In recent Parliamentary Questions, Zac Goldsmith asked the Climate Minister (BEIS) Claire Perry: “what assessment she has made of the effect of the expansion of Heathrow Airport on the ability of the UK to meet the net-zero emissions target by 2050.” The response said “The Committee [on Climate Change] will also publish a report on aviation in Spring 2019. … this will include consideration of the potential to reduce aviation emissions over the period to 2050 and beyond. The Government will consider carefully the Committee’s advice …. Subject to this review, the Government will consider whether it is appropriate to review the Airports National Policy Statement, in accordance with Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008.” Zac also asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer “what level of capital funding he plans to allocate for the delivery of improvements to rail access related to the expansion of Heathrow Airport.” The reply by Liz Truss said (avoiding replying properly) the Government “will consider the need for a public funding contribution alongside an appropriate contribution from the airport on a case by case basis.” And “The Government is supporting Heathrow Surface Access schemes subject to the development of a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry.” (sic)
MPs’ Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and government replies
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the effect of the expansion of Heathrow Airport on the ability of the UK to meet the net-zero emissions target by 2050.
Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees, published in October, we commissioned advice from our independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), on its long-term emissions reduction targets, including on the setting of a net zero target. This commission asks for evidence from the CCC on how reductions might be delivered in key sectors of the economy and the expected costs and benefits of different scenarios.
The Committee will also publish a report on aviation in Spring 2019. As set out in the Committee’s recent progress report, this will include consideration of the potential to reduce aviation emissions over the period to 2050 and beyond.
The Government will consider carefully the Committee’s advice on both these issues when it is received. Subject to this review, the Government will consider whether it is appropriate to review the Airports National Policy Statement, in accordance with Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008.
The Government’s position in relation to funding Surface Access at airports is set out in the 2013 Aviation Policy Framework and reiterated in the Airports National Policy Statement which was designated in June 2018. Where a scheme is not solely required to deliver airport capacity and has a wider range of beneficiaries, the Government, along with relevant stakeholders, will consider the need for a public funding contribution alongside an appropriate contribution from the airport on a case by case basis. The Government is supporting Heathrow Surface Access schemes subject to the development of a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has been looking at the future role of biomass, to try to cut the UK’s CO2 emissions. In their report they look at how much biofuel the UK aviation sector should be expecting to use by 2050. The AEF has been assessing the CCC report, and say the UK aviation sector cannot rely on biofuel use to offset CO2 emissions growth. Only limited supply of sustainable biomass is likely to be available in future, and it should be used carefully to tackle climate change. The CCC warns that too much hope of biofuel use in future could delay or discourage work on other ways of reducing emissions (i.e. fuel efficiency and limiting demand for flying).” The CCC advises that we shouldn’t plan for aviation biofuel to exceed 10% of total aviation fuel use by 2050. More would risk diverting sustainable biomass from more carbon efficient uses, such as timber for construction, or industrial uses when combined with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CO2 released by aircraft in flight cannot be captured. Significant emissions are associated with the manufacture of aviation biofuel from biomass. The CCC says CCS must be used in this biofuel manufacture, or otherwise producing and burning aviation biofuel could result in even higher emissions than simply burning fossil fuels.
Limited scope for biofuels to cut aviation emissions, concludes CCC
News from the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation)
Nov 16 2018
The UK aviation sector cannot rely on biofuel use to offset emissions growth, new analysis from the Committee on Climate Change suggests in its report on biomass in a low carbon economy, published yesterday.
The report considers the limited supply of sustainable biomass likely to be available in future and how this should best be used to tackle climate change.
While “some use of aviation biofuels may be desirable”, the report finds, “planning for high use of biofuel in aviation that does not materialise would risk diluting incentives for other ways of reducing emissions (i.e. fuel efficiency and limiting demand for flying).”
Specifically, the CCC advises that we shouldn’t plan for aviation biofuel to exceed 10% of total aviation fuel use by 2050. Any more than this, they argue, would risk diverting sustainable biomass from more carbon efficient uses, such as timber for construction, or industrial uses when combined with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
While it is not possible to capture the CO2 released by aircraft in flight, significant emissions are associated even with the manufacture of aviation biofuel, and to the extent that biomass is used for aviation, it essential that CCS technology is used in fuel production process. Producing and burning aviation biofuel without CCS technology could result in higher emissions than simply burning fossil fuels.
Biomass should only be directed towards aviation at significant scale if three key tests are met, the report argues:
Overall levels of abatement from producing and using aviation biofuels must be equal to or better than other biomass best-use applications (see chart above)
Aviation biofuel production plants should be genuinely ‘CCS ready’, and
Biomass use in aviation beyond 10% uptake should be used to reduce emissions below 2005 levels, not as a substitute for other options.
The recommendation is at odds with figures from those advocating for very high levels of biofuel in aviation. The UK industry coalition Sustainable Aviation, for example, which brings together manufacturers, airports, airlines, and air navigation service providers, has long maintained that “sustainable aviation fuel” could plausibly represent 25-40% of global aviation fuel by 2050. And with growing recognition of the challenge posed by aviation in the context of achieving net zero emissions in the coming decades, a recent draft paper from the Energy Transitions Commission argued for a move towards 100% biofuel for aviation in order to decarbonise the sector.
The CCC maintains its longstanding recommendations that aviation CO2 emissions should, by 2050, be no higher than they were in 2005 (37.5 Mt), and that given the likely reductions in the carbon intensity of flying (including from new technology and fuels), this allows for no more than a 60% growth in passenger numbers during that period. Current government forecasts for aviation are that demand will grow by 80% by 2050, and that emissions will reach around 40 Mt, overshooting the 37.5 Mt planning assumption.
The importance of land use emissions
Meanwhile a separate CCC report, also published yesterday, argues for “fundamental changes” in land use. Subsidies currently given to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy should instead be directed at climate mitigation and adaption through measures such as tree planting and the restoration of peatlands, CCC argues. Around 18 Mt CO2e is emitted annually from UK peatlands that have been degraded over time as a result of moor burning for grouse shooting, agriculture and peat extraction for horticulture. The “rewetting” of peatland could prevent 4-11 Mt of CO2 being emitted annually.
Heathrow Airport announced recently that it is investing in a peatland restoration pilot project in Lancashire. If successful, the airport hopes further investment will help it offset the emissions from some of the flights from a third runway. But today’s report shows that peatland restoration is clearly considered by the CCC not to represent an alternative to action on aviation emissions, but as necessary in parallel to meet the UK’s climate commitments. And if this is true even under the Climate Change Act as it stands, it seems very likely that there will be even less room for any growth in aviation emissions under a more stringent UK target in line with the ambitious temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
The CCC will be publishing a more detailed report on land use next year, as well as an update to its 2009 advice on aviation, including a review of its passenger growth and emissions reduction recommendations for the sector. Around the same time, the Committee will publish its advice to the Governments of England, Scotland and Wales on: when the UK should reach net zero emissions; if that target should be set now; the implications for emissions in 2050; and how such reductions can be achieved.
On 30th October CCC launched a call for evidence in relation to this ‘net zero’ report, including on how both low-carbon technologies and behaviour change can be used to help reduce emissions close to zero in difficult sectors such as aviation. Responses are invited by 7thDecember.
