Climate Change News

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

Swedish flygskam (or flight shame) is spreading across Europe – Finland, Germany … Brits yet to catch on….

Fears about climate change have led many to rethink the way they travel and, in Sweden, there is a new word - flygskam (flying shame) - for the shame associated with flying, knowing the carbon emissions it causes. The subject has come higher up the agenda with the vast protests in Central London by Extinction Rebellion, since Monday 15th April.  And there are protests in many other cities and countries. The Swedes are now travelling a bit less by air, and a bit more by rail. But it’s not just the Swedes racked with guilt about their carbon footprints. The Finnish have invented the word "lentohapea", the Dutch say "vliegschaamte" and the Germans "flugscham", all referring to a feeling of shame around flying. Brits are lagging behind ... The Swedish rail company reported 32 million passengers in 2018, a good increase. Many understand that flying has a huge negative climate impact, and there are other words associated with this: “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret). The 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, started the world wide movement of school strikes, to draw attention to climate change, only travels by train to meetings in other countries.

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“Be the change you want to see”: How individuals (not only governments) are vital in cutting global CO2 emissions

What can we do in the face of the climate emergency? Many say we should drive less, fly less, eat less meat. But others argue that personal actions like this are a pointless drop in the ocean when set against the huge systemic changes that are required to prevent devastating global warming.  Research from a PhD researcher into Environmental Leadership (Cardiff University) shows that doing something bold like giving up flying can have a wider knock-on effect - by influencing others and shifting what’s viewed as “normal”.  These effects were increased if a high-profile person had given up flying, such as someone in the public eye.  Far from the small actions by individuals having no impact, they are important. The role of people, in changing their lifestyles, cutting their carbon emissions and environmental footprint, is as big as that of governments or major corporations.  But significant lifestyle changes by individuals need to be encouraged by effective government policy. It has to be both - policies, government action etc  PLUS actions by individuals. Millions of them. Behavioural change has the potential for far greater emission reductions than the political pledges made under the Paris Accord.

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Because the adults of today have ignored the climate crisis, today’s children face lives with tiny carbon footprints

Children born today will have to live their lives with drastically smaller carbon footprints than their grandparents if climate change is to be controlled. Previous and existing generations have emitted nearly all the CO2 to get the world to 1.5C or 2C, so future generations will have to severely and rapidly cut the emissions from flying, meat consumption, heating, hot water and other activities in their lifetimes. An analysis has shown this means the new generation will have lifetime carbon budgets almost 90% lower than someone born before 1950. The figures suggest 734 tonnes CO2 is the lifetime budget for limiting global warming to 1.5C for someone born in 1957; 405 tonnes if born in 1987; 86 tonnes if born in 2017. This dramatically highlights the burden inherited by today’s children, an issue at the heart of the global school strikes for climate. A spokesman for the UK Student Climate Network said: “Those in positions of power – from politicians to business leaders – that have benefited from a much higher lifetime carbon budget [and all those flights] have a duty to act to ensure a liveable planet for current and future generations. Without appropriate action, those in power are sacrificing our tomorrow for their today.”

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“Flight Free” blog – “Why we stopped carbon-offsetting our flying, and then stopped flying”

New campaign "Flight Free" is asking people to sign up and pledge not to fly in 2020 (or ideally not in this year either ....) We need people to choose to cut their flying voluntarily, because government is never going to introduce measures to cut demand for air travel - it would risk displeasing too many voters. The Flight Free website has blogs by people who have pledged not to fly, or have already given up flying. One comments on their past flying: "...going on adventures to the other side of the world was one of our treats. We thought we’d earned it. We felt like responsible tourists, keen to explore local cultures and wildlife. Happy to tip local guides and to buy hand crafted items direct from local artisans ...".  And then "We started carbon offsetting our flying. Planting trees that would absorb our CO2 and pump out oxygen in the process. It was a win, win.  We felt better for a year or two. In effect we had thrown money at the problem but we hadn’t gone through any radical change of behaviour and we were still enjoying the same experiences, from wildlife safaris to snorkelling with turtles". Then they gave up flying: "This is a Climate Emergency and we need to change our behaviour individually and collectively now."

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West Sussex County Council votes to do more on climate – but Gatwick airport intends to instead vastly increase its CO2 emissions

West Sussex County Council has agreed unanimously to back an amended motion pledging action on climate change. South East Climate Alliance campaigners hailed this as a potential ‘tipping point’ for the area. Two of the commitments made were to try to make the C County Council itself carbon neutral, and encourage residents and businesses to do more to help tackle climate change.  Council members were invited to make personal pledges on things like saving water and energy, and making low carbon journeys (air travel not mentioned specifically). Louise Goldsmith, Council Leader, said:  " ... we really do need everyone young, old and not so old and all businesses to come together and do their bit to become more sustainable..."  CAGNE attended the meeting, and Sally Pavey commented that aviation issues were included in the debate - Gatwick airport is in West Sussex, and is probably the largest carbon emitter in the area (about 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year). Cllr Liz Kitchen and Cllr Bill Acraman, raised the issue of Gatwick expansion, which would hugely increase the airport's carbon, undoing any good done by local carbon cuts by individuals, businesses or the council.

