GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 28 AUGUST 2015
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UK parliamentary committee opens inquiry into environmental implications of runway expansion
Thu 27 Aug 2015 – As the UK Government deliberates the 340-page report submitted by its own appointed Airports Commission and the recommendation for allowing Heathrow Airport to build a new third runway, the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has launched an inquiry into the carbon, air quality and noise implications of airport expansion. The committee has invited submissions – which are required by September 3 – on whether the policies and mitigations proposed by the Commission are realistic and achievable, and what consequences they have for Government policy. NGOs such as the Aviation Environment Federation remain fiercely opposed to a new runway around London and have questioned the Commission’s justification that expansion can be achieved within UK aviation carbon emission targets.
The cross-party EAC has a number of members who are actively opposed to Heathrow expansion, such as Green Party MP Sarah Lucas and Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, whose constituency is under the Heathrow flightpath and has threatened to resign his seat if a new runway is given the go-ahead.
The committee will seek to determine:
- Whether the indicative policies and proposed mitigations set out in the Commission’s recommended option are realistic and achievable;
- What the implications of adopting those policies and mitigations are for wider Government policy;
- Whether realistic and achievable alternatives to those policies and mitigations exist, should the Government adopt the recommended option; and
- What steps the Government should take in these areas to reach its decision in a way that is consistent with its commitments on sustainable development.
“Environmental concerns are a key part of the debate on airport expansion. Critics of airport expansion have raised concerns about whether it is possible to expand airport capacity in the South East while meeting the UK’s binding commitments on air pollution and climate change,” said EAC Chair, Huw Irranca-Davies MP. “We will be examining the Commission’s assessment of these issues in order to inform the debate about the future of aviation in the South East.”
While noise and local air quality noise issues have surrounded the national debate on airport expansion, less attention has been paid as to whether a predicted substantial increase in air traffic can be accommodated under UK climate change commitments. As recommended by the Government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, aviation carbon emissions should not exceed 2005 levels – 37.5 million tonnes – by 2050.
In its report, the Commission set out potential policies that could be adopted to both meet the target and allow expansion, which have now been challenged through an analysis by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF).
AEF firstly questions the Commission’s own aviation CO2 emissions forecast for 2050 that, it says, is 15% lower than the Department for Transport’s (DfT) own projections. The Commission defends its forecast on the grounds that it expects a higher improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency as a result of an increase in the proportion of demand served by larger aircraft and through better matching of aircraft to route flown. As most of the additional flights are likely to be long-haul, larger aircraft can deliver more seat-kilometres per tonne of fuel burnt, it argues.
“For the Government to accept the Commission’s forecasts, it will need to explain why its own predictions in 2013 in terms of future aircraft mix and the proportion of larger aircraft were so wrong,” comments AEF. “Otherwise, the Commission’s estimates of the cost of achieving carbon limits – already barely credible – will need to be revised upwards.”
To maintain the emissions cap over the long term, the Commission has proposed a number of policy measures that can be adopted by Government and operational measures that industry should employ. It suggests the carbon price of £196 ($300) currently predicted for 2050 should be increased to £334 ($500), which its modelling shows can reduce anticipated aviation emissions by 2.3 MtCO2. However, points out AEF, the report contains no explanation on how this might be achieved under an international carbon market regime.
A further 2.3 MtCO2 could be saved by increasing the uptake of biofuel from the 2.5% share of aviation fuel by 2050, as anticipated by the DfT, to 5.6%, says the Commission. This would require policy intervention by the Government and public investment and subsidy in biofuel demonstration plants, although AEF questions Government appetite for action on this and the availability of public funds and private investment. The Commission further proposes the introduction of mandatory biofuel usage by airlines, but AEF believes this would be strongly resisted by the sector given the extra costs that would entail.
