admits that it will not even be consulting on “flight path options” until “around 2021” — years after the MPs have voted. Other things that won’t be resolved before the MPs vote: “the project’s cost, final design, safety case, road and rail links, noise and air quality. Or to put it another way, just about everything we need to know. After half a century in the planning, you’d think Heathrow could do better than that.”
Runway decision made in the dark
MPs are always voting on things they don’t know much about. But you would think that, by now, a few facts would have been established ahead of this summer’s big vote — on the £14 billion third runway at Heathrow.
For starters, the idea has been knocking around since 1968. Plus, the project has had a recent update: the £20 million waste of public money otherwise known as the 2015 Airports Commission report, the one that got all the traffic forecasts wrong and ducked two key issues: noise and air quality. On top, there’s been the government consultation on the Airports National Policy Statement.
And now? Well, Wednesday next week is the deadline for submissions to the airport’s own consultation — the one all “about helping to shape our expansion plans at an early stage”. Yes, an early stage. Heathrow’s not kidding, either. Despite spending £30 million so far on planning, the main message from its 70-pager is how much is still up in the air — a point you hope MPs on the transport committee will raise in their report due by Friday.
Yet it’s on the basis of these sketchy plans that MPs will vote for or against the project. Rather fundamentally, Heathrow doesn’t even yet know precisely where the runway is going. As it notes, that still requires “further work” to determine its “exact” length, “end locations” and “how they sit in relation to the Colnbrook and Sipson communities”. Neither does it know precisely how it will cross that problem known as the M25.
And partly because of all this, it’s a long way from producing a third runway safety case — done in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority. Of course, there’s no suggestion Heathrow would build anything that wasn’t safe. It’s just that “there will be ramifications that come with the safety case that raise questions over how many planes it can handle safely and the respite it can give over noise”.
Or so says Jock Lowe, the former Concorde pilot behind the other Heathrow plan shortlisted by the Airports Commission: the £5 billion cheaper Heathrow Hub project based on extending an existing runway. Mr Lowe says that the airport’s northwest runway plan has “significant flaws”, not least because of safety constraints around the middle runway.
Planes will require extra space for taxiing on the ground or turning in the air. And that, he says, will have two key effects.
First, Heathrow will not be able to deliver the promised 740,000 air movements a year; in fact less than 700,000, so cutting the project’s economic benefits.
Second, due to the complexity of flight paths caused by planes turning, the approaches will be much noisier than billed for local residents.
One reason, maybe, for one glaring hole in the consultations: no news on flight paths. Indeed, Heathrow admits that it will not even be consulting on “flight path options” until “around 2021” — years after the MPs have voted.
True, it dismisses Mr Lowe’s analysis, noting that the commission found his project “less attractive” — even if the commission did get quite a lot wrong. And as Heathrow points out, should the MPs vote in favour, there will be planning inquiries, further consultations and possible judicial reviews before anything actually gets built.
Yet here are a few things that won’t be resolved before the MPs vote: the project’s cost, final design, safety case, road and rail links, noise and air quality. Or to put it another way, just about everything we need to know. After half a century in the planning, you’d think Heathrow could do better than that.
Alistair Osborne writing in the Times: “Heathrow on flight path to nowhere”
Commenting on the frankly ridiculous “consultation” put out by Heathrow, Alistair Osborne – writing in the Times – puts some of the criticisms beautifully. For example, he says: “After half a century on the job … Heathrow still doesn’t even know where to put its new runway. The best it can offer is three options, with “length varying from between 3,200 and 3,500 metres”. …Heathrow has “emerging proposals” but “In fact, so many crucial details are still up in the air that it’s hard to spot what the ten-week consultation is consulting on.” … “Apart from the multiple choice runway location, there are three possible sites for a new terminal, a smorgasbord of potential taxiways and some gobbledegook about “realigning” the M25. Having noticed that the “M25 is one of the busiest roads in the UK”, Heathrow says it “will ensure that our proposals do not result in disruption”.” …”Two other crucial issues — illegal air quality and noise — get no more than platitudes.” … “If it is not yet possible to map the detailed impact on local communities, what is the point of consulting right now?” As details of flight paths, noise and air pollution will only emerge AFTER MPs vote this summer on the NPS: “As consultation processes go, it’s all a bit of a sham.”