This is what they say, about the inevitable damage to biodiversity that would be caused by using biomass. They hope that, despite the harm to wildlife, the benefits of reducing the global temperature rise might be of the same “order of magnitude.” Very sad. And it goes on ….. pretty grim for the future of the rest of life on earth, either way ….
ICAO has been ineffective on aviation CO2, as it is heavily influenced by the aviation industry and operates in near complete secrecy. For decades it has done very little to act on aviation’s surging CO2 emissions. Worse, ICAO’s flagship climate measure, CORSIA risks being the end, not the start, of climate action in aviation around the world and a real threat to the EU ETS in particular. While the Paris agreement aims to get increasingly effective actions to cut CO2, CORSIA sets a cap on carbon ambition and, in particular, on EU action. While the EU ETS has a means to cut aviation CO2, CORSIA is neither really global, nor much of an incentive to reduce carbon emissions. That is why airlines love it. It will hardly affect them, or their growth or profits. But by 1st December the EU must notify ICAO of its intention to continue European legislation, to keep aviation in the ETS. The aviation ETS isn’t perfect, and is only for intra-European flights, but it’s worth fighting for. The alternative, CORSIA, will have almost no effect in reducing CO2 from global aviation. The EU needs to ensure it can introduce Corsia in a way that is compatible with EU current and future climate rules. Airline lobbyists are trying to prevent this.
Europe has three weeks to save its right to regulate emissions
November 8, 2018 (T&E – Transport & Environment)
Decarbonising the global economy requires all the world’s major economies to join forces and move in the same direction. That makes fighting climate change the largest cooperative effort humankind has ever embarked on and also explains why the Paris agreement was such an important achievement. But at the same time it is clear international agreements are only one part of the climate puzzle. And that’s actually a good thing.
There are two sectors where this logic does not seem to apply and where we allow opaque UN agencies to both set the global framework and determine the actions: shipping and aviation. While the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is lacklustre, if pressed it can be an effective environmental regulator – see for, example, the low-sulphur fuel rule. However, not much positive can be said about the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the field of environment – though it does a good job on safety.
For decades, ICAO – which is heavily influenced by industry and operates in near complete secrecy – has done very little to act on aviation’s surging emissions. Worse, ICAO’s flagship climate measure, Corsia, risks being the end, not the start, of climate action in aviation around the world and for the EU ETS in particular. In the words of a senior Trump administration official:
“What’s critical for the United States to continue to engage on Corsia is not to see a proliferation of measures around the world. (…) Despite what has been agreed at ICAO, we see countries continuing to consider other measures, and that’s going to be a problem (…)”
So this is why Trump pulled out of Paris and wants to stay in Corsia: whereas Paris provides a floor from which states will take increasingly ambitious action; Corsia is currently used as a cap on ambition and, in particular, on EU action. In its likely form (the rules are still being finalised) Corsia is pretty meaninglessin terms of environmental impact and, in the absence of China, Russia, India and many others, it isn’t actually global either. This is why airlines love Corsia.
ICAO has now issued a deadline to all states. By 1 December the EU needs to signal whether it will unconditionally sign up to Corsia. If we don’t notify ICAO of our intention to continue our own European legislation, the legal basis of, for example, the aviation ETS will be at great risk. Simply put, international ICAO law trumps EU law and if we don’t file a difference, airlines could claim the EU ETS is breaking international law. The aviation ETS isn’t perfect, but it’s worth fighting for. The allowance price is recovering (a tonne of CO2 now costs €18) and, as things stand, it’s the world’s most advanced climate scheme for aviation and an essential backbone for future European action on things like zero emission jet fuel.
It is essential for the EU to defend its recently reformed ETS as well as its right to regulate. All we need to do is respond to ICAO before 1 December. Filing a difference is a recognised part of ICAO rulemaking and basically means a country notifies the UN body that it has domestic rules that precede the new ICAO rule. To be clear, it doesn’t mean we won’t introduce Corsia – that decision can only be made when Corsia is finalised. All it would do is allow the EU to introduce Corsia in a way that is compatible with our current and future climate rules.
Filing a difference should be a no brainer. But airlines supported by their political alies are fighting tooth and nail to make sure the EU misses the deadline. This would allow them to challenge the ETS in court. The good news is that this week the European Commission finally produced a proposal to file a difference and protect the ETS. Member states have three weeks to approve it.
But it’s not a done deal yet. Airlines have shifted their attention to member states, and their lobbyists are now working the corridors of power in national capitals and Brussels – hoping the EU won’t get its act together before the deadline. An early sign of their strategy is a letter to T&E by Britain’s aviation minister in which Baroness Sugg announces she doesn’t want to file a difference. If Germany and France were to follow Brexit Britain’s example, we’d have a major problem.
We can’t allow that to happen. At stake here is not just good climate governance and whether we’ll have the tools to decarbonise aviation. At stake is also whether we’re going to allow Trump, ICAO and the airlines to dictate EU aviation policy, or whether we’re making our own decisions.
By January, all ICAO Council member states with aircraft operators doing a lot of international flights have to start compiling and transmitting their airlines’ CO2 emissions information. ICAO will gather this, to get ready for the start of its CORSIA “market based measure” plan (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). Its aim is to try to have (sic) “carbon neutral growth” from 2020. The pilot phase starts in 2021. From January 2019 all airlines producing annual CO2 emissions above 10,000 tonnes will need to measure their emissions on cross-border flights, so a calculation of a sectoral 2020 emission baseline can be made of the average of 2019 and 2020. There are two bits of jargon for CORSIA; the emissions monitoring plan (EMP) and the CO2 emissions reporting tool (CERT). Airlines will need to submit their EMP to their administering state, the country where their aircraft are registered, by February 28, 2019, or preferably earlier. The CERT needs origin, destination, aircraft type, and number of flights for each airline for the year. There is more jargon – the SARP (standards and recommended practices) and the MRV (monitoring, reporting, and verification) requirements … We may hear more of these in coming years …
In less than three months, all International Civil Aviation Organization Council member states with aircraft operators undertaking international flights are expected to start compiling and transmitting their airlines’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions information to the Montreal-based body to ready its planned Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) for takeoff.
The global-market-based measure, which aims to cap the growth of international aviation CO2 at 2020 levels, starts with a pilot phase in 2021, but all airlines producing annual CO2 emissions above 10,000 tonnes will need to measure their emissions on cross-border flights beginning in January to allow for the calculation of a sectoral 2020 emission baseline. The average emissions of 2019 and 2020 will form this baseline.
“The more airlines that contribute to the baseline, the better the scheme will be,” explained European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) senior environment manager Bruce Parry.
ICAO did work very quickly to put guidelines and key templates in place since its Council adopted CORSIA’s international standards and recommended practices (SARPs) at the end of June, he said. “So far so good,” he told AIN, noting that both the emissions monitoring plan (EMP) and the CO2 emissions reporting tool (CERT)—which can be downloaded from the ICAO website—are straightforward Excel spreadsheets. The EMP template was released in July and the CERT followed in August.
Airlines will need to submit their EMP to their administering state, the country where their aircraft are registered, by February 28, 2019. EBAA, however, advised its members to do it as soon as possible and preferably before September 30 to “get familiar with the scheme,” Parry said, while warning it “may take a bit of determination” to find out to which authority or agency the EMP has to be submitted. “There is no consistency. In the U.S. it is with the FAA and in the UK with the Environmental Agency.”
