Open letter to key European politicians, from environmental groups, asking for urgent action to cut aviation’s climate impact
More than 30 NGOs sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel, urging them to take action now to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation in the wake of recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone. The letter was co-ordinated by Stay Grounded and Greenpeace EU. It asks that: Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel. Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories. And solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. See the full letter.
Open letter: NGOs demand urgent action on aviation emissions
Greenpeace European Unit
More than 30 NGOs sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel, urging them to take action now to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation in the wake of recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone.
The NGOs demand immediate political action to ensure air travel is reduced and does not return to pre-COVID levels.
and the text is copied below.
To: President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen
President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli
President of the European Council, Charles Michel
3 December 2020
NGOs call for measures to reduce total climate impact of air transport
In the context of the current climate and health crises, we, the undersigned organisations, demand that action be taken in response to the newly released updated analysis of the non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation by the European Commission, as required by the 2017 ETS directive. Now that air traffic’s non-CO2 impacts are officially acknowledged, immediate political action must follow to mitigate aviation’s total climate impact as soon as possible. The most effective way to do so is to ensure air travel is reduced and does not return to pre-COVID levels.
For years, the sector has pushed to focus on being responsible for “only” 2% of human-made carbon emissions – a number consistently cited to downplay the need for action. This has led to a failure to properly regulate aviation for its impact. Non-CO2 impacts are not accounted for in any reporting systems or regulations.
The report produced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) underlying the European Commission’s analysis acknowledges that aviation’s impact on the climate is approximately three times that of CO2 alone: non-CO2 impacts mainly those of contrail cirrus and NOx are, overall, twice as bad for the climate as those of CO2. A very small segment of the population actually flies [2-4% in 2018 flew internationally; 11% flew. See link] and is therefore responsible for a relatively large contribution to climate heating. According to a new study, 1% of the world population causes half of global aviation emissions, with many frequent flyers being European. With lives and livelihoods on the line across the globe including in Europe, we cannot neglect any area where emissions can be reduced.
Although the EASA report and the EU Commission recommend several potential policy actions to reduce non-CO2 impacts of aviation, it is alarming that none of the measures are seen as applicable in the next five to eight years. In addition, many of them will not produce significant results until well after their implementation. In light of the urgency to act against climate heating, delaying action is unacceptable. The European Union has the responsibility to reduce aviation emissions, and ensure we do not return to pre-pandemic numbers.
We therefore demand that the following steps are taken as part of the upcoming EU Mobility Strategy and other relevant legislative files:
- Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel. Instead of giving unconditional bailouts to the aviation industry, recovery packages must finance a just transition process for the workers, towards a sustainable transport system, with investments for alternatives like rail travel and renewable-powered ships.
- Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories.
- Promising solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. The EU must give visibility on the regulation of non-CO2 impacts that could influence the choice of technologies and fuels for the aircraft of the future. It needs to do so much earlier than in 5-8 years time due to the lengthy lead times associated with their development and certification.
We are looking forward to receiving your response.
on behalf of all the undersigned organisations,
Magdalena Heuwieser ….
Stay Grounded Greenpeace
AbibiNsroma Foundation, AirportWatch, Alofa Tuvalu, Am Boden bleiben, Aterra, BAW Fluglaermschutz Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein, CAN Europe (Climate Action Network), Carbon Market Watch, cBalance solutions hub, Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations Eastern Mexico State CPOOEM, Ecologistas en Acción, Erasmus by Train, Flight Free Australia, Flight Free Germany, Germanwatch, Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement, Greenpeace, Milieu Defensie, NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark, Periskop, Protect Our Winters Europe, Réseau Action Climat France, Robin Wood, Safe Landing, Schipholwatch, Stay Grounded, Transport & Environment, UECNA (European Union Against Aircraft Nuisance), UFCNA (Union Francaise Contre les Nuisance des Aéronefs), Umanotera, Zaļā brīvība, Zomer Zonder Vliegen, 350 Seattle.
EASA report: aviation’s climate impact about x3 greater than previously thought
Aviation’s climate footprint could be 3 times bigger than its current estimate, according to a new study by the EU’s aviation regulator EASA, which has been sent to the European Commission. It examined the climate impact of aviation emissions other than CO2, which include nitrogen oxides, soot particles, oxidized sulphur and water vapour. The report found that after including the non-CO2 impacts “are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone.” This is likely to put airlines under more pressure to clean up the industry. Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but that does not reflect aviation’s true climate impact. The non-CO2 impacts have been ignored for far too long, and must be properly assessed and included in plans to limit global heating and climate breakdown. Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at green group Transport & Environment, said measures like putting a tax on jet fuel could be introduced rapidly. “The European Commission was first tasked with addressing the non-CO2 emissions of flying in 2008. It shouldn’t waste any more time in implementing the solutions that are available today.”
Even with so few flights, due to Covid, global aviation in 2020 still exceeding its CO2 target for 2050
In 2019, emissions from the global civil aviation sector were more than 900 million tonnes of CO2. In 2016 the figure was around 814 million tonnes, and around 650 million tonnes in 2005. IATA has a target that the sector’s carbon emissions will be half their level in 2005, by 2050 ie 325 million tonnes. And that is to happen, while the industry aims for compound annual growth of 3%. This year, due to Covid, global demand for air travel has been down hugely, with airports like Heathrow having as much as 80% fewer flights than a year ago. But IATA has admitted that even with that immense reduction in flights, the sector will still have emitted more than 325 million tonnes of CO2. This highlights the scale of the challenge for the industry, to “square the circle” of trying to keep growing, but emitting less carbon. This issue is to be discussed at IATA’s virtual AGM on 24 November. The industry body ATAG is anticipating that demand for air travel, and hence carbon emissions, might be 16% lower than pre-Covid forecasts b y 2050, as there has been behaviour change and social change, caused by the pandemic.
New study shows that 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions
A study by Linnaeus University in Sweden found that frequent-flyers who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018. They also said that only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018; of those only 4% flew abroad rather than within their own country. The carbon emissions of US air passengers are bigger than those of the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia. The lead author of the study, Stefan Gössling, said: “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming.” Aviation in 2019 emitted around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they cause, with most not paying fuel duty, or VAT in Europe. In a typical year, like 2018, 48% of people in the UK did not fly at all; the figure was 53% in the US; and 65% in Germany. Other data shows in the UK that about 70% of flights are taken by 15% of the people. Also just 1% of English residents are responsible for nearly 20% of all flights abroad; and the 10% most frequent flyers in England took more than 50% of all international flights in 2018.