Operational measures such as enforcing lower cruising speeds, lower-carbon powering of airfield taxiing by aircraft and reductions in contingency fuel carried by airlines for safety reasons are estimated by the Commission to realise a further 1.2 Mt of emissions savings, bringing the total level down to the 37.5 Mt carbon cap. Given the industry’s strong commercial interest in reducing fuel costs, AEF believes these measures, if they are not already being implemented, would be employed if feasible.
AEF also takes the Commission to task for exaggerating the economic benefits of a new Heathrow runway and argues environmental and carbon costs have not been adequately factored in.
“Despite its reforecasting of aviation emissions, the Commission has failed to present a credible case for how, in the real world, emissions from aviation can be limited to a level consistent with UK climate policy if a new runway is built. It’s now for the Government to admit that building a new runway makes neither economic nor environmental sense,” concludes AEF’s appraisal.
The case for a new third runway at Heathrow has also failed so far to find backing from the airport’s main airline customer, British Airways, which is concerned airlines will be forced to pay higher fees to cover expansion costs. “We think the costs associated with the third runway are outrageous and certainly from an IAG point of view we will not be supporting it and we will not be paying for it,” said Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of BA’s parent company, IAG.
Speaking at last month’s Runways UK conference, IATA Director General Tony Tyler praised the Commission’s report and said IATA members supported Heathrow expansion, although “pre-funding the construction is not an acceptable option for airlines.”
He expressed confidence that the environmental challenges posed could be solved. “We understand and appreciate the environmental concerns which are discussed thoroughly in the Commission’s report, and questions remain on how it will be funded,” he told delegates. “But there are abundant global standards and best practices that can guide us towards the outcome of an environmentally sustainable and financially viable critical piece of infrastructure to serve the UK’s connectivity needs.”
However, he added, there were serious reservations over some of the conditions attached by the Commission to its recommendation, such as a ban on night flights between 2300 and 0600, and the introduction of a community compensation fund and a new aviation noise levy.
Matthew Bell, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, told the same conference that a growth in aviation demand of 60% by 2050 relative to 2005 was consistent with the UK’s greenhouse gas reduction targets given the rate of technological progress by the sector that was expected over the period. He believed the Commission had been relatively conservative in its carbon forecasts to 2050 as international negotiations on tackling aviation emissions were still ongoing and a precise regime as yet unknown.
Analysis carried out by the Committee showed that runway expansion in the UK could be compatible with climate commitments, Bell said. However, he added, it was up to the UK Government to both set out clear policies to help achieve the carbon reduction targets and to act with governments around the world to achieve a workable international agreement on aviation emissions.
Bell revealed that in the CCC’s advice to the Government for the UK carbon budget period 2028-2032 to be submitted in a report later this year, it would include analysis on the impact of a new runway.
Airports Commission , Environmental Audit Committee inquiry , AEF – ‘The Airport Commission’s final report – has it closed the carbon gap?’ briefing , Committee on Climate Change , IATA – Tony Tyler’s Runways UK speech , Runways UK
Kerala’s Cochin makes claim to being the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy
Wed 26 Aug 2015 – Cochin International (CIAL) in Kerala, India, claims to be the first airport in the world to be fully operated by solar power following the inauguration of a new 12 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar power plant. Comprising 46,150 solar panels situated on a 45-acre (18ha) site near the cargo complex, along with other solar plants already installed at the airport, around 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity are expected to be generated daily to cover all power requirements. CIAL installed the first solar plant in March 2013 on the roof of the arrival terminal, producing 100kWp, followed by a 1 MWp plant partly situated on the roof of the aircraft maintenance facility and partly on the ground. Meanwhile, Alice Springs Airport in Australia has announced a A$1.9 million ($1.3m) project to complete one of the largest airport solar systems in the country. Both airports say solar power will enhance the sustainable development of their operations.
