GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 20 JUNE 2016
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If we don’t work in partnership, we won’t reach industry 2050 CO2 reduction target, warns Qantas chief
Fri 17 June 2016 – Although there is a current focus on achieving a goal of climate neutral growth from 2020, the aviation industry also has a long-term target of cutting net CO2 emissions by half by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. At IATA’s recent annual meeting in Dublin, representatives from industry, academia and NGOs came together in a panel session to discuss what was needed to reach it. There was no doubt, said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the environmental challenge would be one of the biggest facing the industry over the coming decades and it would require all sectors to work closely together and with government on the issue. The 2050 target was very aggressive, he said, with no silver bullet on how to achieve it and would require many different global technology, operational and infrastructure initiatives, particularly on sustainable alternative fuels.
“The journey has started,” said Patrick de Castelbajac, CEO of aircraft manufacturer ATR. “It’s not just a question of being politically correct anymore, it’s whether we want our industry to be strong in 20 or 30 years from now, and there is no other way than being environmentally respectful.”
He said manufacturers like ATR thought very differently than 10-15 years ago over the environmental impact of their aircraft, which was now considered at every stage from design through to the eventual end-of-life disposal. “There is also a greater convergence between economic and environmental interests, which we can see clearly on fuel burn,” he said.
Joyce said the new ICAO aircraft CO2 standard would drive advances in aircraft and engine technology, which needed rapid and continuous development but sustainable alternative fuels would play a crucial part in reaching the 2050 goal.
“We will need to have a huge proportion of sustainable biofuels in the fuels we will buying in order to meet it,” he said. “That’s a big ask. We can’t achieve it on our own and will require R&D and help from governments and other industrial sectors.”
Joyce said the current low oil price should not impact the focus on fuel efficiency and sustainable fuels. “Airlines are not going to change their policies for short-term gains,” he said. “No one can tell you where the price of jet fuel is going to be in one year, let alone 10 or 20 years. We need to continue along the path of developing sustainable fuels so there are alternative sources to mitigate our risk as well as bringing environmental benefits.”
At the peak, he said the Australian carrier was spending $4.5 billion annually on jet fuel that had to be imported and there was a strong business case for his government to support through policy setting a local alternative fuels industry with new jobs. “This is a great form of innovation that governments need to get behind. Biofuels are the only way we are going to get to our 2050 target. It’s a question of how we as an industry can cooperate and how we can get governments interested enough to put a policy framework in place to make that happen.”
Qantas, he reported, had achieved a 2.1% improvement in fuel efficiency last year as a result of operational and aircraft weight-saving initiatives but although there had been advances in navigation technology and procedures, progress had been slow in developing ATC infrastructure.
John-Paul Clarke, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, added that new-generation aircraft were having to perform like Ferraris on pot-holed roads. “We are operating in the same way as we did 40 years ago,” he said. “2050 might be a long way off but due to industry time lags, there’s only around 10 years left to figure out how to reach the goal.”
The panellists agreed that it would be important to continually measure progress towards the 2050 target in a transparent process. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” said Angela Gittens, Director General of Airports Council International.
“We need continuous monitoring of what we are doing, perhaps by an independent entity that would bring credibility,” added Clarke.
Tim Johnson of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation cautioned that it should not become an “accountancy exercise, where we see one gallon of biofuel uplifted to an aircraft or a tonne of CO2 offset as the way we measure progress,” adding it was important to consider the wider sustainable development agenda.
Investment decisions needed to be taken now to reach the industry’s 2050 target, he suggested, and clarity was needed on what should happen, and by when. It would be tempting to see the ICAO market-based measure as a safety net, he said, but there must be emphasis on the other three pillars required for aviation emissions reductions – aircraft technology, operations and infrastructure.
IATA video of environmental panel session ‘Climate change goals’
Amyris/Total enter into two-year agreement to supply renewable jet fuel for Cathay Pacific A350 delivery flights
Wed 15 June 2016 – A 10% blend of Amyris renewable jet fuel was used to power the delivery flight of the first Airbus A350 XWB to enter the Cathay Pacific fleet. With support from fuel giant Total, the flight marked the start of an agreement with Cathay that will see the blended sustainable sugar cane-derived fuel used on all A350 delivery flights over the next two years. The A350-900 flight from the manufacturer’s base in Toulouse to Hong Kong was the longest to date using renewable jet fuel, claim the partners. The combination of the new aircraft’s 25% improvement in fuel efficiency and the renewable fuel’s properties resulted in an estimated 30 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to flights of the aircraft it will replace. In 2014, Cathay also entered into an equity deal and offtake agreement with US municipal solid waste to jet fuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy.
The Amyris renewable jet fuel process, which has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, involves converting plant sugars through fermentation into a hydrocarbon molecular structure called farnesene. The fuel is produced at the Amyris biorefinery in south-eastern Brazil and has already been used in commercial flights by Brazilian carrier GOL, following ASTM certification for the process in 2014 (see article).
“We are proud of our accomplishments with Total in support of the future sustainability of air travel and believe we are leading in enabling the use of fossil fuel alternatives,” said Amyris CEO John Melo. “This is an exciting long-term opportunity to make a real difference in reducing the negative impact on our planet of both a growing population and increasing air travel. We are also encouraged to see airlines such as Cathay taking the lead, by committing to longer term contracts, investing in this emerging market and collaborating with suppliers such as Amyris.”