Read more »
Subjecting domestic, intra and extra-EU aviation tickets to even a low rate of VAT would generate huge revenues for governments. Bill Hemmings, from European transport NGO T&E, estimates that taxing aviation fuel for domestic and intra-EU flights at the EU minimum rate of 33 cents/litre set by the Energy Tax Directive could generate about €9.5 billion in additional revenues each year. Abolishing the exemptions and applying a 15% VAT to all passenger transport could generate a further €17 billion. Even the European Commission calls these exemptions subsidies. A common ticket tax on EU departures could generate around €11 billion – or more. The Commission has now proposed reforms to VAT rates across Europe which, if agreed, will become the basis for the long-awaited definitive VAT regime in 2022. But instead of abolishing VAT breaks for airline tickets, the EU plan will treat even frivolous trips like a flight for a weekend break the same, in terms of VAT, as “necessities” such as foodstuffs, or pharmaceutical products. Transport is Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter and journeys by plane form a significant part. One reason in the past why there was no VAT on international air trips was the difficulty in collecting it. However, it is now clear VAT could be charged at the rate of the country the plane departed from, for the whole cost of the ticket.
To help fix EU budget, end aviation’s tax break
DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.
By Bill Hemmings (Aviation director at sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E).)
Feb 26, 2018
Subjecting domestic, intra and extra-EU aviation tickets to VAT at, say, a rate of 15% would generate revenues of some €17 billion per year, writes Bill Hemmings.
The European Commission’s move to make it administratively easier to calculate and charge VAT on passenger transport is welcome and long overdue, writes Bill Hemmings. But instead of abolishing VAT breaks for airline tickets, the EU plan will make a weekend trip treated the same as “necessities” such as foodstuffs, or pharmaceutical products, he warns.
Transport is Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter and journeys by plane form a significant part. Many member states exempt tickets for domestic trips from value added tax (VAT) and all states exempt intra-EU airline tickets. The exemption for aviation costs governments some €17 billion annually. Even the European Commission calls these exemptions subsidies.
The Commission has now proposed reforms to VAT rates across Europe which, if agreed, will become the basis for the long-awaited definitive VAT regime in 2022.
One of the reasons most international trips are VAT-exempt is that the current rules make it very complex and difficult to raise VAT on trips that cross borders.
Under the proposal that was issued in January, rules for calculating and collecting VAT on passenger transport will be simplified. The Commission proposes to change the way of calculating passenger transport VAT from 2022 – so that those tickets subject to VAT will be charged the VAT rate of the country of departure and for the entire cost of the ticket. This move to make it administratively easier to calculate and charge VAT on passenger transport is welcome and long overdue.
But instead of abolishing the long standing VAT exemptions for airline tickets – which were supposed to be “temporary” – passenger transport services will be eligible for reduced or zero VAT rates. That means the weekend flying break to Berlin will be treated the same as “necessities” such as foodstuffs, pharmaceutical products, medical equipment, children’s books, water supplies and undertakers.
While the administrative simplification may incentivise some member states to start charging aviation VAT, the Commission already recognises the clear danger that its proposal could lead to two unwelcome outcomes: member states are now potentially free to extend aviation tax subsidies by reducing existing VAT rates on domestic flights to zero (Germany currently taxes these flights at 19%); and pressure is likely to grow to zero-rate intra-EU bus and rail VAT which currently brings in half a billion euro in tax revenues. While the proposal contains safeguards on overall VAT revenue erosion, the danger of these downward moves is clearly acknowledged.
The Commission proposal is a missed opportunity. Both to make passenger transport VAT mandatory under much simplified rules and to boost tax revenues just when the EU is struggling to make its next seven-year budget add up.
Under the definitive VAT regime in 2022, a negative list will be drawn up of goods and services which must be subject to standard VAT rates. This is to prevent revenue erosion under the new flexible rates regime. Passenger transport and aviation in particular should be added to that list.
‘Better regulation’ should be about more than equating aviation with baby clothes, children’s books and other necessities, especially since aviation emissions are out of control – growing 8% in Europe alone in 2016.
The ETS aims to tackle aviation climate change and costs about €150 million per annum yet the Commission’s proposal potentially gives the sector a VAT subsidy of well over a hundred times this figure.