CIAL’s new solar plant was inaugurated on August 18 and will generate around 48,000 units (KWh) of electricity per day, which along with the electricity generated from the existing 1.10 MWp plants, will make the total output around 52,000 units per day. As the airport currently consumes around 48,000 units per day, the surplus will be fed back into Kerala state’s power grid and bought back when needed, such as during the night. CIAL says the 18 million units produced annually from solar energy is the equivalent of feeding power to 10,000 homes per year and will avoid over 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.
The airport’s Managing Director, V.J. Kurian, said the project was driven by high power costs and, by tapping into green power, it was following CIAL’s sustainable development model.
Alice Springs Airport (ASP) currently receives more than half its power needs from an existing solar energy station located on the roof of the parking area and now plans to add more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels. When completed later this year, it will increase the airport's capacity to produce its own energy by around 40% and is the third stage of a long-term sustainable development strategy.
“This latest phase will turn our entire long term car park into a solar energy station, and when it’s complete will offset the equivalent of 430 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year,” said the airport’s General Manager, Dave Batic. “The combined total of our solar power output, more than 800kW, will offset a massive 1,270 tonnes of annual emissions.
“ASP was the first Australian airport to see the benefits of investing in large-scale photovoltaic technology that feeds the grid. Now with a system large enough to power 280 homes for a year, we believe it’s one of the biggest solar stations in the country as well.”
In 2014, ASP was named Major Airport of the Year by the Australian Airports Association for its investment in solar power infrastructure and has also won a Safe Climate Award from the Environment Centre NT.
Cochin International Airport – Solar power plant , Alice Springs Airport – Solar energy project
Heathrow trials steeper approaches for landing aircraft in efforts to reduce noise on the ground
Wed 19 Aug 2015 – London’s Heathrow has started trialling steeper approaches for aircraft landing at the airport in efforts to reduce noise for residents on the ground. The international standard set by ICAO for most airports is a glide path of 3 degrees and the trial, which has been approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, will involve aircraft approaching at an angle of 3.2 degrees approximately 8 nautical miles (10 miles) from touchdown and will be used on all four runway approaches. The trial, which runs until 16 March 2016, will test whether approaches of up to 3.5 degrees at the airport are possible. Although optional, Heathrow is confident that a large number of airlines with the necessary onboard navigational equipment fitted to their aircraft will take part in the trial. Frankfurt Airport started a similar trial in October 2012, although the results are still being evaluated.
If adopted, Heathrow would become the only airport in the UK to introduce steeper approaches as a means to reduce noise on the ground. The preferred ILS (Instrument Landing System) glide path was increased from 2.5 degrees to 3 degrees by ICAO in 1978 but there are around 30 airports in Europe alone with glide path angles above 3 degrees in order to meet obstacle clearance requirements. One such airport is London City, where the approach angle is 5.5 degrees but is used by a different aircraft type mix than that experienced at major international airports such as Heathrow.
Heathrow says it expects aircraft will be 170 feet higher than usual at the 8nm point when the approach procedure comes into effect but accepts that evidence suggests only some residents may benefit from reduced noise. Mobile noise monitors have been deployed for the duration of the trial and the airport has pledged to summarise the findings afterwards in a report.
According to its 2013 sustainability report, Frankfurt’s airport operator Fraport says an initial evaluation on its steeper approach trial has shown the maximum level of noise produced has been reduced by 0.5 to 1.5 dB (A), depending on the measuring station and the type of aircraft. A Fraport spokesman said the trial is confined to the northwest runway and consultations with residents were ongoing as part of the evaluation.
Heathrow said it has already briefed a range of stakeholders about the trial, including the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee and the Community Noise forum.
HACAN, which campaigns against Heathrow expansion, reports it receives more complaints about aircraft noise from London residents east of the 10-mile approach point for arrivals than it does from those living in areas closer to the airport. This, believes the group’s John Stewart, may be down to more of an acceptance of aircraft noise from those living around the airport, whereas those living further away experience less respite and may have moved into an area not expecting to be affected by a constant flow of low-flying air traffic.
