Climate Change News

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

“What we really need is a change of mentality. Let’s get ready for an era where flying is the new smoking.”

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.

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Prof Kevin Anderson blog: “Callous or calamitous? … the UK climate minister pulls the rug from under 1.5°C”

The UK government is meant to be signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change. That aims to keep global warming to below 2 degrees C. It is now understood that we actually need to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees C. The UK is woefully lacking any real progress on this, with its claimed cut in emissions largely due to phasing out coal power stations. Now the "Minister of Energy and Clean Growth", Clare Perry, has said she is writing to the government's advisors on climate change, the CCC, to ask "their advice on the implications for the UK of the IPCC’s recent 1.5°C report." However, as Prof Kevin Anderson explains, the CCC is permitted only to comment on the implications of Paris for post 2032. Ms Perry says: "Carbon budgets already set in legislation (covering 2018-2032) are out of scope of this request.”  Nowhere does she acknowledge the IPCC’s recent call for drastic reductions in emissions by 2030 if we are to have any chance of meeting our 1.5°C commitment. There is little point for the CCC only to be able to consider carbon cuts years ahead, when most current Ministers will long have been out of post. The UK's emissions have not, in fact, decreased - but barely altered since 1990, when international aviation and shipping are included, as well as UK imports.  

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Heathrow electric plane greenwash – tiny subsidy for one plane …years ahead ….

Heathrow has made its latest greenwashing attempt. This time it is saying it is to let the first electric hybrid plane have a year's free landing slots, when in regular service. This is - quote - "designed to encourage airlines to pursue clean growth and deploy their cleanest, quietest aircraft at Heathrow." This is part of the oxymoron, "clean growth" which business is aiming for. (Clean - totally abused word with aviation sector - is probably meant to mean lower carbon, in this context.) So far there is - wait for it - a plane that can carry 2 passengers .... Heathrow is telling the government etc that it is helping to "drive sustainable change across the industry."  The aviation industry hopes there might be electric aircraft carrying passengers by 2030 (so the Heathrow offer is not exactly imminent...) Here is a Heathrow quote, showing just how much carbon greenwash this is:  "With global air passengers expected to double by 2035, these changes will play a critical role in driving a sustainable future for the aviation sector and will support goals outlined in Heathrow’s own sustainability strategy – Heathrow 2.0."  Aviation Minister, Liz Sugg, said: "Our Aviation Strategy [consultation soon] will also consider further ways to support the development of cleaner, greener technology in the sector.”

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Norway proposes increased tax on long haul flights, (200 crowns from 80 now) and cut on short haul (75 crowns from 80 now)  – due to climate change

The Norwegian government proposed on Monday to raise the tax on airline tickets to non-European destinations to 200 Norwegian crowns ($24.13) from 80 crowns currently.   On travel in Europe, it proposed a cut to 75 crowns per ticket from 80 crowns.   “The passenger fee is given an environmental profile by introducing distance differentiation with higher rate from EEA/Europe,” the government said in its 2019 fiscal budget proposal.  Overall, the overall proceeds from airline ticket fees is expected to be neutral, it added.  If approved by the parliament the changes will take place from April 1st 2019.

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NGOs urge EU to stand firm on aircraft emissions, keeping ETS and not letting ineffective CORSIA replace it

NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact have called on the European Commission (EC) to reject industry demands to hastily sign up to the controversial ‘Corsia’ carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation. T&E is warning that Corsia threatens the only effective measure currently in place to address aviation emissions, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2016, ICAO’s general assembly agreed a Corsia to come into effect in 2021. Its aim is to stabilise net emissions from aviation at 2020 levels – a low level of ambition. It also relies on offsetting – a mechanism which is increasingly discredited. T&E said: "Corsia is essentially an attempt by industry to dismantle the only effective measure in place to address aviation emissions – the ETS – and replace it with a weak and uncertain Corsia. The motivation is clear: emissions trading is working, but as the rules for Corsia get close to finalisation they are being weakened to the point where Corsia will have next to no environmental benefit."  That’s why industry is lobbying the EC to accept the Corsia rules without reservation.  Three NGOs working on aviation’s climate impact, T&E, AEF and Carbon Market Watch, have written to the EC, calling on it to keep aviation as part of the ETS, and object to Corsia's draft rules, that prevent the EU being able to regulate its aviation emissions.

