Climate Change News

Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation

Swiss environment and transport groups lobby Parliament for more tax on aviation

A range of environmental organisations in Switzerland have joined forces to appeal to their parliament to introduce an air ticket tax. Two climate protection "angels" took this demand for effective climate protection to the Federal Parliament, as the National Council is now dealing with the air ticket tax as part of Swiss CO2 law revision.  Air traffic is already responsible for over 18% of Switzerland's man-made climate impact - and forecasts show it continuing to grow. Unless something concrete is done, aviation will become the biggest driver of Switzerland's climate impact until 2030. Despite the high GHG emissions, international aviation is exempt from kerosene tax, value added tax and CO2 tax. Aviation is now heavily subsidised, resulting in very low fares, further accelerating demand growth. Therefore, it is high time for Switzerland to introduce the flight ticket tax, to reduce the impact on the global climate. Surveys confirm that the level of acceptance of a flight ticket tax is high and a majority supports the revenue from an air ticket tax being invested in climate protection projects in Switzerland. Without cutting its aviation CO2 emissions, Switzerland cannot meet its Paris commitments for 2 or 1.5C temperature rise.

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Study by German NGO, Atmosfair, shows airlines are failing to take up the most fuel efficient planes – so not reducing CO2

Airlines are failing to take up the most efficient planes in sufficient numbers to make a significant dent in their carbon dioxide emissions, a new study by Atmosfair has found. The most efficient new aircraft models, such as the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 and A320neo, can achieve substantial CO2 savings over older models, but no airlines have invested sufficiently in the new types to reach the top levels of energy efficiency, according to the 2018 ranking by the German NGO. In it no airlines received an A for efficiency, and only 2 airlines were ranked in efficiency class B.  Atmosfair also found that only 10% of airlines worldwide were succeeding in keeping their greenhouse gas emissions constant (let alone not reducing them) while flight numbers grew. Carbon emissions from airlines grew by about 5% last year, while the number of kilometres flown increased by 6%.  The results show that the efficiency improvements of the vast majority of airlines worldwide is not sufficient to keep within the 2C or 1.5C target of the Paris agreement.  The sector needs new and radical measures to limit their carbon emissions, and CO2-neutral fuels - if they were possible [which is probably unlikely]. British Airways was placed at 74th, with an efficiency rating of D.

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T&E report on how to decarbonise European transport by 2050 – including aviation

Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a report on how to decarbonise (ie. zero carbon) European transport by 2050. It has many suggestions on aviation. A few quotes from the report:  "By driving out the use of fossil kerosene fuel in aviation through carbon pricing and requiring aircraft to switch to synthetic fuels, and advanced biofuels to a very limited extent, the climate impact of flying can be reduced dramatically. Zero emission electrofuels and very low carbon advanced sustainable biofuels can be produced today and deployed immediately using existing engines and infrastructure." ... "While synfuels can solve aviation's CO2  problem, the non-CO2 problem will require additional measures to be mitigated." ... "In Europe [aviation] emissions have doubled since 1990, and globally they could, without action, double or treble by 2050." ...  "Aviation is at risk of having its emissions locked in due to the growth in passenger numbers and aircraft fleet, consuming the limited carbon budget to remain within the 1.5°C and 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement." ... "By 2030, advanced biofuels are expected to contribute only 3.5% of all transport fuels (including cars, trucks, aviation) and their growth beyond this date is likely to be constrained due to land availability and competing industries." ... "ICAO, with its weak target of net 2020 emissions and reliance on offsetting instead of cutting emissions, is only capable of delivering a global minimum effort. Much more ambitious action" is needed. 

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“Heathrow unveils its plan for carbon neutral growth”: except there is no credible plan … not for a 50% increase in flights

Heathrow has set out a "plan" to (magically) help it to increase the number of flights by up to 50% but do this in a "carbon neutral" way. Needless to say, there is no detail of how it can actually do this.  There is plenty about how it will be investing in "sustainable" fuels. Plenty of blather, without any actual details, about how can achieve an entirely impossible goal. Heathrow says it is looking at action on 4 key areas including: cleaner aircraft technology, [by that it means more fuel efficient, not more clean]; improvements to airspace and ground operations; sustainable aviation fuels [none probably exist, without huge unintended side effects]; and carbon offsetting methods [ie. keeping on emitting, and paying to cancel out the carbon savings made by others elsewhere, postponing the evil moment when they actually reduce aviation CO2 emissions.] There is hype like how they will: "Make Heathrow a leading hub for the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels by providing the necessary airport infrastructure, and support for pilot projects" and how they are calling on "ICAO to develop global goals for the uptake of sustainable alternative fuels."  And lots of hope about those peat bogs, which they are hoping will save their bacon ....

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Maersk pledges to cut CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, without use of offsets which just “delay the pain”

Global aviation and global shipping are two sectors with immense carbon emissions, not properly controlled by any one country.  Shipping currently accounts for about 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, and if the sector does not cut fuel burned, this could to 20% of global emissions by 2050. Now the world’s largest container shipping company has "pledged" to cut net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. It is challenging an industry that is one of the main transporters of global trade and one of the biggest carbon emitters to come up with radical solutions in the next decade. It hopes to make new ships "carbon free" by 2030. The CEO of Maersk, Mr Toft, said: “We will have to abandon fossil fuels. We will have to find a different type of fuel or a different way to power our assets." But what is suggested is perhaps biofuels, hydrogen, electricity, wind or solar power. It would be a catastrophe for the natural world if shipping also tries to get hold of biofuels (as well as electricity generation, and aviation) with forests and natural habitats for wildlife devastated. Maersk is aiming to meet its target without buying carbon offsets. Mr Toft said: “If you buy offsets, you are basically delaying the pain. What you are doing is buying yourself an excuse and hoping that the money you pay goes to good uses, but you are not tackling the issue at its core.”