Subjecting domestic, intra and extra-EU aviation tickets to VAT at, say, a rate of 15% would generate revenues of some €17 billion per year which would make a major contribution to solving the EU’s budget problem as well as addressing aviation’s enormous unpaid external costs.
The discussion about reforming VAT comes at a time when several EU governments are discussing or introducing ticket taxes for aviation. For example, the new Dutch government has announced it wants to tax aviation, but preferably at EU level. There is, of course, no reason for them to wait for the EU VAT reform. The UK has levied a passenger charge since the early 1990s, Germany since 2011 and, more recently, Sweden and Norway have introduced theirs.
But if EU governments such as the Netherlands want to address the issue of tax-free plane tickets at European level, the EU’s VAT rules are the right place to start, and with the discussion about the next EU budget in full swing, the time for action is now.
EU-wide taxes on jet fuel and plane tickets could help plug budget gap and address transport climate impact, says T&E
7.3.2018 (GreenAir online)
Fri 2 Mar 2018 – Taxing jet kerosene and applying a value added tax to plane tickets within Europe could raise €26.5 billion ($32bn) a year that could be used to plug an EU budget gap, reduce labour taxes and help meet climate targets, says a position paper by campaign group Transport & Environment.
With the EU currently drafting its post-2020 budget and looking for alternative sources of revenue to make up for the UK’s Brexit departure, this is an opportunity to raise revenue from transport for both EU and national budgets while helping to tackle rising emissions from the sector, argues T&E. It calls for reforms of the 2003 Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) and rescinding of the exemption for the taxation of aviation and marine fuels, and require jet fuels on domestic and intra-EU routes to be subject at least to the EU minimum rate of fuel tax, which is currently 33 euro cents per litre. Value added tax (VAT) should also be levied on airline tickets for domestic, intra-EU and even extra-EU flights, says the Brussels-based NGO.
The ETD sets the minimum level of taxation legally permissible across Europe for certain fuels, a key reason being to reduce the ability of member states to lower fuel taxes to encourage ‘fuel tourism’. However, it also includes provisions for states to continue historical exemptions on aviation fuel taxation. The exemption is not mandatory and member states are free to tax aviation fuel for domestic aviation or on a bilateral basis with other member states for aviation fuel uplifted for flights between them. To date, says the paper, few member states have availed themselves of this provision except the Netherlands for the period when there were domestic flights operating.
Potential annual revenues in the largest five EU states are €6.5 billion ($8bn) alone at the minimum ETD rate for their combined domestic and intra-EU flights, while the total across the EU is estimated by T&E at €9.5 billion ($11.7bn). If the cost was to be passed on to the consumer, it calculates this would add €14 ($17) to the average ticket price of an average intra-EU flight. If VAT at 15% was applied to domestic, intra and extra EU air tickets and the cost fully passed through, this would raise revenues of €17 billion ($21bn) per year, with the average one-way intra-EU ticket price of €80 increasing by €12.
“Considering that average ticket prices have fallen dramatically from hundreds of euros over the past decade or so, and by 16% in the past five years alone, these measures are manageable and politically defensible as a means to fund budgets and cover aviation’s unmet external costs, such as climate change and noise and air pollution,” says the paper.
“The VAT and fuel exemptions cause distortions with rail, artificially stimulate demand, drive uncontrolled growth in aviation emissions and constitute unjustifiable subsidies.”
The €150 million ($185m) annual cost of complying with the EU Emissions Trading System does little to address this imbalance, it argues, and points out the ETS directive does not say the scheme can be the only charge on carbon emissions of covered entities. A kerosene tax would also send a price signal to airlines and aircraft manufacturers to increase efficiency, something it says is not being sent by the ETS. “Taxes also can encourage companies to utilise cleaner technologies, promote smarter transport behaviour amongst users and help bridge the price gap with cleaner future fuels,” it adds.
The paper acknowledges tax is a sensitive subject within the EU context and defining tax rates is considered a pillar of sovereignty for many member states. However, the perspective changes when it relates to a European-wide area of interest. “Climate change is a clear example of an issue that requires international action in order to be meaningfully addressed,” it says.
T&E says its position is aligned with 17 eminent European economists – including former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta, ex-WTO head Pascal Lamy and former German finance minister Hans Eichel – who signed an open letter to EU leaders and finance ministers calling for a carbon tax on fossil fuels as well as a kerosene tax and an application of a minimum level of VAT on all airline tickets to help with the post-Brexit EU budget.