Also the CERT—which needs only four data sets: origin, destination, aircraft type, and number of flights—has been designed with an eye toward the small operator, Parry said. He admits it is confusing to know which country is participating in the scheme’s voluntary pilot and first phases from 2021 to 2026, “but that is up to ICAO to know,” he stressed, as he reiterated the association’s frustration with the European Commission for failing to provide clarity on how the EU ETS for intra-EEA flight will be aligned, and hopefully replaced by CORSIA. “I’m not going to speculate on what the EU is going to do, but our members want to know where they stand.”
EBAA is not alone in its frustration. In August, the heads of 11 airline associations from across the world urged the European Commission to “take all necessary measures” to fully implement CORSIA and remove EU ETS duplication. “All international flights to/from/between airports in the EEA should be subject exclusively to CORSIA and removed from the scope of the EU ETS as from 1 January 2021,” they wrote in a joint letter to European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and her counterpart for Environment Miguel Arias Cañete, warning that failing to do so would “compromise the implementation of CORSIA.”
The trade bodies also asked the commissioners to ensure that the EU ETS monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) requirements for international flights be aligned with the CORSIA SARPs to prevent an “unnecessary administrative burden” for both operators and authorities in Europe having to administer and comply with two schemes in parallel, using two sets of rules. Aligning EU ETS MRV requirements with the ICAO rules “would not raise any significant difficulties as the SARPS have been developed on the basis of the experience gained under EU ETS and with the same guiding principles,” they pointed out.
Environmental campaign groups, however, last month called on Brussels to reject the airlines’ request, demanding the EU continues to regulate aviation emissions under the bloc’s ETS “given CORSIA’s unresolved issues, its environmental weakness, and lack of alignment with European climate ambition.”
The non-governmental organizations—among them Transport & Environment, Carbon Market Watch, and Aviation Environment Federation—asked the European Commission to delay a response to ICAO about the SARP draft rules until the completion of the ETS review, which they point out is mandated by EU law. ICAO member states have a December 1 deadline to notify their differences to the SARP rules. The Commission is not an ICAO member state but it will propose a common position for EU member states to adopt. It did not respond to AIN’s request for comment on the issue.
Tourists, going on holidays – including high-CO2 long-haul trips – are being encouraged to cut down on the amount of plastic they use etc. Great to be reducing the number of plastic straws, water bottles and other single-use plastics etc, but this really is barely touching the surface of the environmental problems caused by tourism. In a blog, Chris Haslam, of he Sunday Times, says that while the travel companies like Thomas Cook are “jumping on the sustainability bandwagon” – is this corporate responsibility or virtue-signalling? People can see bits of plastic. They, conveniently, cannot see the CO2 emissions they cause. Travel companies used to try to sell customers carbon offsets for their trips, but no longer seem to. Air travel is a uniquely fast way to cause the emission of a huge proportion of an individual’s annual carbon footprint. “No other human activity pushes individual emission levels as fast and as high as air travel,” says Dr Roger Tyers, an environmental sociologist at Southampton University. “… [the aviation industry] tell us that engineers and inventors will come to the rescue, that politicians and passengers need do nothing. … [but] Climate change will be a real problem unless we do something about our addiction to cheap and plentiful flying.”
Green travel: time to focus on the real cost of global tourism
Chris Haslam, Chief Travel Writer
The Sunday Times)
Thomas Cook declared all-out war on plastic last week. An estimated 8m items of single-use plastic enter the ocean every day and, as public concern mounts, the holiday giant has promised to find sustainable alternatives.
“Our commitment is to remove 70m single-use plastics — equivalent to 3,500 suitcases full — within the next 12 months,” its director of group corporate affairs said.
Thomas Cook is just the latest company to jump on the sustainability bandwagon. Seemingly every other day, a cruise line, tour operator or hotel group announces a ban on straws and plastic bottles: Hyatt, Disney, Cunard, Mandarin Oriental and Marriott are among them.
They’re all latecomers to the eco-party. The operators Exodus, G Adventures, KE Adventure and Wild Frontiers have all pledged to ban plastic bottles. Audley Travel’s brochures are sent in envelopes made from biodegradable potato starch, and in January Ryanair announced that it will remove single-use plastics from its flights by 2023. Passengers will be encouraged to bring their own cups on board — presumably at no extra cost.
Is this corporate responsibility or virtue-signalling? Plastic bags are illegal in many bucket-list destinations, including Kenya, Rwanda and the Galapagos Islands. India has outlawed plastic straws in most states and Delhi has banned single-use plastics. The EU aims to ban most single-use plastics by 2021 and the Balearic Islands will outlaw plastic cups, straws, disposable lighters and coffee-machine capsules by 2020. While any undertaking to reduce marine pollution is a good thing, companies could be said to be selling us a legal obligation repackaged as a green initiative.
“Customers expect holiday companies to demonstrate responsibility towards their destinations,” says Jane Ashton, head of sustainable development at Tui.
But by focusing on cocktail straws in the beach bar, aren’t we ignoring the huge environmental cost of getting to the beach in the first place?
“We understand the plastic problem because we can see it,” says Professor Harold Goodwin, of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. “Dealing with it is a small step towards addressing the big issue of carbon emissions.”
A decade ago, you couldn’t go near a travel website without being invited to pay for some trees to be planted to offset your carbon footprint. The travel trade’s eagerness for this has noticeably waned, but the problem hasn’t gone away.
The annual carbon footprint of the average Briton is 6.5 tonnes. A return flight from Luton to Malaga produces 37 tonnes of CO2. The International Air Transport Association says the number of air journeys we take will double to 8.2bn a year by 2037. And while airlines are committed to reducing emissions, they’re not doing so fast enough to offset this increase in passenger numbers. “No other human activity pushes individual emission levels as fast and as high as air travel,” says Dr Roger Tyers, an environmental sociologist at Southampton University.
Airlines are at pains to prove their sustainability. Last month, a Virgin Atlantic 747 flew from Orlando to Gatwick, powered by a waste-based biofuel with emissions 65% lower than for conventional jet fuel. EasyJet announced it would have all-electric planes serving European routes by 2030, and a company in Singapore revealed plans for a zero-emission, long-range aircraft powered by hydrogen-electric propulsion.
Could these green machines clear our consciences? “Technological breakthroughs that are always ‘just around the corner’ serve to reassure the public that we can continue down the path of aviation expansion,” Tyers warns. “They tell us that engineers and inventors will come to the rescue, that politicians and passengers need do nothing. Climate change will be a real problem unless we do something about our addiction to cheap and plentiful flying.”
Yes, says Jarrod Kyte, of Steppes Travel, but stopping flying is not the answer. “Travel is hugely important, but we need to start acknowledging that it also incurs an environmental debt. I think all tour operators should be offering to offset the environmental cost of travel.”
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The best of this week’s travel news
French roads protest planned
Protests against fuel prices will cause traffic chaos in France and Belgium on Saturday, with hundreds of roadblocks planned. Operation Gilets Jaunes — “yellow jackets” — is the result of a social-media campaign against price increases of 14% for petrol and 22% for diesel in the past year. Drivers heading to France should be prepared for lengthy delays.