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Birmingham Airport expansion plans criticised over rising emission concerns

Green councillors amid concerns over rises in greenhouse gas emissions.  They say the airport’s draft masterplan is ‘irresponsible’.  The increase in passenger numbers after the expansion could see the level of emissions rise to double that produced by the entire city of Wolverhampton every year. The masterplan – covering the next 15 years – includes proposals to increase use of the airport’s existing runway, expand the passenger terminal and baggage sorting areas. The investment aims to prepare the airport to attract 18 million passengers by 2033. This would make Birmingham Airport the region’s largest single source of greenhouse gases. Even before the airport expansion, it is projected to emit 1.7million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year by 2030, Department for Transport figures show.  By contrast, Wolverhampton’s carbon footprint is about one million tonnes per annum, according to latest government statistics.  Just at a time when humanity should be making every possible effort to cut CO2 emissions.

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No 3rd Runway Coalition’s message loud and clear at London Climate March

At the Climate Change march in London on 1st December, to mark the start of the COP24 climate talks in Katovice, Poland, the No 3rd Runway Coalition was out in force.  Many hundred people marched - 700 or more? - with a large input from anti-fracking activists, and many from Extinction Rebelling. After rallying outside the Polish Embassy for speeches, including Neil Keveren from Stop Heathrow Expansion, the march set off down Regents Street and Piccadilly to Whitehall. The key concern was that in the UK, from fracking to a Heathrow third runway, our government is failing to face up to the climate crisis. The recent IPCC report is a landmark for our planet, setting out just what is at stake if we breach 1.5C warming. We need action now to move to a Zero Carbon Britain, with climate jobs to build the future we need. Instead of rapidly committing to effective action to cut CO2, the UK government is actively backing measures to make CO2 emissions higher or cut funding for initiatives that would cut burning of fossil fuels.  The No 3rd Runway Coalition banner took up pride of place at the start of the march.  There were many Coalition members present, many placards on show, the huge Chatr black plane clearly stating "No 3rd Runway", and a good turnout by Stop Heathrow Expansion.

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The two Swedish mums who want people to give up flying for a year

Two Swedish mums have persuaded 10,000 people to commit to not taking any flights in 2019. Their social media initiative, No-fly 2019 (Flygfritt 2019), is aiming for 100,000 pledges, and has been asking participants to post their reasons for signing up.  Maja Rosen and her neighbour Lotta Hammar say they started the campaign to show politicians what needs to be done to halt climate change.  Direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the European Commission. And, it says, if global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters. See the video from Maja and Lotta.  Sweden has had, since April, a tax of about $7 for short haul flights and about $48 on long haul flights, with the intention of cutting carbon emissions.

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The concept of “flying shame” is growing in Sweden – shame if you fly too much – due to the CO2 emissions

Many Northern Europeans have "flying shame" because of the climate: they stay on the ground while traveling. Rail travel is becoming increasingly popular. Some people in Sweden are cutting down on flying, and believe the carbon emissions are a matter of shame. The word for it is "flugsham" or "flygskam" and this is becoming a common concept, akin to 'flying less" in English. A celebrity athlete is well know for only travelling to sporting events if he can get there by train. The Swedes are among the frequent flyers. They fly 7 times more than average global citizens.  While Sweden's total CO2 emissions have fallen by 24% since 1990, air traffic grew by 61% in that time. A prominent writer in a popular newspaper  denounced the "idiotic lifestyle" of frequent flying as the "most expensive suicide in world history". Researchers and artists responded: "Flying is no longer an alternative for them".  People realise that we cannot go on with expanding aviation. A Facebook page on travelling by long-distance rail, rather than flying, had 30,000 followers in a few months. As well as the hashtag #flyingless there is the Swedish counterpart in #jagstannarpåmarken: "I'll stay on the ground".

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Warning at UN Biodiversity Conference that humanity’s rush into biofuels/biomass will devastate global biodiversity

Growing enough plants to provide biomass and biofuels, that are meant to slow climate change (climate breakdown) compared to burning fossil fuels, will need a biofuel land grab: a 10 to 30-fold rise in land devoted to these crops from the level now. This means the destruction of the habitats for plants and animals, seriously undermining the essential global biodiversity. This warning was spelt out at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Egypt by Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the  Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES.  The latest IPCC report, on limiting climate warming to 1.5°C, had given “a sense of extreme urgency" for ways to cut CO2 emissions, fast. But this mean "tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”  More land would be used for monocultures of plants like maize. Perhaps by 2050 up to 724 million hectares, an area almost the size of Australia, might be used for biofuel crops - compared to perhaps 15 to 30m ha now. There is very little "marginal land" that could be used for these crops (they need water etc, and decent soils). This use of biomass will inevitably have "negative consequences for biodiversity.”  By contrast, reforestation and forest protection helps reduce carbon more effectively.

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