T&E’s Freight Policy Officer, Samuel Kenny, commented: “Taxing airline fuel and flight tickets makes sense. Aviation is the quickest and cheapest way to heat the planet while at the same time the transport mode most heavily subsidised by governments. Plugging these tax gaps can both accelerate the fight against climate change and solve the EU’s budget problems in one fell swoop.”
T&E believes the current VAT exemptions could become entrenched as the European Commission wants to give member states greater flexibility on VAT rates. It fears this would effectively mean that for tax purposes, “weekend flying breaks in Europe be treated the same as necessities such as foodstuffs, baby items or pharmaceutical products.”
Said T&E Aviation Director Bill Hemmings: “The Commission proposal is a missed opportunity. Under the definitive VAT regime in 2022, a negative list will be drawn up of goods and services which must be subject to standard VAT rates. Passenger transport and aviation in particular should be added to that list.”
Meanwhile, US airlines are fighting a Senate subcommittee proposal to double the $4.50 Passenger Facility Charge cap, an airport tax paid by passengers through their airline ticket.
“Contrary to the Administration’s historic tax reform package that provided tax relief to all Americans, the average traveller still pays 21% of the total cost of a roundtrip airline ticket to the federal government – the same tax bracket designed to discourage use of so-called ‘sin products’,” wrote six airline CEOs in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Response by T&E to EU consultation on VAT – there is no logical reason why air travel is exempt
The EU held a consultation recently, about VAT and changes to the European Directive on it. The consultation closed on 20th March 2017. Some of objectives of the consultation were to ask if there should be greater freedom for Member States to fix VAT rates; the proper balance between harmonisation and Member States autonomy in setting VAT rates; problems of differentiation of VAT rates within the Single Market etc. Air travel is zero rated for VAT across the EU. The group “Transport & Environment” responded to the consultation, and a couple of their points were that: having no VAT on air travel means the most carbon intensive transport mode, aviation, has ticket prices which are artificially lowered, creating distortions between rail/bus and aviation/ferry. … all Member States must impose VAT on all passenger transport, especially aviation … where this cannot be agreed, it should be easy for some Member States to impose VAT on passenger transport … for things that benefit society such as medicines there is a very strong argument to allow for super-reduced rates, however, climate intensive travel by air or cruise vacations are not among them. There is currently also no VAT on cruises – which are most definitely not essential items.
German air passenger tax (now €7 – 40) under threat as negotiations continue to form new German government
Negotiators for a new grand coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Social Democrats may drop a proposal to progressively abolish Germany’s air transport tax (the Luftverkehrssteuer). The tax is levied on air ticket prices and costs between €7 and 40 euros depending on the distance flown, and generates about €1 billion per year. The airlines, of course, want the tax abolished, and claim it harms “competitiveness.” Aviation in Germany already pays no VAT (except on domestic flights) and no fuel duty. The CDU (Merkel) and SPD negotiating teams were discussing abolishing the ticket tax, but so far the tax seems to have survived the talks. It would be crazy to allow aviation to pay even tax than it does now, bearing in mind its massive CO2 emissions. Aviation is on its way to eating up all of what remains of our chances to limit global warming to below 2°C as agreed in Paris. Aviation emissions are growing fast (up 8% in the EU in 2016), billions of people are waiting to catch their first flight (just 3% of India’s population have ever boarded a plane). Efficiency improvements in the sector are slow and shrinking. What’s more, by ignoring non-CO2 effects we’re underestimating aviation’s contribution to global warming by a factor of at least two.
Click here to view full story…
Time to upgrade Europe’s aviation pollution rules – it should not be allowed to risk the Paris agreement
The European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) has voted on how the aviation sector should be treated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), in response to a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting mechanism. The ongoing revision of Europe’s carbon market rules for aviation is a critical opportunity to ensure that one of the biggest global polluters starts to contribute its fair share to EU climate action. While the term ‘sustainable aviation’ seems to be spreading, the reality is that the sector’s emissions are growing unsustainably and will continue to do so. Even if the global aviation deal is fully implemented and enforced, it will not curb the industry’s rising emissions. Though just intra-EU flights are included in the EU ETS, unlike other sectors – aviation is not expected to annually reduce its emissions. Add the fact that the industry is exempt from fuel taxes, VAT or legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements, and it becomes clear aviation enjoys very special treatment. While greenhouse gas emissions from all other sectors in the EU carbon market fell in 2016, those from aviation grew by 8%. This risks putting the goals of the Paris climate agreement out of reach. With no quick solutions in sight, the sector needs to pay a real price for its pollution. A high enough carbon price would help.