Dubai tops tourist spending league
Visitors to Dubai spend more money than those at any other tourist destination, research by Mastercard has revealed. The average daily spend, excluding accommodation, is £410 — a long way ahead of Paris, in second place at £230. London came in eighth, at £117 a day.
China will overtake France as the world’s number-one tourist destination by 2030, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International. Chinese visitors will also dominate in outbound tourism, outstripping the current leaders, the US and Germany. As the country’s middle class expands, foreign trips are forecast to rise from less than 100m in 2018 to 260m in 2030.
A long BuzzFeed article looks in detail at the problems of companies trying to bring back supersonic jets, like Concorde, just to cut a few hours off flights for those rich enough to afford them. The interest in developing these planes was galvanised on October 5th, when President Donald Trump signed a FAA bill directing NASA to start consulting with the aviation industry to restart supersonic passenger travel. The problems remain the horrible sonic boom, that is a pressure wave, that hits anyone/anything on the ground, as the plane flies so fast nearby. Earlier studies indicated people really hated it, and it was dangerous. The shock of the bang could cause heart attacks, car accidents, “people to fall off ladders”etc. Research earlier in the USA indicated that people did not become more tolerant of the bang, but less so. Supersonic flights by Concorde were banned over the USA. Now some US companies are looking at supersonic business flights again, but they are hugely wasteful in terms of fuel and high CO2 emissions. The ICCT said the jets would emit 40% more nitrogen oxides and 70% more CO2 than subsonic ones; they burn about 5-7 times as much fuel per passenger (not that Trump would care…)
People Are Being Subjected To Sonic Booms – To See If The Rich Get Supersonic Planes Again
“Building the airplane is the easy part,” said a NASA official.
By Dan Vergano (BuzzFeed News Reporter)
November 9, 2018
The 50,000 residents of Galveston, Texas, will this month find themselves the subjects of a psychology experiment that could determine the future of supersonic airplanes.
Made famous by Europe’s sleek and ultimately failed Concorde jet, these 1,000 mph planes have in the past been stymied by their cost, environmental footprint, and perhaps most of all, their painful acoustics.
That’s because when planes go faster than the speed of sound, they create a sonic boom as intense and startling as a cannon blast, prompting the feds to ban them from US commercial flights over land. The last time a supersonic plane flew with commercial passengers was from New York to London — a trip just over three hours — in 2003.
But with renewed demand from wealthy business travelers, American engineers are itching to make quieter versions of the world’s fastest planes. Three startups — Aerion of Reno, Nevada, Spike Aerospace of Boston, and Boom of Denver — are designing planes that would cut long flights in half. Last month, General Electric announced it would create a new supersonic passenger jet engine for Aerion.
And NASA is planning to test an X-59 QueSST prototype over major US cities, suggesting Chicago as an example, in 2023.The plane will have a quieter, stretched-out sonic boom, known as a low boom, that sounds something like a car door slamming to folks on the ground.
“Hopefully they won’t hear anything,” Corey Diebler of NASA’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator project told BuzzFeed News in October, during wind tunnel tests of a miniature version of the X-59 at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Because noise complaints could present a big hurdle to this would-be next generation of air travel, NASA is conducting the Galveston experiment as an early test of community tolerance.
Residents of the city — located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico — are used to hearing planes overhead, thanks to the nearby Scholes International Airport. But over the next three weeks or so, NASA will fly a supersonic jet (a NASA F/A-18) over Galveston, making the plane dive to create a low boom up to eight times a day. Afterward, the researchers will survey about 500 people about how much the noise bothered them.
“In some ways, building the airplane is the easy part,” Peter Coen, the leader of NASA’s civil supersonic program, told BuzzFeed News. More difficult, he said, is figuring out the best way to warn people about this new kind of noise pollution.
“We don’t want to overdo it and alarm them, but we don’t want to not tell them enough so people are surprised,” Coen said. “We don’t want people to feel like guinea pigs.”
NASA has been working on low-boom planes for decades, but was galvanized on October 5, when President Donald Trump signed a Federal Aviation Administration bill directing NASA to start consulting with the aviation industry to restart supersonic passenger travel.
The Galveston thumps are a lead-in to two possible FAA rule changes: one that would establish noise standards for supersonic planes and another that would permit test flights of civilian aircraft flying faster than the speed of sound.
“We are finally, and quite literally, accelerating supersonic into the future,” wrote Samuel Hammond, of the libertarian Niskanen Center, about the new FAA direction.
Skeptics, however, doubt that people will tolerate even the quieter booms. They’re also unconvinced that travelers will pay a lot more just to shave a few hours off lengthy trips.And there are lingering concerns about fuel efficiency and emissions that doomed similar planes flown decades ago in the US, Soviet Union, England, and France.
The most famous attempt, the bent-nosed Concorde made by England and France in the 1970s, ended service in 2003 after decades of flights that rarely filled its 128 seats (at most), each passenger paying today’s equivalent of $12,700.
“Will it just be a quiet Concorde — fast but expensive?” aviation historian Janet Bednarek of the University of Dayton told BuzzFeed News by email. “Getting rid of the boom might be a first step in allowing supersonic flight over land, but generally people — especially people who move to suburbs or exurbs for the ‘quiet’ — are not very tolerant of noise.”
“I foresee great battles over where flight paths would be allowed,” she added.
The Galveston test will be a shorter, gentler version of a sonic boom experiment done five decades ago. On February 3, 1964, at 7 a.m., military jets began bombarding Oklahoma City with sonic booms. The acoustic assault went on for six months, eight times a day, preannounced at regular times. The booms grew in strength as the weeks passed, doubling in average force by July, when the government’s experiment on half a million people finally ended after 1,253 blasts.
“Bodies quivered, windows shattered, huge cracks appeared in ceilings,” noted a 2015 summary of the Oklahoma City project, organized by the FAA. “Babies cried; adults recoiled.” The booms led to more than 15,000 complaints and 10,000 damage claims, even though 70% of the population didn’t know where to direct them.
The experiment, meant to gauge the public’s acceptance of supersonic flights, found that rather than getting used to the booms, residents complained more over time. Members of the Chamber of Commerce and FAA faced death threats, and 27% of city residents surveyed said they would move rather than endure more booms.
“Oklahoma City was selected as a place supportive of the aviation industry, and people there still didn’t like sonic booms,” historian David Suisman of the University of Delaware told BuzzFeed News.
The results were a disaster for the US Supersonic Transport (SST) program, a 1960s bid to build a supersonic jetliner, changing sonic booms from a minor annoyance to the central objection to supersonic travel.
The FAA concluded that the public would accept quieter booms, like the ones deployed at the very beginning of the experiment, but a National Academy of Sciences panel soon concluded the opposite, warning they might cause car accidents, heart attacks, lost sleep, or people falling off ladders.
A sonic boom is not a sound wave, but a shock wave, an outburst of compressed energy created by an object traveling ahead of the sound waves it creates. (People inside the plane don’t hear the boom as they are literally out-flying it.) Shocks off the leading edges of a plane combine and trail behind it in a cone-shaped “carpet” about 50 miles wide. Rather than building up like the sounds of an oncoming jet, all of that sound energy is delivered at once in a startling boom.
“Anywhere there’s a bump that comes off the aircraft it’s going to create a shockwave,” Diebler of NASA said. What happens normally on a supersonic aircraft is all those little waves coalesce to lay down on the ground together at once, “so it sounds like a cannon going off,” he said.