“The number of planes flying over parts of Southeast London can be considerable, with HACAN having recorded over 40 planes an hour, the vast majority under 4,000 feet,” said Stewart.
“Heathrow has changed, and taken a new approach to addressing our impacts on communities, including when it comes to noise,” responded Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Director of Sustainability and Environment. “Our ‘Blueprint for Noise Reduction’ has been driven by feedback from local communities and its role is to challenge the industry to think innovatively about ways to reduce noise. Steeper approaches are just one step in the right direction and, along with other quieter operating procedures and incentives to bring quieter aircraft into operation, will ensure fewer people are affected by noise, even with an expanded airport.”
Heathrow has asked airlines serving the airport to adhere to their scheduled daily night flight arrival times so that local communities can have predictable noise respite during sensitive hours. Since the start of its Fly Quiet programme, the number of airlines keeping to their schedule has remained static, reports the airport, but others continue to be in breach every quarter. Heathrow points out that this does not impact the overall number of flights operating in early morning hours as this is legally restricted by government, but its technical team is actively engaging with those poorly performing airlines.
Publishing its seventh quarterly Fly Quiet league (January to March 2015), Heathrow has commended Cathay Pacific, KLM, LOT and Finnair for their improved noise performance at the airport.
Heathrow Airport – Aircraft Noise
Fuel and emissions savings from Sea-Tac Greener Skies precision approach initiative exceed expectations
Mon 17 Aug 2015 – Reductions in fuel burn and emissions from new navigation procedures used by Alaska Airlines on approaches into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are about 28% greater than was initially projected, finds a Boeing report. Launched in 2010, the ‘Greener Skies Over Seattle’ initiative is a collaboration under the FAA’s NextGen airspace modernisation programme that involves Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures and greater use of Optimised Profile Descents to enhance operational efficiency. By comparing a Boeing 737-800 aircraft descent to the airport using Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures with a standard approach turn procedure, each arrival can save 589 gallons of fuel and 1,858 pounds (843kg) in emissions, says Boeing. Meanwhile, Alaska has been recognised for its noise reduction and abatement efforts at Sea-Tac with the airport’s Fly Quiet Bravo Award for 2014.
To design RNP procedures for Sea-Tac, Boeing used specific methodology for modelling environmental performance of aircraft and then model efficient flight trajectories to enhance analysis of flight performance. As well as fuel and emissions savings, the same RNP approach was shown to reduce flight times by 8.8 minutes compared to the typical approach turn and reduce distance travelled by 19 nautical miles. Even greater savings can be made compared to the traditional bad weather vector turn approach procedure, says Boeing. Alaska estimates the new procedure is saving around $200 in fuel per flight.
With Greener Skies, instead of the traditional stair-step descents and a lengthy approach pattern, airlines use satellite technology and a continuous descent to go from cruising altitude to the airport runway along a shorter flight path, at low power and less travel time.
Planes landing on parallel runways at larger airports such as Sea-Tac are normally required to maintain either a 3-mile lateral or 1,000-foot vertical separation on approach until they are lined up with the runway. RNP provides computer-plotted landing paths by using onboard navigation technology and the GPS satellite network, so reducing reliance on ground-based navigational aids. Airlines equipped with the technology are therefore able to land with pinpoint precision in both high and low visibility conditions with just half the lateral separation and thus enabling increased airspace efficiency.
“About 80% of the aircraft landing at Sea-Tac are equipped with avionics to use the Greener Skies approaches and can take advantage of the cost and environmental benefits of flying more efficiently,” said Gary Beck, Alaska’s VP Flight Operations. “What we’ve done here in Seattle is a blueprint for how our industry can help modernise the national airspace for future generations.”
The airline first started equipping its aircraft with RNP technology and using the procedures in the mid-1990s to help land planes in remote and geographically challenging airports in the state of Alaska, and now employs them at 30 US airports. With sister airline Horizon, Alaska is working with the FAA to increase use of similar procedures at Portland International Airport, where typical savings of 45 gallons per flight are being achieved.