Ending aviation’s tax holiday
February 7th, 2018 (T&E – Transport and Environment)
One billion. That’s how much in euro that Germany’s tax on airline tickets generates every year. A billion is about a quarter of what trucks pay in Maut every year, or about 35 times less than the motor fuel tax.
So it is not very high. Particularly when you remember that aviation benefits from a preferential tax regime. As the EU’s own environment agency recently highlighted, airlines pay no fuel taxes, and VAT is only charged on domestic flights.
The German ticket tax adds around €7 to a short-haul flight ticket. That’s the cost of a beer and a Bretzel in the Berlin airport. It is a cost that airlines’ customers can easily afford. And in light of aviation’s extremely negative climate and environmental impacts, the German ticket tax is a bargain.
Read more »
The ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) has assessed the fuel efficiency of different sizes and types of aircraft on flights between Asia, or Australia to the USA, across the Pacific. They have confirmed that the large, 4-engine, planes like the Boeing 747 and the A380 are not at all fuel efficient per passenger. That was well known for the 747, but the A380 has been hyped as being “green” and fuel efficient, as it can carry so many passengers. The problem is that most A380s are set out to have a lot of spare space, and plenty of luxury facilities. That means instead of perhaps over 700 passengers (up to 850 in theory) packed in, more have only about 350 passengers. The ICCT research showed – in 2016 – that the 2 engine planes were as much as 24% more fuel efficient per passenger than the 4 engine planes. A380, which was touted as an engineering marvel when first flown, was hailed as an aircraft perfectly designed for carrying passengers between large, congested hub airports like Heathrow. But it is increasingly clear that the A380 is a dud from both a business and environmental perspective. It is unlikely to pass the ICAO aircraft CO2 standard, unless its fuel efficiency is improved. Heathrow wants to make out it is a vital hub airport for planes like this. But now it emerges just how much CO2 they produce in reality.
Size matters for aircraft fuel efficiency. Just not in the way that you think.
27 February 2018
In our recent transpacific airline ranking, we assessed and compared the fuel efficiency of the top 20 airlines operating flights between the U.S., East Asia, and Oceana. One interesting finding was that airlines that predominantly use the four-engine Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 aircraft – Asiana, Korean Air, and Qantas – had the lowest overall fuel efficiency on transpacific operations. The question is, why?
One might assume that the larger the plane, the more fuel-efficient it is per passenger due to economies of scale. But in the case of flights over the Pacific, conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong. Size matters, but not in the way you think.
Airlines that operate very large aircraft burn more fuel and release more carbon than their peers. There are two reasons for this, one related to the aircraft itself and the other to how they are used on transpacific flights. Aircraft with four engines, or “quads”, tend to be less fuel-efficient than twinjets due to inherent design factors such as a higher wing weight and a smaller engine fan diameter. Second, quad aircraft operated with relatively fewer passengers over the Pacific in 2016 compared to twinjets due to lower seating densities and passenger load factors.
Taken together, overall very large four-engine aircraft used on transpacific flights had 24% lower fuel efficiency per passenger than aircraft with two engines in 2016 (see figure).
Figure: Difference from industry average fuel efficiency of 31 pax-km/L for 14 aircraft types used on transpacific routes, 2016
The poor performance of older discontinued quad aircraft such as the 747-400, last delivered in 2005, and the A340 family, which was discontinued prematurely in 2012 due to strong competition with Boeing’s 777, can be partially attributed to their older technology. That’s not the case for Airbus superjumbo A380, which was touted as an engineering marvel when first flown and is still being manufactured today.
Airbus made a big bet on the superjumbo A380, which is half again as large as the Boeing 747 and certified to seat up to 853 passengers on two full decks. When it first entered into service in 2007, it was hailed as an aircraft perfectly designed for carrying passengers between large, congested hub airports. Boeing made a different bet, marketing aircraft like the B787 “Dreamliner” that would enable future travelers to fly direct even on long, “thin” international routes with relatively few passengers. In hindsight, that turned out to be the smarter move.