After the Oklahoma City tests, environmental groups — such as the Citizens League Against the Sonic Boom (CLASB) and the Coalition Against the SST — sprung up to complain about the booms. This criticism fed into a broader environmental movement campaigning against noise pollution in cities.
In the late 1960s, for example, a new group called Friends of the Earth took up the supersonic boom as its primary cause, forming a coalition with both environment- and cost-conscious senators opposed to the SST.
“In those days, the staffers of both parties were young people worried about the environment, and over time they convinced their bosses to oppose it,” Charles Shurcliff, whose father, William, founded CLASB, told BuzzFeed News. William made a nationwide map of supersonic “bang zones” that was particularly effective at rousing opposition.
SST supporters, meanwhile, made arguments for the plane based on economic and national prestige, calling sonic booms “The Sound of Security” and arguing that mild ones posed little threat of damaging homes. The US Air Force even tested whether sonic booms could crack eggs in chicken coops or stop minks and turkeys from reproducing. (“Even under the most extraordinary circumstances, sonic booms from practical aircraft maneuvers do not pose a threat to avian eggs,” concludes one NASA report.)
No matter. The death knell for the SST and supersonic travel in the US came in by a then-rare filibuster in the US Senate (all the more unusual today for being bipartisan), that ended at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve of 1970.
In 1973, the FAA banned passenger airlines from supersonic flights over the US.The decision was a landmark — and largely forgotten — victory for the early environmental movement, making “noise pollution” a real issue for airplane designers to contend with thereafter. It also knocked out 80% of the market for supersonic flights, according to a 1998 analysis by the late aviation economist R.E.G. Davies, which helped kill off the industry’s appetite for the Concorde.
The first rules about noise levels, instituted in the 1970s, limited planes to roughly 100 decibels overhead. The FAA’s current standard for noise is 65 decibels, averaged over a 24-hour period, long controversial among homeowners on flight paths, who have to listen to take-offs and landings as they happen, not spread out over a day. (In 2015, the agency said it was starting a study to reexamine this standard, with its release scheduled for 2017. It still hasn’t been released, and the agency did not reply to a request for a release date from BuzzFeed News.)
The rules only apply to subsonic flights. Newer rules instituted in the 1990s meant that newer planes like the Boeing 737 were about 10 decibels quieter than older planes flying overhead. Tightening of these rules has meant that instead of 7 million people “exposed to what is considered significant aircraft noise,” in 1975, today only about 314,000 are, according to the FAA. New 2018 rules call for another 7-decibel drop for future flights.
But for new supersonic models, like NASA’s X-59, “Any noise is an issue,” aviation historian Bednarek said. Even as aircraft have become quieter, noise complaints have continued, she noted. “In fact, one could argue that making aircraft quieter just lowered the threshold at which people would start to complain.”
NASA’s Corey Diebler and team test an X-59 model in a wind tunnel with smoke and lasers.
Lockheed Martin will build the X-59 in 2019, using a number of engineering tricks to spread out the shock waves and create a softer boom.
The main change is its pencil-like length and shape, which stretches out the distance between the nose and wing shocks. To allow for its pointy nose, the cockpit will lack a front window, instead relying on a camera for the down-slanted view of the runway over its long, pointy nose.
The jet also uses small fixed wings just behind the cockpit and “thump bumps” under its tail that will change the shape and direction of the supersonic shock waves coming off the aircraft’s back end in a way that spreads them out instead of letting them join up with the shocks coming off the front of the plane. The combination of wings, bumps, and length optimized for that speed, around 940 mph at an altitude of 55,000 feet (the cruising range of the plane), should deliver a sound “like distant thunder,” said NASA’s Diebler. “You might still hear a thud, but it shouldn’t be a sharp, intense noise.”
When built, the X-59’s sonic carpet will be only 15 to 20 miles wide instead of the 50 miles of the SST. But because a sonic boom travels behind an aircraft, the thump would not only hit people near the airport but would follow the entire flight path of the aircraft while it is supersonic.
“So the number of people subjected to this ‘thud’ or ‘thump’ would be much larger than those subjected to noise now in the vicinity of airports,” said Bednarek, the University of Dayton historian. “More people — more potential complainers.”
And the noise would happen in places where people are not accustomed to hearing any aircraft at all, she added.
NASA is building the X-59 to eventually spur commercial development of a 50- to 80-seat business jet, about the size of what Aerion, Spike, and Boom are proposing (though none of the three startups have yet built a prototype).
But sonic booms alone didn’t kill the SST and Concorde, business professor Mel Horwitch, author of Clipped Wings: The American SST Conflict, told BuzzFeed News. Rather, it was a combination of economic and environmental objections that actually killed the plane: The $260 million cost of the government program in 1970 alone was too much for US lawmakers.
In the aftermath of the SST’s demise, seen as a blow to US technological prowess, Boeing went on to make a killing on the subsonic 747, which could carry hundreds of passengers. Meanwhile, England and France squandered $2.3 billion on the Concorde, seen as a “commercial disaster” as early as 1977 when it carried only 70 passengers and cost three times as much as its subsonic competitors.
Those same economic problems may dog the new supersonic jets. Proponents point to market projections claiming hundreds of supersonic business jet sales in the decade after an overland flight ban is rescinded. Similar optimism accompanied the SST and the Concorde, however, which in the end supported a fleet of 20 planes.
Aerion touts flights from New York to Shanghai and Brisbane, but supersonic flights across the Pacific are pointless for business travelers, Davies noted in his 1998 analysis. The 12-hour difference in trans-Pacific time zones means business travelers from America and Europe would arrive in Asia either as their hosts are asleep or they themselves are ready to pass out. Better a subsonic flight and a night of sleep than trying to negotiate in Beijing at what feels like 1 a.m., he argued. (Aerion declined to answer questions about its business model from BuzzFeed News.)
Newer passenger jets have actually gotten a bit slower in recent decades, as the price of fuel has risen and airlines chased efficiency and cleaner emissions. All of the startups aiming to fly supersonic in the next decade have touted low emissions as a goal, but it simply takes more fuel to go faster, raising critical questions: An analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation suggests the proposed supersonic business jets would emit 40% more nitrous oxide and 70% more carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas driving global warming, than subsonic ones.That’s because they burn about five to seven times as much fuel per passenger, compared to subsonic flights.
Boom is looking at creating a 55-passenger plane, aiming at business travelers (which account for only about 5.3% of all non–economy class air travelers, according to the International Air Transport Association).
But Aerion and Spike are hoping to attract mega-wealthy flyers, with proposed 8- to 12-seat and 18-seat designs, respectively. The notion of plutocrats traveling at supersonic speeds overhead while the 99% travel slower might chafe, but from an environmental standpoint, that might be better, Suisman, of the University of Delaware, said. “A few business jets are going to release a lot fewer emissions than fleets of large supersonic passengers planes,” he said.
And 2023, when the X-59 is scheduled for flight tests over US cities and the FAA aims to reexamine its supersonic ban, might be a very different environment for worries about the effect of airplane emissions on the climate, compared to today’s FAA run by the climate-heedless Trump administration.