As the airline phases out older Boeing 737-400s and other models, Alaska’s entire fleet is expected to be suitably equipped with the onboard technology within two to three years. If all equipped airlines used RNP procedures on all flights approaching from Sea-Tac’s south, it would cut fuel consumption by 2.7 million gallons a year and reduce carbon emissions by 25,600 tonnes, estimates Alaska.
Looking ahead, said Boeing, the Greener Skies initiative will further enhance the efficiency of RNP approaches through the development of refined guidelines and procedures for airlines to follow.
“The NextGen procedures that we’re implementing nationwide and here in the Seattle area are helping to create a better environment while improving safety and efficiency,” said FAA Northwest Mountain Regional Administrator Kathryn Vernon. “By reducing fuel burn, they’re helping to reduce greenhouse gases while providing benefits to everyone who uses the airspace.”
For the fourth year running, Alaska has been presented with a Fly Quiet Bravo Award by the Port of Seattle for its efforts in noise reduction and abatement programmes and for being the quietest airline among the top five carriers at Sea-Tac. Fly Quiet awards were also made to Virgin America and Jazz Aviation (operating as Air Canada Express).
“We applaud our award-winning airline partners for being responsible community members and working to reduce the impacts of noise in and around the airport,” said Mark Reis, Sea-Tac’s Managing Director. “By implementing quieter aircraft, and adhering to flight paths that reduce the impacts of noise, these airlines continue to lead by example and should be applauded for their commitment to being good neighbours.”
FAA – ‘Greener Skies Over Seattle’ , Alaska Airlines – Sustainability , Boeing Greener Skies report , Port of Seattle – Environment
Airport carbon scheme enters seventh year with global ambitions and 125 airports accredited
Fri 14 Aug 2015 – The industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme now includes 125 airports in 40 countries as it extends its reach globally, reveals the sixth annual report published by trade body Airports Council International (ACI). First started by ACI’s European region in June 2009, the programme has been taken up during the past year by North America so that all ACI regions now have airports reporting and taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. ACI says around 1.7 billion passengers, representing 27.5% of global air passenger traffic, now pass through airports accredited under the programme, which certifies those airports at one of four different levels covering all stages of carbon management. Key facts and figures from the annual report are featured in a newly-launched microsite that also includes an award-winning animation video.
During the June 2014 to June 2015 reporting year, 24 airports managed by 20 airport operators became accredited for the first time, with one airport, London Gatwick, re-entering the programme and two airports, Hyderabad and Cologne-Bonn, leaving.
Airports are certified at four progressively stringent levels, with the first level (Mapping) requiring airports to produce an externally verified Scope 1 and 2 (those emissions which the airport is directly or indirectly responsible for) carbon footprint for the airport, along with evidence of a publicly available environmental and carbon policy endorsed by the highest level of airport management. The carbon footprint serves as the basis for developing carbon management and engagement plans (Level 2 Reduction and Level 3 Optimisation) through which an airport commits to reduce carbon emissions year on year. Airports set their own carbon reduction targets, which may be absolute (tonnes of CO2) or relative in terms of tonnes of CO2 per passenger or traffic unit (one passenger or 100kg of cargo).
If so desired, an airport may seek to achieve carbon neutrality for the emissions under its direct control (Scopes 1 and 2) by offsetting its residual emissions which it cannot reduce by other means (Level 3+ Neutrality). To achieve this certification level, airports not only have to demonstrate they have reduced the carbon emissions under their direct control but have also engaged with their operational partners on the airport site to do the same (Scope 3).
Growth in the programme remains strong in Europe, with participation increasing from 85 to 92 airports, representing 63.9% of air passenger traffic. Currently, 20 European airports – including Stockholm Arlanda, Amsterdam Schiphol, Rome Fiumicino, Oslo and Ankara – have reached carbon neutrality status.
