Climate Change News
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
Study shows the unequal distribution of household carbon footprints in Europe – and air travel component
A study carried out by Leeds University and Trondheim University (Norway) looked at the distribution of household carbon footprints in European counties. It investigated the link between higher household income, and their carbon emissions. This included the contribution from air travel. The authors say they found significant inequality in the distribution of high carbon footprints (CFs). The top 10% of the EU population with the highest CFs contribute more carbon compared to the 50% of the EU population with the lowest CFs. Only 5% of the EU households (eg in Romania) live within a CF target of 2.5 tCO2eq/capita per year, while the top 1% of EU households have CFs of 55 tCO2eq/capita. The most significant contribution to CO2 is from air and land transport, making up 41% and 21% respectively of the CF for the top 1% of EU households.The households with the highest CFs are by and large the households with the highest levels of income and expenditure. The high CO2 emissions by the more affluent present challenges for environmental and social objectives. The authors say: "Exploring the prerequisites for living well within carbon limits is a key focus of our time."
Electric flying not feasible for larger planes or longer distances
There has been a lot of mention in recent years about the possibility of planes being powered by electricity. That has the potential to cut the CO2 emissions of aircraft. However, the aspiration of electric planes is likely to be a dangerous diversion from taking measures now to cut the CO2 from the sector, if it has the effect of creating the false hope of breakthroughs. The reality is that flying needs a very energy-dense fuel, such as kerosene. Currently there are some tiny planes, able to carry under 10 passengers, that may be able to make short flights, of under 1,000 km, in the next few years. That is entirely different from a passenger plane carrying 200 passengers many thousand miles. Power is particularly needed on take-off, and while climbing. Liquid jet fuel is burned during the flight, so the planes lands lighter than when it took off. The battery is the same weight throughout, putting more stress on the plane while landing. The engines would have to use propellers, and not be jets - and there are limits on how fast propellers can turn. There are real constraints, caused by physics, in the ability of electricity to power larger aircraft.
Airlines granted huge CO2 emissions reprieve by UN compromise, even further weakening the CORSIA scheme
The UN’s aviation emissions offsetting scheme, CORSIA, will not take 2020 into account as the baseline when calculating how much airlines have to pay to neutralise their CO2 emissions. Normally, without the atypical year due to the Covid pandemic, the emissions baseline (reference point) would have been taken as 2019 and 2020. Now only 2019 emissions will be used. Had 2020's far lower CO2 emissions been included, that would have created a much more taxing challenge for airlines, and would have meant them having to buy many more carbon credits, costing them much more money. Environmental groups have derided the decision to ignore 2020's emissions as “making a mockery” of climate policy. The change will mean that the 3-year pilot scheme will be useless, as CO2 emissions from aviation are unlikely to climb back to the level in 2019. There will be no CO2 requiring offsets, being below the now raised threshold. According to Carbon Market Watch, “while CORSIA will officially start in 2021, airlines will not have to do anything until several years later.” Anyway, carbon credits are now ludicrously cheap.
Why Boris’s zero-emission long-haul British aircraft is just pie in the sky
The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next 30 years. His wish for the UK to build long-haul zero- emissions plane may never be achieved. It is just not credible. Short-range electric flight is, for the very smallest planes, already a reality. Multiple firms, including UK start-ups, are working on zero-emission eVtols – electric vertical take-off and landing craft, or flying taxis – for domestic inter-city travel, carrying just a handful of passengers. Battery weight and range means that manufacturers currently view larger electric planes as feasible only for short-haul flights – and even then the focus is largely on hybrid-electric, with jet fuel needed for take-off. The big UK contribution to this vision, a Rolls-Royce-Airbus collaboration called the E-Fan X, was dropped in April. Meanwhile, work continues at Cranfield university and elsewhere, trying to convince sceptics that hydrogen could eventually be a viable fuel for passenger jets, produced using surplus (?) renewably-generated electricity. Or combined to produce an "electro-fuel" - but that still emits CO2 when burned in a plane engine.
Dutch government KLM €3.4 billion rescue plan, with some conditions
The Dutch government has said the national airline, KLM, is set for a €3.4 billion bailout package, if it meets certain targets, but this still requires regulatory approval from Brussels, in case it conflicts with EU state-aid rules. KLM was promised between €2-4 billion at the end of April, when both the Dutch and French governments pledged financial support to the Air France-KLM group. France’s €7 billion bailout was quickly approved by the EC’s competition regulators. The €3.4 billion package would be made up of €2.4 billion in state-guaranteed bank loans and a €1 billion direct loan. The loan would be provided in tranches and last up until 2025, with each payment only made after the government has judged that conditions are being adequately fulfilled. Senior staff who earn more than three times the average salary will have a 20% pay cut. Until the state’s investment is repaid in full, no dividends will be paid out to shareholders and management will not get bonuses. Cost-cutting measures worth 15% will have to be made. The number of night flights from Schiphol will be cut, but details are not yet decided. KLM will also have to halve CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2030, BUT there is no cap on KLM's total CO2 emissions.