“I do wonder if this is technology that we will want in the next few years, with concerns about climate change and each person’s carbon footprint becoming more prominent,” Horwitch said. He was calling Washington, DC, from Budapest on FaceTime to make that comment, he noted, and the internet is only going to get better at making such connections in five years. ●
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has launched a new Call for Evidence to support is forthcoming advice to the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations on long-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions and the UK’s transition to a net zero-carbon economy. In October the government asked the CCC when the UK should reach net zero emissions of CO2 and/or greenhouse gases as a contribution to global ambition under the Paris Agreement; if that target should be set now; the implications for emissions in 2050; how such reductions can be achieved; and the costs and benefits involved in comparison to existing targets. The government asked for the advice by the end of March 2019. The current target is for cuts of at least 80% on the 1990 level by 2050. This includes international aviation and shipping. So far the 5-yearly carbon budgets are set up to 2032. The CCC advice will be looking at the latest climate science, including the IPCC Report on 1.5°C. Organisations and individuals are invited to send in responses, by 7th December, including thoughts on costs, risks and opportunities from setting a tighter long-term target – and actions needed to achieve the targets. Details of how to respond etc.
CCC launches zero carbon economy Call for Evidence
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has today launched a new Call for Evidence to support is forthcoming advice to the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations on long-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions and the UK’s transition to a net zero-carbon economy.
The Government will open the door for another new runway by 2050, in addition to the plans for expansion at Heathrow, in a consultation to be launched next month. The DfT’s “Aviation Strategy Green Paper” will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050, according to Sarah Bishop, DfT’s Deputy Head of Aviation Policy. This would be in addition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, and perhaps Gatwick making use of its emergency runway. Ms Bishop says there could be a “need” (sic) for more expansion, to meet air travel demand. Classic outdated “predict & provide” thinking. [The DfT gives the impression it is entirely unaware of of global climate breakdown, or the UK’s responsibilities on its carbon emissions]. It remains unclear how even ONE further runway (perhaps Heathrow) could be delivered within the UK’s legally binding CO2 emission targets – which require the aviation sector to keep its CO2 emissions to their 2005 level by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change warned as recently as June 2018 that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about even ONE new runway (let alone two). The No 3rd Runway Coalition believes the possibility of yet another runway being approved by the DfT would cause concerns for investors in Heathrow.
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCE ANOTHER NEW RUNWAY NEEDED BY 2050 IN ADDITION TO HEATHROW
CAMPAIGNERS ARGUE THIS BRINGS A NEW DIMENSION OF DOUBT TO HEATHROW PLANS
13.11.2018 (No 3rd Runway Coalition)
The Government will open the door for another new runway to be delivered by 2050, in addition to the plans for expansion at Heathrow, in a consultation to be launched next month (1).
The Aviation Strategy Green Paper will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050, according to Sarah Bishop, Deputy Head of Aviation Policy at the Department for Transport.
Ms. Bishop stressed the need for exploring a further runway came as a result of figures from 2015 that were now out of date to the extent that another runway could be needed by 2050.
It remains unclear how any further runway could be delivered within legally binding carbon emission targets to reduce emissions by 2050. For aviation this would bring emissions to 2005 levels.
The Committee on Climate Change warned as recently as June 2018 that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about how one additional runway would be compatible with efforts to reduce emissions, let alone two (2).
However, campaigners believe that the announcement brings a fresh dimension of doubt to the existing plans for Heathrow expansion and could worry investors behind the existing Heathrow project, were it to be cancelled later through overruns and a rival scheme being built quicker and more efficiently.
Taxpayers would also be exposed to this doubt through a cost-recovery clause that Heathrow agreed with the Government in 2016 (3).
Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“With the financial and legal challenges of Heathrow’s third runway far from overcome, this new option for another runway is likely to bedevil Heathrow’s plans going forward, bringing a fresh dimension of doubt to the current project.
“It truly beggars’ belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UKs commitment to the environment.
“Maybe the Government is having its own doubts on Heathrow and is trying to find a way out?”
Those are only just over a year ago. The tables at the end of the document, on around P.137 show that even in their “baseline” scenario, of no new runways, the growth in passengers is more than 60%.
For example, the number of UK air passengers in 2016 was about 266 million. The number forecast for 2050 might be 437 million. That is an increase of 65%.
The number of air passengers in 2016 was already 16 % larger than the 229 million in 2005. So the 2050 figure is about 91% higher than the 2005 figure. The limit would be 366 million passengers, if an increase of 60% on the 2005 number was allowed.
Heathrow third runway ‘not enough’ to deal with demand
Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy at the Department for Transport (DfT), has warned that a third runway at Heathrow will not be enough to keep pace with the UK’s growing passenger demand over the next 30 years.
Bishop said at a meeting of the Westminster energy, environment and transport forum that the estimates for passenger numbers made three years ago are ‘already out of date’, claiming that demand for air travel is growing 10 per cent faster than assumed.
Even with a third runway at Heathrow, Bishop predicted the UK will face “capacity constraints” again by 2050. She said “there may be a need for a runway beyond that looking out to 2050”, according to The Times.
With both Heathrow and Gatwick airports reporting yet another month of passenger growth in October and IATA predicting 8.2 billion air travellers in 2037, demand for air travel could continue to grow in the coming decade.
Bishop said the government will release the Aviation Strategy Green Paper, which will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050.
While the current government has ruled out building a fourth runway at Heathrow, Gatwick airport has revealed a proposal to use its existing emergency air strip as a second runway to increase capacity, although both airports are facing opposition from local and environmental bodies.
Commenting on Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “With the financial and legal challenges of Heathrow’s third runway far from overcome, this new option for another runway is likely to bedevil Heathrow’s plans going forward, bringing a fresh dimension of doubt to the current project.
“It truly beggars belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UK’s commitment to the environment. Maybe the government is having its own doubts on Heathrow and is trying to find a way out.”
Airlines flying in or out of the UK carried 285 million passengers last year
A third runway at Heathrow would not be enough to satisfy passenger demand for flights within the next 30 years, a senior government official has warned.
Estimates for passenger numbers made three years ago were “already looking quite out of date, with demand at a national level growing 10 per cent faster” than assumed, according to Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy at the Department for Transport.
By 2050 “we are expecting that there will be capacity constraints once more, even with a third runway at Heathrow,” she told a recent meeting of the Westminster energy, environment and transport forum.
“Capacity in the southeast up to 2030 will be well served with an additional runway at Heathrow, but there may be a need for a runway beyond that looking out to 2050.”
Airlines flying in or out of the UK carried 285 million passengers last year, a rise of almost 15 million from a year earlier and up by 30 million in two years. The government has already ruled out a fourth runway at Heathrow although this would not prevent a future administration from pushing ahead with the proposal.
Heathrow will hold a public consultation next summer into the £14 billion project to build a two-mile third runway that would increase the annual number of flights from a maximum of 480,000 a year now to 740,000.
Robert Barnstone, co-ordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “This beggars belief. One runway isn’t going to meet a multitude of environmental targets, let alone another one.”
Someone flying from London to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year, according to the European Commission (EC). The EC states that: “If global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.” Looking at Ireland, it has agreed, under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS (Emissions Trading System) greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2005 levels, by 2020; these include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry. Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030. But according to the EC, by 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005 and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300-700%. Some of the carbon emissions from aviation within Europe (not planes flying to and from Europe, just internally) are covered under the EU’s ETS. This is at risk if the global ICAO deal succeeds in forcing the EU to abandon this scheme.