Today, it’s increasingly clear that the A380 is a dud from both a business and environmental perspective. Airbus has admitted that it will never recoup its $25 billion dollar investment in the A380 and, despite courting Chinese airlines, is increasingly reliant upon a single customer, Emirates, to keep the production line alive. Emirates recently agreed to purchase up to 36 new aircraft, which would extend A380 production out to 2027 or 2029, depending on whether an additional 16 options are exercised. However, the A380 is unlikely to pass the International Civil Aviation Organization’s aircraft CO2 standard, and, therefore, will not be able to be sold internationally after 2028 unless its fuel efficiency is improved. Thus, the purchase may revive Emirates’ previous demand that the A380 be refreshed through re-engining as an A380neo option, which Airbus has been slow to develop.
For years, Airbus tried to market the A380 as the “Gentle Green Giant,” touting the aircraft as one of the most fuel-efficient planes in production in 2007. Our transpacific study shows that this is no longer the case. For an aircraft of its size, the A380 carries relatively few passengers – typically on the order of 350 per transpacific flight, compared to 200 for the 787-9, despite having two and half times the floor space – and limited freight carriage. Instead, smaller twin engine widebodies like Boeing’s 787 and Airbus’s A350 are the way to go for fuel efficiency. The Boeing 787-9 in particular was the most fuel-efficient aircraft on 2016 transpacific flights at 39 passenger kilometers per liter of fuel, or 60% better than the A380.
There’s a reason airlines around the world are no longer buying very large aircraft like the 747 and A380. Previously, quad aircraft were necessary for extended transoceanic flights, as Extended Range Operation with Two-Engine Airplanes (ETOPs) for twinjets were insufficient. But today’s twinjet widebodies provide both the ETOPS range and belly freight capacity required to meet even the most demanding routes. Very large aircraft are no longer needed for transpacific flights (and burn a lot of fuel to boot).
The good news is that many airlines are purchasing fuel-efficient twinjets for use on international routes and mothballing their very large aircraft. We expect to see improvements as a result on future rankings. Watch this space.
Wikipedia article confirms the A380, when not full of passengers (800 +) is not very fuel efficient at all. It is not particularly “quiet” either.
Read more »
The global aviation industry hopes to be able to be able to continue growing, fast, and emitting ever more carbon – while claiming this is all “offset” by carbon credits from elsewhere. In an excellent article, Andrew Murphy from T&E explains some of the problems, and why what is currently on offer is not even near to being effective. The UN scheme for aviation CO2 is called CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is already very weak, as it only aims to offset CO2 above 2020 levels . That is far short of what the Paris agreement requires. And because participation in CORSIA is voluntary, the scheme will fall short of this 2020 target. Offsets are so cheap and the target is so weak that the resulting cost will also do nothing to incentivise greater efficiencies from within the aviation sector. But offsetting itself has huge problems: 1. There is no proper way ICAO can enforce CORSIA and ensure airlines and states abide by the rules. 2. There is little guarantee with many sorts of offsets, the cheapest in particular, that they deliver any real CO2 reductions. And 3. There are serious questions about the use of alternative fuels, as if airlines are allowed to count the use them against any offsetting obligation. So the sustainability rules for alternative fuels need to be as tight as they are for offsets. ICAO is consulting on its standards till the 5th March.
If we’re going to offset airplanes’ carbon emissions, we should at least do it right
February 16, 2018
By Andrew Murphy (T&E, Transport & Environment)
No one likes being misled by airlines, not on price, or where their luggage ends up. But fliers face a new risk: being misled on how sustainable their flights are. In a few years, fliers could be told that some of their ticket price is being used to prevent deforestation when in reality those forests had been cut down years ago.
That’s because in 2016 countries meeting at the UN’s aviation agency (ICAO) agreed to establish a scheme to offset aviation emissions above 2020 levels, but left it uncertain as to whether they would deliver on this promise. The scheme, known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), means airlines won’t have to cut their CO2 emissions but instead pay other actors (the “offsetting” bit) to reduce theirs.
Next week/tomorrow MEPs on the Parliament’s environment committee will hold a hearing on the Commission’s approach to this scheme. There’s a lot to critique.