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SSE takes Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to JR on Stansted expansion, including its CO2 emissions

Campaign group, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) say they will use latest EU figures showing Ryanair as one of Europe’s biggest polluters in their latest judicial challenge. Currently about 21 million of Ryanair's 130 million passengers in 2018 travelled via Stansted. Ryanair has the highest CO2 emissions (for intra-EU flights) of any European airline. Its flights emitted 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017, and up 49% over the past 5 years. SSE say the added argument of  the vast carbon emissions, to only be hugely worsened by expansion to 43 mppa, is another reason why the planning consent by Uttlesford council, for the airport expansion, should be called in for determination by the government. The Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has said his reason for not intervening was that the application does not involve issues of "more than local importance." Carbon emissions are indeed of much more than local significance - it is a global issue. Brian Ross, from SSE said:  “You can’t just allow local authorities to approve an increase in carbon emissions as they like. There needs to be national co-ordination.”

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Ryanair the biggest but not fastest growing EU airline CO2 emitter – whole airline sector emissions rising very fast

The carbon emissions of 8 airlines for intra-European flights grew even faster than Ryanair last year. Low-cost airlines Jet2 (20% up); TAP (>12% up); EasyJet, Finnair, Wizz (up about 11%); Vueling and Norwegian (over 8%) and Lufthansa all increased CO2 emissions faster than Ryanair, though Ryanair has the highest emissions on European routes in 2018. Transport & Environment (T&E) says the top 10 growing polluters show that aviation’s runaway emissions are a huge problem. But governments have left airlines untaxed and under-regulated compared to other transport. Emissions from intra-European flights account for 40% of the aviation CO2  – the remaining 60% comes from flights to destinations outside Europe. Those are entirely unregulated, not being part of the EU ETS. Aviation regulators are consistently underestimating the extent of the emissions growth in their planning forecasts. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) anticipated a 3.3% increase in carbon emissions on flights within Europe last year, but official data shows they grew 4.9% – or 1.1 megatonnes of CO2 more than expected.

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Ryanair’s carbon emissions within Europe make it the EU’s 10th largest emitter

Ryanair has become the first non-coal company to join Europe’s top 10 biggest carbon emitters, according to EU ETS figures. That is for flights within the EU.  Ryanair declared 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017 and up 49% over the last 5 years. The only larger emitters of carbon within Europe are power stations. Andrew Murphy, the aviation manager at T&E said: “When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal. This trend will only continue until Europe realises that this undertaxed and under-regulated sector needs to be brought into line, starting with a tax on kerosene and the introduction of mandates that force airlines to switch to zero-emission jet fuel.”  Emissions from airlines, have risen over 25% since 2014, outpacing all other transport sectors. EasyJet was 31st on the list, after an 11% rise in emissions in 2018. Prof Kevin Anderson at the University of Manchester, said: “Ryanair use new and efficient aircraft rammed to the rafters with passengers, illustrating how technology alone cannot reconcile aviation’s rocketing emissions with the Paris climate commitments...we need to drive down the demand for aviation."

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ICAO blocks any critics on Twitter and describes comments on aviation and climate as “fake news”

The UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is dismissing factual critiques and blocking Twitter accounts that raise concerns about the climate change impact of flying, accusing them of “fake news” and “spam”. A number of campaigners and researchers complain they have been barred from following @ICAO on Twitter, including famous and respected climate scientist, Kevin Anderson. ICAO’s combative approach to public engagement has drawn wider criticism, with environmental journalists describing it as “spectacularly ill-judged” and “self-defeating“. On Wednesday, Steve Westlake, a behavioural scientist at Cardiff University, shared a screenshot showing Icao had blocked him. It came after he responded to 3 ICAO tweets by sharing a comment from Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg arguing most airport expansions were incompatible with meeting international climate goals. That analysis is uncontroversial. Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. AEF commented that "Climate leadership should always begin with open and transparent debate about the issues and challenges, so this is worrying." 

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EU labels palm oil in diesel as unsustainable – it causes deforestation

The European Commission today decided that palm oil is not a green fuel and should not be promoted because it causes deforestation. The use of palm oil in diesel, which is driven by the EU’s renewable energy targets, will be gradually reduced as of 2023 and should reach zero in 2030 although exemptions remain. Europe’s federation of green transport NGOs, Transport & Environment (T&E), said the labelling of palm oil as unsustainable is a milestone in the fight to recognise the climate impact of burning food for energy. However, in a bid to placate palm oil producing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia, the Commission introduced a number of exemptions, so some palm oil could still be promoted as a “green” road fuel. The Commission also failed to classify soy, a major contributor to deforestation worldwide, as unsustainable. The EU is the world's 2nd largest importer of crude palm oil; over half of it (around four million tonnes) is currently used to make ‘green’ fuel.

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