Aviation industry body (oxymoron) “Sustainable Aviation” hoping its new greenwash will persuade folk aviation growth is fine ….

The aviation industry is nervous of the growing awareness of the looming climate crisis and the need for personal responsibility for air travel CO2. So they are working to try to persuade the public that aviation is fine, and the the carbon emitted is really not a problem. They have it sorted. This is, of course, just greenwash. They are assuming the public is very stupid, or wilfully wanting to be deluded, to believe there will be no extra CO2 in the atmosphere, with 70% more flights. The aviation industry body calling itself (oxymoron!) “Sustainable Aviation” is trying to say UK aviation will be, quotes, “net carbon zero by 2050”. The industry can certainly make some little changes in engines, flight paths, operations etc, to cut a bit of carbon. That is far outweighed by the growth in passengers and flights. They have crazy hopes for low carbon fuels, which themselves would cause huge environmental problems. The rest is offsets. All that means is carbon reductions being made elsewhere are bought by the aviation sector, and are effectively cancelled out by the growth in air travel.  It is not a solution. Aviation knows it. Greenpeace said: “This whole strategy is a flight of fancy. Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It’s greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility.”



UK air industry sets zero carbon target despite 70% more flights

Greenpeace criticises pledge from airlines, airports and manufacturers as ‘greenwash’

The UK aviation industry has pledged to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 – despite still planning for 70% more flights over the next three decades.  [“Net” carbon emissions is a disingenuous term, intended to confuse.  It means the CO2 emissions from aviation will continue to rise. The industry wants as much growth as it can get.  There are preposterous claims about finding new low-carbon fuels, which cannot be done at scale without causing other environmental problems.  The industry can find ways of cutting a small % of their emissions by efficiencies of various sorts. But “net” largely means the hope that the carbon can be magically cancelled out, by “offsets”. All that means is some other sector emits less carbon, or somehow sucks carbon out of the air, and instead of that being just what the planet needs – less carbon in the atmosphere – that cut is negated and cancelled out by the growth in carbon from aviation.  It is greenwash.  People should not be hoodwinked by this stuff.  AW comment]

Members of the Sustainable Aviation coalition, which includes most major airlines and airports, as well as aerospace manufacturers, will sign a commitment to reach net zero by mid-century. More than a third of the proposed net reduction will be achieved through offsetting.  [Much more than a third, in practice, as they cannot get genuinely lower carbon fuels at anything like the scale they hope for. They cannot be produced without environmental damage. It would be absolutely catastrophic if palm oil was allowed to be used as jet fuel. AW comment] 

A “decarbonisation road map” will be published outlining how aviation can cut its carbon footprint – replacing a previous road map that only committed the industry to halving emissions over the next three decades.

The plan sets out potential reductions coming from smarter flight operations, and new aircraft and engine technology – including some yet to be invented. Modernising airspace and developing sustainable aviation fuelswill also contribute to reducing pollution.

About 25.8 million tonnes of CO2, out of 71.1 million tonnes set to be created annually by the UK sector, will need to be addressed through what Sustainable Aviation calls “market-based measures”, or offsetting.

The coalition forecasts that sustainable jet fuels, which are yet to be employed commercially, could meet almost a third of UK’s aviation fuel demand by 2050.  [Obviously nonsense. See tweet below. Aspirations for the % of jet fuel that would be used in various years. Like in 2009 the hope by IATA was 10% of jet fuel in 2025 would be low carbon. This year the target is 2% by 2025. In reality, in 2018 just 0.002% of global jet fuel was low carbon.  AW comment ]

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, described the commitment as a huge step forward in creating a greener future. He added: “Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international cooperation … we’ll be able to strike that balance.”

Neil Robinson, the chair of Sustainable Aviation, said: “Climate change is a clear and pressing issue for people, businesses and governments across the world. We know aviation emissions will increase if decisive action is not taken, and that’s why UK aviation today commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, through an international approach, working with governments around the world and through the UN.”

However, Greenpeace dismissed the move as “greenwash”. John Sauven, its UK executive director, said: “This whole strategy is a flight of fancy. Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It’s greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility.”

British Airways’ owner IAG has already committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while easyJet has gone further by already offsetting all flights.