To start with, aiming to offset only emissions above 2020 levels is a pretty weak target, certainly well short of what the Paris agreement requires. And because participation in CORSIA is voluntary, the scheme will fall short of this 2020 target. Offsets are so cheap and the target is so weak that the resulting cost will also do nothing to incentivise greater efficiencies from within the aviation sector. And the measure will not address aviation’s considerable non-CO2 climate impacts, which equal or even exceed the CO2 impacts.
But the biggest problem lies at the heart at the measure: its reliance on offsetting. All that the states agreed to in 2016 was that there should be an offsetting mechanism, but setting the rules on what counts as genuine offsetting was left to later. And that’s essential, as we know from decades of experience that offsetting can go badly wrong, with promised emission reductions from offsetting projects amounting to nothing more than scraps of paper.
It’s been left to ICAO’s council to develop the necessary rules. The process is now nearing completion, with the council set to adopt a final version in June this year. However, what we know so far does not give us much hope that what emerges from this process will deliver real environmental benefits.
There are at least three ways that CORSIA can fall short.
- The first relates to enforcing the measure. Any mechanism like this needs to have strong enforcement procedures to ensure that all airlines and states are abiding by the rules both to ensure environmental integrity and a commercial level playing field. However ICAO, as an international body, lacks the sort of judicial enforcement mechanism that exists for other carbon markets. For example, other carbon markets have enforcement authorities who can bring non-compliant operators in front of a judge. As a substitute, the ICAO rules should require a high degree of transparency: by requiring airlines to publicly disclose what their total emissions are and what offsets they have purchased. This is fairly standard for most carbon markets, but the rules as currently drafted leave plenty of loopholes.
- The second relates to the type of offsets that airlines are permitted to buy to qualify under the scheme. We know that global carbon markets are full of dodgy offsets. One study found that one supply of offsets, from the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, had only a 7% chance of delivering real emission reductions. If we want CORSIA to work, we’ll need to ensure the safeguards are put in place so that only effective offsets are permitted. While the rules as drafted contain some important principles, we’ve yet to find out how they’ll be enforced. The danger is that some states may go their own way and allow their airlines to buy cheaper and lower quality offsets.
- Finally, there are serious questions about the use of alternative fuels in this mechanism. Airlines will be allowed to count the use of such fuels against any offsetting obligation. So the sustainability rules for alternative fuels need to be as tight as they are for offsets. However last November, when approving a draft of these rules, ICAO’s council rejected 10 of the 12 sustainability criteria for alternative fuels that a technical group comprised of national, industry and civil society experts has spent several years developing. The door is now open for airlines to use alternative fuels which have negative impacts on labour rights or which will deliver no environmental benefits and may even do harm.
This last decision by ICAO’s council is especially worrying. It shows that this body, which operates largely in secret, is prepared to water down environmental rules when it faces pressure from states or industry.
In the years to come, ICAO’s council will have a number of other big decisions to make, mostly importantly what type of offset programmes will be eligible for use under CORSIA. That the council is backtracking from the advice of its own experts well before the scheme has even started is not a harbinger of environmental integrity.
The draft rules (called SARPS – Standards and Recommended Practices) have now gone to all 193 ICAO member states, with a deadline of 5 March for them to respond. It is important that states let ICAO’s council know that when they agreed to an offsetting mechanism in 2016, it was their intention that the mechanism would be properly enforced, and have high environmental integrity. It’s clear that the general public now needs to put pressure on their states to deliver such a message.
You’ll find a draft of these SARPs here, along with our suggestions on what improvements need to be made if the measure is to have any chance of succeeding.
But as we said at the top, even a fully functioning CORSIA won’t deliver the sort of emission reductions that are needed from the aviation sector for the Paris agreement – that is steep cuts in emissions and then zero emissions by later in this century.
With ICAO’s council offering no guarantee that it can implement or enforce an effective mechanism, we’d be wise not to put all our eggs in that basket. That’s why, along with working to make CORSIA function as well as it can, T&E is putting its efforts into more effective regional and national policies such as carbon floor pricing, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, blocking airport expansion and supporting alternative fuels which won’t compete with food.
Aviation’s climate impact won’t be solved overnight, and it won’t be solved by one actor. What’s needed is effective global measures matched with the greater regional and national ambition that the Paris agreement was designed to deliver.
Read more »