Committee on Climate Change progress report to government – aviation mentions
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published their progress report, for 2020, on the UK government's efforts on reducing CO2 emissions. It has a lot to say on aviation - far more than in its 2019 progress report. They say that iInternational aviation and shipping (IAS) should be formally included in UK climate targets, in the carbon budgets, when the Sixth Carbon Budget is set, and net-zero plans should be developed. This has been a key demand, from environmental experts. At present aviation emissions are just taken account of. The CCC say that aviation accounts of 8% of the UK's CO2 emissions (a briefing note in Feb 2020 for Parliament said it was 7% in 2019). The CCC also say that the UK's airport capacity strategy should be reviewed in light of the country's net-zero target. Due to the dramatic impact of Covid on the aviation sector, the CCC say a household & business survey is needed, of long-term travel expectations of the pandemic. They add that action is also needed on non-CO₂ warming effects from aviation, which probably account for double the climate impact of the CO2 alone, emitted at altitude. They say ICAO's CORSIA scheme should be strengthened.
France to ban commercial flights on shortest domestic routes
France plans to ban commercial air travel on the country’s shortest domestic routes in a bid to prevent low-cost carriers picking up links Air France-KLM is being forced to abandon as part of the terms of a Government bailout package. The aim of stopping Air France from flying domestic routes, if the trip can be made by train in under 2.5 hours, to cut CO2 emissions, is not to allow in other airlines instead. Austria has also placed constraints on short-haul flights, as part of a state-funding plan for Deutsche Lufthansa. The domestic flights ban would include about 40% of internal French flights. The carbon reductions achieved by this would actually be tiny - about 6-7% of Air France's total. Ryanair plans to operate 6 French domestic routes this summer, but says they are on longer routes, not included in the ban. Air France-KLM received €7 billion in loans and guarantees from the French government, and the Minister said the airline would be required to become “the most environmentally friendly airline on the planet”. However, the overall bail-out package is flawed, and is unlikely to produce the desired, necessary, reductions in Air France's CO2 emissions.
Aviation industry decision to weaken CORSIA climate plan could break ICAO’s own rules
Countries attending the UN’s ICAO meeting this week look set to weaken the only international policy to address the climate impact of aircraft. But the way the decision is being made could be in violation of the organisation’s own rules. ICAO has for years been supposed to take responsibility for international aviation CO2 emissions, but have done almost nothing. It has a scheme, CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) set up in 2016. It would, at best, deliver only small CO2 emissions reductions, nowhere approaching on the scale needed. Now ICAO plans to further weaken the CORSIA scheme, by changing the way the baseline for emissions is determined. A bad scheme would become a very bad scheme. This may be illegal, according to its own regulations - ICAO has always been opaque and concealed information. The change of baseline, using only 2019 emissions, not the average of 2019 + 2020, would mean no airline offsetting obligations until 2028 or later. It could also reduce the overall chance of cutting aviation carbon by 25-75%. The final decision on the baseline change is expected on 26th June.
Government announce a new “Jet Zero” council … but no details or notice to environmental organisations
In a surprise announcement at Friday’s government Covid-19 daily briefing, Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, revealed plans for a ‘jet zero’ council, that will include representatives from the aviation industry, Government and environmental groups. Its alleged goal is "to make zero emissions transatlantic flight possible within a generation." No further details were made available. No environmental group was given any notice about this new initiative. As the principal environmental body working on aviation issues, the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) should have been included, if the government initiative was serious - not just a bit of nice publicity for the aviation sector. AEF has written to Shapps, to say that if the ‘jet zero’ council is to be a worthwhile initiative, the Government must ensure that it does not simply provide good PR for airlines and airports about a future aspiration - while allowing current emissions to grow unhindered. The initiative must be part of a wider programme of government action to deliver the UK’s climate commitments. The council must operate in a transparent manner including engaging with environmental organisations and all relevant stakeholders. See the full letter.
GACC asks Gatwick to build back better – less noise, no night flights
Flights using Gatwick will slowly restart from 15th June, so noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions are set to increase again. Local campaigners, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) are asking Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into their recovery plans. During Covid lockdown, Gatwick was only open for a period each afternoon and evening with no night flights. People normally adversely affected by plane noise have benefited hugely from the welcome break from plane intrusion. GACC wants a continuing ban on night flights, especially as air traffic will not return to pre-Covid levels for an unknown time. The Covid pandemic is a unique opportunity for the airport to re-establish a pattern of working that is less environmentally damaging, in terms of noise and carbon. GACC is asking that as well as a night ban, airlines should prioritise flying their least noisy aircraft in their fleets - and provide incentives that encourage airlines permanently to retire older, noisier and more polluting aircraft. Also to use air traffic control to disperse noise, minimise arrival noise impact, and achieve higher, quicker, departures.