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UN climate science body’s (IPCC) report highlights that aviation must accelerate emissions reductions

The IPCC’s Special Report on trying to keep global warming to 1.5C highlights that we are not on target to keep global warming to below 2 degrees C much less 1.5C as countries agreed to in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Most notably, the report shows that progress in the transportation sector is lagging behind and needs to start its own transformation immediately This includes the global aviation sector. Some downplay the extent of aviation’s climate impact – some 5% of global warming when accounting for both CO2 and climate effects at altitude. The international portion of aviation’s emissions was “excluded” from the Paris Agreement and is being addressed entirely inadequately by the UN's ICAO instead. But the IPCC report makes clear that cutting emissions from the fast growing aviation sector is essential. ICSA (the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation) says:  “The IPCC makes clear that, without action on this major and growing source of emissions, the goal of limiting a temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C cannot be achieved. The report's finding that efficiency improvements alone aren't enough is a wake-up call to governments to put aviation on a flightpath to decarbonization to ensure the sector plays its part in delivering a zero-carbon future."

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Launch of “Stay Grounded” network – organisations around the world opposing unsustainable aviation/airport expansion

The Stay Grounded network has been officially launched. It now has over 130 signatories, (including the No 3rd Runway Coalition, and others in the UK) and more than 80 member organisations. Stay Grounded aims to reduce the environmentally and socially damaging impact of aviation, by stopping its fast rate of expansion across the world. The industry has privileged status in many ways, including its out-of-control increasing carbon emissions. The Stay Grounded network has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for a transition towards a transport system that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable. Many non-violent actions took place in countries around the world, in a recent week of action. These were directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading not only to rising CO2 emissions, but also noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands.  Around the world there are about 1200 airports planned to be built or being expanded. Stay grounded will also highlight the industry’s inadequate “greenwashing” strategies, which will lead to increasing pressure on ecosystems, local farming communities, and indigenous peoples, particularly in the Global South.

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Environmental NGOs write to European Commission asking that they do not allow CORSIA to replace the ETS for aviation

AEF, along with Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment, recently wrote to the European Commission to warn against any decision taken to exclude aviation from the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) before details of ICAO’s offsetting scheme (known as CORSIA) have been firmly established. The EU ETS covers only intra-EU flights and requires airlines to surrender sufficient carbon permits to cover their CO2 emissions in the previous year.  CORSIA (Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), a global market-based measure, was agreed in 2016 and its first phase is due to come into effect in 2021. Under CORSIA, operators will be expected to buy carbon credits equivalent to the additional carbon the sector emits above its 2020 level, for international flights globally. The aviation industry would like to see CORSIA take over from the ETS and replace it, as it is weaker and less effective in reducing CO2 emissions. The NGO's letter asks that the European Commission should not allow CORSIA to replace the ETS for aviation, as CORSIA has many unresolved issues and well as "environmental weakness and lack of alignment with European climate ambition”.

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AEF discusses how UK’s aviation strategy should effectively tackle climate change

The Government has promised that by the end of this year it will have laid out proposals to address one of the key policy gaps left by the Heathrow NPS, namely how UK plans to square its growth plans for aviation with its commitments on climate change.  In the second of their discussion papers on the key issues the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) want to see addressed by the Aviation Strategy Green Paper. The AEF sets out – in some detail – why the current set of UK, regional and international policies fall short, why the Government’s carbon forecasts for aviation underplay the scale of the action needed, and just how big the challenge of fitting aviation into a net zero future is going to be.AEF argues that the strategy should:  1. Show as much ambition on climate change as on safety, technology and customer service.  2. Make an unambiguous commitment to limit aviation emissions to 37.5 Mt by 2050 as a maximum level.  3. Map out a policy plan for ensuring that emissions do not exceed this level.  4. Consider the implications of the Paris Agreement for domestic aviation policy.  5. Set out a clear UK position in relation to international efforts. 6. Propose policies to address aviation’s non-CO2 emissions.

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Heathrow pays towards peat bog restoration – but its contribution to offsetting Heathrow’s carbon is infinitesimal

Heathrow has invested in the restoration of UK peatlands, not just because it is a good thing to do, but to give the airport good PR, with an infinitesimal contribution to offsetting their CO2  emissions. Working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and DEFRA, Heathrow’s first restoration priority will be Little Woolden Moss, west of Manchester, which has been subject to commercial peat extraction for more than 15 years. Heathrow says [sic]: "The restoration of the UK’s peatland bogs forms part of Heathrow’s plans to be a carbon neutral airport by 2020. " ....and, worryingly "Heathrow hopes to show that projects like this will make a good option for airlines’ CORSIA commitments." Heathrow has (paid already probably?) about £94,000 towards the project. They omit to mention that Defra has already paid £334,000 for the project. Heathrow claims "the restoration of this project area could lead to savings of 22,427 tonnes of CO₂ over 30 years ..." As Heathrow departing flights emit over 18 million tonnes CO2 per year, that comes to 540 tonnes of CO2 over 30 years (ignoring a possible 3rd runway, with emissions perhaps 50% higher). The 22,427 tonnes comes to all of 0.004% of that carbon. So in reality, irrelevant. But greenwash.

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