Fri 29 Jan 2016 – The 10th triennial session of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP/10) gets underway on Monday (Feb 1) with a decision on an aircraft CO2 standard set to dominate the two-week meeting. The standard has been in development for around six years and has not been without controversy over its metric and level of stringency. However, CAEP’s 22 members representing States worldwide – with input from 15 observers representing States, industry and NGOs – are expected to agree the standard during the session, which will then be passed for approval by ICAO’s governing Council. The standard will have no effect on aircraft that are already in service and will likely be applied to new aircraft designs and for in-production aircraft that undergo major changes. Among issues that require decisions are the threshold weight of aircraft to which the standard should apply and the stringency levels, or options (SO), that should be applied.
The purpose of the CO2 standard, which would become effective sometime between 2020 and 2023, is to drive efficiencies in aircraft and engine technologies and is an important component of ICAO’s ‘basket of measures’ to mitigate the growth in emissions from international aviation. Aircraft types that do not meet the standard will not receive a certificate until the manufacturer improves the design. As well as established plane makers such as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer, the standard would also impact on new aircraft manufacturers entering the market, such as from China.
The requirements for aircraft already in production would be less stringent than those for new aircraft types as there are fewer options to improve efficiency. For both groups of aircraft, the standard would differentiate between those above and below 60 tonnes of maximum take-off mass (MTOM), although the aircraft and engine manufacturers association ICCAIA, a CAEP observer, is pushing for a higher threshold of 70.265 tonnes. The metric is based on fuel consumption per square metre of cabin space, times kilometres flown.
The airline sector strongly supports the CO2 standard, IATA Senior Vice President Paul Steele told journalists earlier today. “It won’t necessarily accelerate the level of fuel efficiency of the industry over the next five to 10 years as we are already on a trajectory of improvement and know what technologies are coming into the fleet during that period,” he said. “But it is really important in providing a framework by which the efficiency performance of the industry and aircraft can be judged. As with standards over aircraft noise, a similar approach can be taken over CO2 and stringency can be ratcheted up over time. The standard will provide a longer term impact and significant building block in helping us get to where we want to be in 2050.”
A study prepared by Oeko-Institut for the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) says higher stringency levels require more advanced technology and more sophisticated design, so leading to potentially higher prices airlines will have to pay for their aircraft. This would have to be balanced, it says, by fuel and cost savings due to higher efficiency during operation of the aircraft.
The United States is suggesting a stringency level of SO8 to SO9 – the highest being SO10 – for both in-production and new aircraft types, according to CAEP working papers seen by Oeko-Institut. The US level of ambition is largely driven by government pressure following recent action over aviation emissions from the US Environmental Protection Agency (see article). The EU is suggesting a level of SO7 for new types over 60 tonnes MTOM. Aircraft and engine manufacturers are seeking much lower SO levels for in-production models (SO2) and levels of SO5 and SO6 for new types. Oeko-Institut says an impact analysis shows the optimal stringency level in which additional investment costs are in balance with fuel savings is around SO8.
NGOs, which are represented as a CAEP observer by the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), are seeking the highest stringency level of SO10.
Some NGOs have criticised the EU over its lower level of ambition for the standard, which they claim would result in up to 400 megatonnes of additional CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2040 that could be avoided with a higher stringency level. They blame the weaker EU position on lobbying by Airbus and say it potentially leaves Europe to take the blame if an environmentally ineffective standard is agreed by CAEP and would be “a betrayal of European climate ambition and run directly counter to everything that Europe so rightly achieved last month in Paris.”
The group of 17 NGOs, which includes ICSA member Transport & Environment, has written an open letter to Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier calling on the manufacturer to “seize the opportunity that this standard presents”.
The letter adds: “An effective standard will set a level playing field and realistic technology bar that can only benefit European industry by stimulating billions of manufacturing investment in R&D and thousands of new jobs. A weak standard on the other hand will not only lock in many hundreds of megatonnes of avoidable emissions over the next generation – all from the sector with the fastest rate of CO2 emissions growth – but damage both Airbus and Europe’s airlines by foregoing achievable fuel efficiency improvements which are central to aviation becoming sustainable.”
Last week, UK newspaper The Guardian leaked details of the EU and US positions and said the US SO9 level would reduce overall aircraft emissions by 37.5%, while an EU SO7 would result in a 33% cut. While a small gap, the report said it was equal to 350 million tonnes of CO2, or slightly more than Spain emits every year.
An Airbus spokesperson told GreenAir the company would not comment on leaked documents from the ongoing negotiations, adding that it was investing heavily in continuous innovations that significantly reduce fuel burn in current and future aircraft programmes, and was fully supporting international talks at ICAO to identify global solutions.
The Oeko-Institut briefing says that due to strong traffic growth, aircraft efficiency improvements will reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to baseline projects but will not result in absolute emissions reductions.
“They are, nevertheless, an important contribution to global efforts on addressing climate change because they reduce the aviation sector’s demand for offset units,” it concludes.
With well over 150 information and working papers submitted for the meeting, CAEP/10 will also be focusing on progress made by the technical task force (GMTF) supporting ongoing work on the Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM). The GMTF has three sub-groups looking at monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV), eligibility aspects of carbon offsets, and technical and economic analysis.
Attention will also be paid to work on an emissions standard under development concerning non-volatile particulate matter, which aims to encourage improved engine designs and is due for decision-making by CAEP/11 in 2019.
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