By 2050 global aviation emissions could surge by 700%
By Claire Mc Cormack (Agri Land Ireland)
Nov 5, 2018
Someone flying from London to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year, according to the European Commission.
Currently, aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, the EU is taking action to reduce aviation emissions in Europe by working with the international community to develop measures with global reach.
According to official European Commission data, direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% of global emissions.
The commission states that: “If global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.”
Last week, on episode nine of FarmLand, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice raised concerns over how rural indigenous industries – particularly agriculture and the peat industry – are being impacted by efforts to meet Ireland’s carbon emission reduction and renewable energy targets.
He argued that greater strides can be made in the transport sector – particularly in aviation – to reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint.
“If you want to talk about this whole carbon situation in Ireland, and indeed the world, no one is talking about the amount of emissions that planes are putting out.
Some of these people want to get rid of all the livestock in Ireland and to cut down on this, that and the other – but why aren’t we talking about emissions from planes?
“We should ground them if we need to. Don’t be going on your holidays if that’s the case, if we’re doing so much damage,” said deputy Fitzmaurice who represents the Galway-Roscommon constituency.
Under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, Ireland has agreed to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions, on 2005 levels, by 2020.
Non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector) include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry.
Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030.
Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) Ireland is also committed to producing at least 16% of all energy consumed in the Republic from renewable sources by 2020.
300-700% Emission Increase
According to the European Commission, by 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005 and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300-700%.
Along with other sectors, aviation is contributing to emission reductions within the EU through the EU emissions trading system.
CO2 emissions from aviation have been included in the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) since 2012.
Under the EU ETS, all airlines operating in Europe, European and non-European alike, are required to monitor, report and verify their emissions, and to surrender allowances against those emissions.
They receive tradeable allowances covering a certain level of emissions from their flights per year.
The system has so far contributed to reducing the carbon footprint of the aviation sector by more than 17 million tonnes per year – with compliance covering over 99.5% of emissions.
In addition to market-based measures like the ETS, operational measures – such as modernising and improving air traffic management technologies, procedures and systems – also contribute to reducing aviation emissions.
In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a resolution for a global market-based measure to address CO2 emissions from international aviation as of 2021.
The agreed resolution sets out the objective and key design elements of the global scheme – as well as a road-map for the completion of the work on implementing modalities.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, aims to stabilise CO2 emissions at 2020 levels by requiring airlines to offset the growth of their emissions after 2020.
During the period 2021-2035, and based on expected participation, the scheme is estimated to offset around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels.
By Claire Mc Cormack (Agri Land Ireland)
Nov 1, 2018,
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has stated that if the country is serious about tackling carbon emissions “airplanes should be grounded”.
Speaking tonight (Thursday, November 1) on episode nine of FarmLand, the TD who represents the Galway-Roscommon constituency joined Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, in a discussion on how rural indigenous industries are being impacted by efforts to meet the country’s carbon emission reduction and renewable energy targets.
Under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, Ireland has agreed to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions, on 2005 levels, by 2020.
Non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector) include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry.
Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030.
Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) Ireland is also committed to producing at least 16% of all energy consumed in the Republic from renewable sources by 2020.
If you want to talk about this whole carbon situation in Ireland, and indeed the world, no one is talking about the amount of emissions that planes are putting out.
“Some of these people want to get rid of all the livestock in Ireland and to cut down on this, that, and the other, but why aren’t we talking about emissions from planes?
“We should ground them if we need to. Don’t be going on your holidays if that’s the case, if we’re doing so much damage,” he said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 3%-4% by 2020; and 6%-7% by 2030 on current levels.
In some quarters it has been claimed that this rise is linked to the expansion of stocking rates, particularly for the dairy herd.
However, Teagasc’s Brendan Horan recently highlighted that the current dairy herd is effectively the same size as 1988 – just shy of 1.4 million dairy cows.
Speaking just days after Bord na Mona’s unexpected announcement that it plans to completely stop peat harvesting in 2025 – five years ahead of its initial deadline of 2030 – as part of its latest decarbonisation agenda, Fitzmaurice contends that the future vision for the semi-state company is “not realistic”.
He also warned that Bord na Mona’s decision to cease peat harvesting in 2025 could potentially put the country’s fuel security at risk.
The company has confirmed that peat volumes to ESB will decline by approximately 50% from December 2019, when West Offaly Power Station (Shannonbridge) and Lough Ree Power Station (Lanesborough, Co. Longford) are no longer supported by the PSO subsidy and must co-fire with biomass to continue to operate.
Currently BNM is successfully co-fuelling its own power station at Edenderry, Co. Offaly, with peat and biomass. To date the co-fuelling has cut its annual carbon emissions by 40%.
However, Fitzmaurice is of the view that biomass is “not a sustainable option” for the power plants.
BNM has projected that its biomass demand from 2020 onwards will be an estimated 1.5 million tonnes.
The company has stated that the considerable increase in biomass volume will require imports to close the supply gap in the short-to-medium term.
It claims that maintaining a stable biomass supply is vital to supporting jobs in the peat business and across the midlands economy.
“Over the last year, I’ve been to the fore in saying that it’s uneconomical growing biomass in this country.
We know there are 3,000ac being grown at the moment and we are aware that there is something like 500ac after being put back into agricultural land for the simple reason that the economics don’t stack up.
“The reality of it is, that because of the movements last week and the announcements, we are now bounced five years sooner than what Bord na Mona had envisaged.
“Next year we are going to have a million tonnes less of peat – that’s what we have agreed on – and what is going to replace it?
“We haven’t got a magic wand that is going to replace it over night and we are in trouble in the line of biomass because that is what the focus has been on,” Fitzmaurice said.
Fitzmaurice was also sceptical about the potential of wind powered generation.
We need fuel security in this country and we are now in danger. Where are we going for the next 10 years with making sure we have fuel security and making sure that we are not going to hit a bang?
“In my opinion we are sleepwalking into something. We are now this year at the peak of gas in Belmullet and in 2025 it is envisaged that that is gone.
“We don’t have a vision of what we are doing,” he warned.
Professor Dorothea Hilhorst has done a blog on how essential it is for everyone, including development practitioners and academics, to cut the amount they fly. She asks whether flying should become the new smoking and how we can address our problematic flying behaviour. This is especially vital after the IPCC report that showed how humanity needs to keep global warming to 1.5C. She says: “…governments should get their acts together and start taxing air travel, while investing in alternatives” … “organisations and their employees should also take some level of responsibility.” … “What we really need, though, is a change of mentality. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. ” There are alternatives. Like other academics she has “found it normal or at best a necessary evil to hop on a plane for every piece of research, conference or seminar.” This has to change. There are problems like the department saying: “Sorry, we are short on budget this year, would you mind taking the plane rather than the train?” There is a lot academia (and business etc) could do, such as organising international conferences “every three or four years rather than every year” or more use of Skype for seminars etc, or “investing more in identifying and fostering local experts to avoid international consultancies.” Read the full blog.
by Dorothea Hilhorst (Blog by ISS – International Institute of Social Studies – Bliss)
OCTOBER 17, 2018
The recently published IPCC report paints a grim picture of the future if carbon emissions are not immediately and fundamentally reversed. It is now necessary to focus on our own contribution to the mess that we’ve made, Dorothea Hilhorst argues. She focuses on the flying habits of development practitioners and academics, asking whether flying should become the new smoking and how we can address our problematic flying behaviour.