Since the report was published, it was announced this week that Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport has been certified at Level 1 and so becomes the first airport in Israel to be accredited.
In Asia-Pacific, the second ACI region to adopt the programme, the number of participating airports increased to 25, compared to 16 last year, representing 23.6% of the region’s passenger traffic. Six airports in North America became accredited within months of the region joining the scheme in September 2014, with all of them having mapped their carbon footprint and five actively reducing emissions.
The programme was extended to the Latin American and Caribbean region in November 2014 and one airport, Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, has since mapped its footprint (Level 1). One airport in the Africa region, Tunisia’s Enfidah-Hammamet, has actively reduced its CO2 emissions (Level 2). To address the low take-up in the two regions, ACI is looking to overcome barriers to participation and discussions with new airports about joining have already taken place.
Overall, accredited airports reduced the CO2 emissions under their direct control (Scopes 1 and 2) by 212,460 tonnes in the reporting year, with total aggregate Scope 3 reductions amounting to 163,033 tonnes. Total emissions offset by the 20 Level 3+ airports were 294,385 tonnes. The carbon footprint per passenger was 2.26 kgCO2 and 2.00 kgCO2 per traffic unit.
Under the programme, to accurately quantify actual emission reductions achieved, emissions are compared on a like-for-like basis against a three-year rolling average of emissions. Under the terms of participation, the details of airports’ individual carbon footprints are not published in the annual report, although an airport may choose to do so itself.
The programme’s administrator, WSP Parsons-Brinckerhoff, reports there are now 129 independent verifiers in 36 countries worldwide and a new logo has been designed and made available to approved verifiers. One aim of the programme for year 7 is to fine tune verifier training to improve understanding of the programme and its verification requirements to help keep the application process cost effective.
As well as promoting it in all ACI member regions and seeking ways to remove obstacles to participation, those countries developing ICAO State Action Plans on climate change are being encouraged to include the airport carbon programme in the list of actions proposed.
ICAO, together with sister UN agency UNEP, the European Commission, Eurocontrol, ECAC and the FAA, are supporting the programme and have representatives on the independent expert Advisory Board.
Airport Carbon Accreditation microsite , Airport Carbon Accreditation Full Annual Report 2014-2015
COMMENTARY: A real deal – how aviation can contribute to success in Paris
Fri 28 Aug 2015 – Huang Yue’s GreenAir Commentary article last month highlights a key issue for agreeing a global market-based measure (GMBM) to tackle aviation emissions: “… those who emitted more in the past will shoulder more offsetting responsibilities.” How this can be achieved is subject to discussion, but few could argue with the principle that the aviation industries of those developing countries now enjoying the sorts of growth rates that airlines from developed countries saw 20 and 30 years ago should not be penalised. How responsibility for the growth of emissions above the 2020 baseline should be apportioned is therefore an important question, writes Andrew Murphy. A GMBM without differentiation could see legacy carriers from mature markets assigned relatively small offsetting obligations compared to a developing country airline in a major growth phase.
There are a number of ways to fairly resolve this issue while adhering to the Chicago Convention’s requirement of non-discrimination between airlines. Huang Yue’s article outlines a number of options, including the Chinese proposal based on historic emissions. All proposals have merit, but Transport & Environment believes a measure based on differentiation by route group is the easiest to implement and presents the best chance to reach agreement.
Such an approach can well accommodate calls to recognise historical responsibility. The route-based approach can assign routes with large historical emissions greater responsibility to surrender emissions units. The transatlantic is the obvious place to start. Routes assigned greater emissions intensity also need to make up for those assigned less, in order that the 2020 carbon-neutral growth (CNG2020) baseline is respected – a fundamental requirement.
