MONTREAL (Reuters) – The United Nations’ aviation agency on Friday recommended scaling back criteria for biofuels used on international flights as part of a compromise with developing countries who felt the rules would be too stringent, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
Aviation biofuels, now produced in small volumes from renewable sources, are expected to play an important role in a landmark 2016 aviation accord brokered by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that aims to cap airline pollution at 2020 levels.
Biojet fuels, developed by companies like Honeywell UOP and Neste Oil Corp, are expected to deliver 56% of the aviation industry’s targeted emissions reductions by 2050, according to a report by Lux Research. [That is complete nonsense – even the DfT considers they will only contribute perhaps 5% of fuels by 2040 or 2050. DfT P 55 Oct 2017 AW comment].
Several developing countries objected to ICAO’s initial proposal to ensure biofuel production doesn’t harm the environment, arguing that the rules were too complicated and could put them at a disadvantage, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.
“Some of them felt that if you set such a high threshold from the onset they won’t be able to produce anything,” one of the sources said. [Details are all secret for the time being, so many organisations are deeply sceptical … AW comment]
Final criteria for the biofuels that airlines can use as part of the accord are expected in June.
An ICAO spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
European countries had originally sided with the stronger ICAO proposal that listed 12 guidelines to ensure jet fuel production wouldn’t damage the air and water or lead to labor abuses, according to one of the sources and a document seen by Reuters.
ICAO’s governing council, however, recommended scaling back the 12 guidelines to two, the sources said. The new proposal ensures aviation biofuels aren’t produced on land from razed forests or wetlands, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10 percent compared with conventional jet fuel.
As part of the compromise, ICAO will continue studying the remaining 10 guidelines before council revisits the issue in June, the second source said.
“It’s a negotiation,” he said. “The big picture is that (the accord) advances.”
Watering down the rules dismayed environmentalists, who argued that the ICAO guidelines will have a broader impact on the fledgling biofuels industry.
“These sustainability rules have implications beyond (the 2016 deal) because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector,” said Carlos Calvo Ambel, manager, analysis and climate with Brussels-based Transport & Environment.
EU Commission surrenders to United Nations’ ICAO on aviation biofuels
The European Commission and EU member states look set to agree to almost entirely remove sustainability criteria for bio jet fuel at the UN’s aviation agency (ICAO) Council meeting today in Montreal.
The countries gathered at the ICAO meeting will trash ten sustainability points out of 12, which will mean that highly unsustainable biofuels would qualify for the aviation’s global carbon offsetting scheme dubbed CORSIA.
These sustainability rules have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector. After already agreeing yesterday, the vote today removes sustainability safeguards such as rules on land rights, food security, labour rights and biodiversity protection.
According to our sources, the two surviving rules are: a -10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to regular jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested after 2009.
Removing these safeguards pitches one UN agency against the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 states.
Carlos Calvo Ambel, analysis and climate manager at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “If this extreme weakening of the sustainability criteria for biofuels is confirmed later today in Montreal, the European Commission will have effectively surrendered to ICAO, showing how little it cares about human rights or biodiversity.
“Due to the scale of the global aviation industry, allowing highly unsustainable biofuels in airlines poses a real threat to the most vulnerable peoples and habitats in the world. What’s more, the planned ICAO rules run completely counter to Europe’s own plans for biofuels.”
Biofuelwatch to publish report about aviation biofuels ahead of ICAO high-level conference
From 11th to 13th October, ICAO will be holding a High-Level Conference on Alternative Aviation Fuels, in Mexico City. ICAO’s Secretariat has published a proposed “Vision” which would see 128 million tonnes of biofuels per year used in aircraft by 2040 and 285 million tonnes by 2050. By comparison, a total of 82 million tonnes of biofuels was produced worldwide for all uses last year. ICAO and airlines are keen to promote biofuels as solution to their CO2 problems. Greater efficiencies cannot possibly cancel out the impacts on CO2 emissions of the industry’s expected rapid, continuous growth. Meaningful measures to curb aviation CO2 emissions would be incompatible with an airline’s shareholder profits. The aviation sector hopes to use carbon offsetting (condemned by over 100 civil society groups last year) and biofuels (which, contrary to scientific evidence, continue to be largely classified as zero carbon). There is no possibility of producing the vast quantities of biofuels that would be needed for such an endeavour without disastrous impacts on forests, on the climate, on food prices, food sovereignty, on human rights and land rights. The prospect of even limited use of biofuels in aircraft is particularly concerning, especially if palm oil is used. There will be a new report on 6th October, and a Webinair on 6th October (4pm).