See also:

Aviation not the enemy in climate battle, says Heathrow bossImage copyright

High level greenwash warning with this !

4.2.2020  (BBC)

Flying is not “the enemy” in the fight against climate change, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport has said.

John Holland-Kaye told the BBC’s Today programme: “The answer is not to stop people flying. It has to be about decarbonising aviation.”

The UK’s aviation industry is promising to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Cleaner engines, new fuels and planting trees will all help, according to the industry group Sustainable Aviation.

Mr Holland-Kaye said: “The enemy is carbon, not aviation. We need to protect the ability to fly in a world without carbon.

“When the government blocked Heathrow expansion 10 years ago, people started flying through Amsterdam and Paris instead, taking two flights instead of one and not a single tonne of carbon was saved.”

He said synthetic fuels were the way forward. “It has been around for about 100 years and is becoming more affordable. It needs a real push on investment.”

‘Crisis is here and now’

Sustainable Aviation says the industry’s plan will mean airlines can cut pollution even as passenger numbers grow by an expected 70%.

But campaigners say the only way to cut airline pollution is by reducing air travel and cancelling new airports and runways.

“We need to restrict flying,” said Muna Suleiman, from Friends of the Earth. “We can’t have airport expansion at the same time.”

Rail travel and buses are greener alternatives and taxes should be applied to frequent fliers, she said.

Biofuels, which Sustainable Aviation say will be part of the industry’s plan, still pollute, Ms Suleiman added. “The crisis is here and now.”

The aviation sector is under increasing pressure to come up with a plan to cut emissions, especially as it has no commercial comparator yet to the electric car, which is seen as the auto industry’s hope for cutting emissions.

While other forms of transport produce more carbon, individual journeys on planes produce large amounts of CO2.

Sustainable Aviation says the UK industry can reduce its emissions of CO2 from 30 million tonnes a year to zero, without restricting growth.

Chart showing emissions from different modes of transport


An economy-class return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, according to the calculator from the UN’s civil aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization. [And about 1 tonne by most other estimates. AW comment]

That is equivalent to 11% of the average annual emissions for someone in the UK or about the same as all of those caused by someone living in Ghana for more than a year.

US firm Wright Electric said last week it had started electric engine development for a 186-seater plane, and hoped to begin test flights in 2023.

British Airways is investing in a project to make fuel from rubbish.

‘Difficult sector’

“We are going to have to do this through many projects,” Alex Cruz, chief executive of British Airways, told the BBC.

“Biofuels will give us a greener alternative and we are attracted by that,” he said, while conceding that they will still produce carbon dioxide and that they are expensive at the moment.

“We do believe we will reach a point where the price will be compatible with the rest of fuel prices.”

BA will also retire old planes, with the double-decker Boeing 747 being phased out in 2024.

Other plans include planting trees – so-called carbon offsetting – and investing in renewable power sources, said Matt Gorman, a council member of Sustainable Aviation.

“Aviation is one of the more difficult sectors to decarbonise but we are absolutely confident it can be done,” said Mr Gorman. “We have to do it”

Sustainable Aviation’s members include Heathrow Airport, British Airways, EasyJet, Rolls Royce, Airbus and air traffic controller Nats.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Theo Leggett, business correspondent

The aviation sector has a problem. On one level, it is extremely successful. Passenger numbers in the UK are higher than they’ve ever been, and massive growth is expected worldwide over the next couple of decades.

More passengers means more planes, and all else being equal that means an awful lot more emissions. The sector only accounts for about 2.5% of global CO2 output at the moment, but the obvious risk is that share could rise significantly.

You don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to realise where that could lead. There’s a risk that faced with growing public pressure to act on climate change, regulators could start to clamp down on the sector in a meaningful way – and that could hit growth.

So here in the UK, businesses are taking pre-emptive action. Action they claim will reduce emissions to zero without curbing growth.

So how effective will the plans be? Boeing and Airbus are already selling a new generation of aircraft that are much more efficient than their predecessors, and it’s fair to say that there are plenty of benefits to be gained from investing in new technology.

But the value of “market-based measures” such as carbon offsets is harder to calculate and hotly debated. People within the industry claim the projects they support are carefully chosen and reap real benefits.

Climate campaigners say that’s greenwash – and they’d rather we simply decided to fly a lot less.