Given the range of options available, and the importance of the differentiation issue to all 190+ ICAO Parties, it is worrying that 12 months before the ICAO Assembly there appears to be little information on this issue that is available either publicly or to many ICAO States. Compare this to the ongoing UNFCCC process, where at the Lima COP a draft of the agreement was published a year before it is was due to be ratified in Paris. That text is now undergoing substantial revisions, but they are revisions involving all 196 Parties and they are taking place with public scrutiny. That is how confidence can be built in the difficult world of climate negotiations.
Timelines and transparency are not the only evidence of a difference of approach between ICAO and the work of the UNFCCC and its Parties. In fact, since ICAO’s 2010 Assembly settled on the aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, there has been a sea change in the global approach to reducing emissions. Countries as diverse as Djibouti, the Marshall Islands, China and the United States are now submitting INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) that outline their contributions to reducing overall GHG emissions sufficiently to keep global warming within 2 degrees C – the agreed UNFCCC target to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Degrees of promised effort vary and the process is certainly still far away from ensuring the 2-degree increase is avoided, but commitments are open and subject to scrutiny by all other UNFCCC parties and the general public. Moreover, the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the US, have signed an agreement that will see Chinese emissions peak and US emissions decline to an agreed time path – a clear sign that while differentiation is essential, it is not a roadblock to progress.
The UNFCCC process is driven by the stark awareness that if the world wants to keep a temperature increase under 2 degrees C, the overall carbon budget allows us to emit no more than one trillion tonnes of carbon (1,000 PgC). As of 2011, 515 PgC have already been emitted and at current rates we will exhaust the remaining budget (485 PgC) by 2045. So emissions must peak now and then start to decline sharply, including from international aviation.
While offsetting and emissions trading have an important role to play in resolving aviation’s climate impacts, they do not solve the problem that the sector will continue to consume a growing share of the remaining global carbon budget. Its emissions are projected to grow 270% by 2050. Offsetting is therefore only an effective response if it is complemented with measures to reduce emissions within the sector – such as effective efficiency standards and, ultimately, demand management through, for example, ending subsidies to the sector.
ICAO’s 2013 Assembly resolution on climate change (A38-18) did commit to explore the feasibility of a long-term aspirational goal beyond 2020 but work is yet to start – perhaps because of the absence of the sort of scrutiny that INDC commitments are now being subject to under the UNFCCC. Paris needs to set out the overall level of ambition for international aviation, together with a timeline, because without forthright action to limit and reduce aviation (and shipping) emissions, the 2-degree target will not be realised whatever national efforts might produce.
ICAO needs to agree a long-term reduction target and develop a pathway to achieve it. Its commitment to a 2% annual fleet wide improvement in efficiency needs to be measured and ongoing results made public. Technical and operational reductions from the ‘basket of measures’ need to be regularly quantified. There is still (just) time for the historical emitters, who together with their manufacturers and carriers heavily influence the work to develop ICAO’s CO2 standard, to lock in future in-sector reductions that are so critical to slowing absolute emissions growth. That means adopting the highest stringency level under consideration for new aircraft types and effectively regulating emissions from new in-production aircraft that will dominate deliveries until at least 2030. Without these steps, the historical emitters will have done the sector – and humanity – a lasting disservice.
Paris also needs to recognise that mitigation of domestic aviation emissions, which account for about one third of global emissions, is important and needs to be prioritised and incorporated into INDC plans. New Zealand moved first with an upstream emissions trading scheme (ETS) in 2010. The EU’s ETS covered domestic and intra EU aviation from 2012. Meanwhile, China is preparing to introduce carbon trading on domestic routes.
A number of INDCs reference the need to reduce domestic aviation emissions, such as those from Canada and Japan. US domestic aviation emissions, however, exceed all other countries’ domestic emissions combined, and account for about 20% of global aviation emissions. Indeed North American domestic aviation emissions almost equate to all the international emissions of ICAO’s 195 members bar its top 11. Paris needs to address all aviation emissions, domestic and international.
The author, Andrew Murphy, is a policy officer with Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E).