Flying is an important contributor to global warming, and by far one of the most complicated. There are no signs that flying will be reduced and technical solutions to reduce carbon emissions are a long way off and not very feasible. Unlike cars, electric planes are not an option—flying a plane would require its entire space to be filled with batteries.
The IPCC report that came out last week is absolutely terrifying. The possibility of retaining global heating within 1.5 degrees is rapidly disappearing and we are facing global warming of 2 or even 3 degrees. The report contains convincing evidence of the devastation of that extra degree on biodiversity, sea level rise, disaster events, the economy, coral reefs, and so on.
With regards to flying, governments should get their acts together and start taxing air travel, while investing in alternatives, especially a huge expansion of fast train networks. But in the meantime, I think organisations and their employees should also take some level of responsibility.
The IPCC report comes out in the midst of a scandal over the irresponsible ‘flying behaviour’ of Erik Solheim, the director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who travels 80% of his time. In the coverage of the scandal, most attention centred on his flying for private purposes. This reflects a general view that private flying is a luxury, but business-related travel is just what needs to be done. But is that really true? I’m pretty sure that huge cuts could easily be made in business-related air travel.
For decades, I have not given my flying behaviour much thought either, and found it normal or at best a necessary evil to hop on a plane for every piece of research, conference or seminar.
I will not go into name-shaming, but I know for a fact that some of the front runner developmental institutes and think tanks are not using carbon offsetting for their flights, and have no policy on reducing air travel. Since a few years back, I have tried to reduce my own air travel. I still have an oversized ecological footprint, but I fly significantly less than I used to.
I also—cautiously—try to bring up the topic in conversations with people I work with. Here some experiences:
1) When preparing a lecture at a development institute in the UK: “Sorry, we are short on budget this year, would you mind taking the plane rather than the train?”
2) A director of a development department in the Netherlands: “Sorry, we are too busy. We will consider introducing a policy next year”.
3) A consultant coming over for an assignment: “Really, is there now a train connecting London to Amsterdam in less than four hours? I didn’t know”.
Two further defences are that people start laughing when I raise this issue, because they consider air travel to be at the core of who we are; or that they point at real polluters, usually big business or an American president. Good points, but my reading of the IPCC report is that all of us need to step up the effort: governments, business, institutions, employees and consumers.
I also know many people that refuse to carbon offset because some offset programmes are open to criticism, or because they find this tokenistic. However, offsetting is a first step. While the IPCC focuses on the devastation of future temperature rises, it is absolutely clear that climate change is already wreaking havoc, especially for poor people in poor countries.
More droughts, floods, fires. More hunger, poverty, and distress migration. It is a core principle in environmental politics that polluters should pay. There are a number of offset schemes that take this into account and use the money they generate for programs that combine livelihoods with mitigation of carbon emission, for example by protecting the vast peat areas in the world that contain huge levels of carbon. If only for this reason, a simple measure such as offsetting every flight you take should not be too much to ask.
But compensation programmes can only ever be a first small step. Next comes sharply reducing the number of flights we take.
Of course, there are already signs of these changes, and best practices are rapidly evolving. I have the feeling that NGOs may be ahead of the game compared to universities and research institutes. We academics may even be worse than the United Nations or some companies. Some obvious things we could do:
Some NGOs (like Oxfam) have ruled that travel below xx hours cannot use air travel. I have not yet heard of a single university that sets such rules.
No more face-to-face job interviews, where applicants are invited to fly in so that the personal chemistry can be tested.
Organise international conferences of study associations every three or four years rather than every year.
Get used to teaching and seminars through Skype.
Introduce a rule that planes must be booked well in advance to avoid that the only available or affordable ticket comes with three stops and huge detours.
Invest more in identifying and fostering local experts to avoid international consultancies.
I’m sure there are plenty more examples, and would love to hear suggestions. Taxing carbon use and investing in green transport systems like fast trains will definitely help to reduce air travel.
What we really need, though, is a change of mentality. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Let’s get ready for an era where flying is the new smoking. It won’t be long before people who fly have some awkward explaining to do over the Friday afternoon drinks after work.
About the author:
Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. See other articles by her here and here and here and here
Petition set up by academics from many countries asks universities across the world to reduce flying
October 27, 2015
A group of 56 scholars has launched a petition calling on universities and academic professional associations to greatly reduce flying-related footprint as part of effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The academic group believe there is a need for collective action to improve the climate profile of academic communities. A petition has been set up, asking universities, institutions of higher education and professional associations to greatly reduce their flying. It appreciates that for academics to fly less, it requires their colleagues to change behaviour. There is an expectation to attend meetings and conferences. The petition asks universities etc to include all university-related flying (whether directly paid by the university or by others) in their environmental impact measurement and goal-setting. Also to support and work to realise marked reductions in flying by faculty, staff, and students commensurate with the cuts suggested by climate science. And to establish and publish short- and medium-term benchmarks for reductions. The petition originators hope universities etc will use their influence with professional associations to reduce reliance on flying for academic and research conferencing. Professor Kevin Anderson, a respected UK climate scientist, has already written and spoken often on this subject, and does not fly to conferences.
Kevin Anderson blog on decisions of academics and climate community about personal travel
October 10, 2014
In a blog in June 2014, Professor Kevin Anderson writes about the need for people to consider their own behaviour in relation to flying. He is personally highly conscious of his own energy use. He looks in particular at academics and those in the climate change community, and their justification for the use of high carbon travel. These are some quotes: “Amongst academics, NGOs, green-business gurus and climate change policy makers, there is little collective sense of either the urgency of change needed or of our being complicit in the grim situation we now face.” And on the desire to fly to save time to spend with our families: “When we’re dead and buried our children will likely still be here dealing with the legacy of our inaction today; do we discount their futures at such a rate as to always favour those family activities that we can join in with?” And “Surely if humankind is to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by soaring emissions, we, as a community, should be a catalyst for change – behaving as if we believe in our own research, campaign objectives etc. – rather than simply acting as a bellwether of society’s complacency.”
NASA JPL scientist explains why he gave up flying: “I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly.”
February 14, 2016
Academics fly a lot, and there is the presumption that this is essential for their work and for international university connections etc. A climate scientist, Dr Peter Kalmus (who works for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) has decided that his own lifestyle is not consistent with his understanding of rising anthropogenic carbon emissions. “I try to avoid burning fossil fuels, because it’s clear that doing so causes real harm to humans and to non-humans, today and far into the future. I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly.” He says: “I experienced a lot of social pressure to fly, so it took me three years to quit. Not flying for vacations was relatively easy.” Long trips by road to visit family were a bit harder. He comments that he knows scientists who fly a lot, but “just don’t think about it” and “most people simply don’t know the huge impact of their flying—but I also suspect that many of us are addicted to it. We’ve come to see flying as an inalienable right, a benefit of 21st-century living that we take for granted.” “In today’s world, we’re still socially rewarded for burning fossil fuels. We equate frequent flying with success; we rack up our “miles.” This is backward: Burning fossil fuels does real harm to the biosphere, to our children, and to countless generations—and it should, therefore, be regarded as socially unacceptable.”