Cathay has ordered 48 A350-900 aircraft in all and this first aircraft will be used mainly on regional flights until more arrive to join the fleet from the third quarter of this year, when the aircraft will be deployed on various long-haul routes, including London Gatwick and Dusseldorf.
Commenting on the Amyris agreement, the Head of Cathay Pacific’s Biofuel Programme, Jeff Ovens, said: “This two-year contract supporting regular, ultra long-haul flights, will provide us with valuable experience as we move closer toward commercial scale volumes of biojet becoming available over the next few years.”
Under its arrangement with Fulcrum, Cathay has negotiated a long-term supply agreement for an initial 375 million US gallons of jet biofuel over 10 years, representing around 2% of the carrier’s annual jet fuel consumption (see article).
Cathay Pacific – Environment , Amyris Renewable Jet Fuel , Fulcrum BioEnergy
Sufficient supply of high quality carbon credits and sustainable fuels to meet aviation CO2 goals, finds study
Wed 15 June 2016 – A study commissioned by WWF finds airlines could meet most of their carbon-neutral growth (CNG) requirements during the 2020-2035 period even if they focus on buying carbon credits for which there is both a high confidence in greenhouse gas reductions and demonstrable benefits under the UN’s sustainable development goals. Although there is greater uncertainty in how the supply of alternative jet fuels can contribute to the ICAO CNG goal, the study shows those fuels with appropriate eligibility criteria to advance sustainable development objectives could yield GHG reductions of up to 9% of the goal. WWF is calling on ICAO to send a clear signal in its forthcoming Assembly Resolution on a global market-based measure (GMBM) that only carbon credits and alternative fuels that achieve real emissions reductions and promote sustainable development will be recognised, and detailed rules are finalised as soon as possible.
According to the study carried out by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), CO2 emissions from international aviation amounted to 490.4 million tonnes (Mt) in 2013 and are expected to rise to between 682 and 755 Mt by 2020 and 1223 to 1376 Mt by 2035.
The ICAO proposal to be put to its Assembly in September is expected to call for a GMBM scheme to start in 2020 and designed to end in 2035 that would cap net emissions from 2020 through the use of carbon offsets. A key issue is the sustainability of the measures to be credited under the scheme, and SEI was commissioned by WWF to look into the sustainability of offsets in the market and the availability of aviation alternative fuels. The study examines the potential supply of offsets and jet fuel alternatives from different biofuel pathways during the 2020-2035 period in terms of environmental integrity and support of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).
SEI’s analysis evaluated the integrity of offset project types based on how easily a typical project can meet criteria for additionality, quantification certainty and verifiability. Higher quality credits were defined as project types that generally have no other revenue streams, have costs that can be covered by carbon revenues, have high quantification certainty, have no leakage effects and can be easily monitored.
The authors of the study found that carbon offsets from project types for which there is high confidence in environmental integrity, and which advance SDGs, could yield emission reductions of around 3.0 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2e, making up 70-90% of ICAO’s projected demand for emission reductions of 3.3-4.5 Gt CO2e.
Including project types with medium confidence would expand the potential supply to 4.6 Gt CO2e and further expanding eligibility to types with neutral development impacts would increase supply to 5.1 Gt. REDD+ programmes could add a further 2.4 Gt of offsets if ICAO chooses to recognise them, finds SEI.
The potential supply of alternative jet fuels, which are still at the infancy stage, is subject to greater uncertainties but SEI estimates 0.1-0.3 Gt of CO2e emissions could be avoided during the period by using biofuels produced with little or no land use change impacts and backed by strong sustainability certification schemes.
Taken together, the analysis found there could be enough sustainable biofuel and high quality credits to satisfy up to 73% of ICAO’s higher demand forecast for emissions reductions (4.5 Gt CO2e) or 100% of its lower demand forecast (3.3 Gt CO2e). Any shortfall in reductions could be met either through greater action on efficiency, suggests WWF, or from carbon project types where certification is essential to ensure the promised reductions are achieved.
Offsetting should only be a last resort after making all efforts to avoid emissions, as a tonne of CO2 avoided is always better than the equivalent offset, argues WWF in its report on the study, and some offsets do not actually deliver emission reductions, while others can be detrimental to people and nature, it says.
Examples of carbon credits and alternative fuels supported by WWF include biogas carbon projects that turn organic waste into green gas for heating and cooking, and waste-based biofuels that avoid negative land use impacts. By contrast, it warns, some projects in the energy sector perpetuate reliance on fossil fuels and hold back the transition to clean renewable energy, while many conventional crop-based biofuels have damaging land use impacts on emissions, habitats and food security.
“ICAO must make it clear that carbon projects in the fossil fuel sector and conventional crop-based biofuels are not the answer, and should finalise binding sustainability criteria for both credits and fuels as soon as possible after the 2016 Assembly,” said WWF-UK CEO David Nussbaum.
WWF – ‘Greener Skies?’ , Stockholm Environment Institute – ‘Supply and sustainability of carbon offsets and alternative fuels for international aviation’
Alaska undertakes first commercial flights to use Gevo’s newly-approved alcohol-to-jet renewable fuel
Fri 10 June 2016 – Two Alaska Airlines flights departed Seattle for San Francisco and Washington DC on Tuesday fuelled by a 20% blend of Gevo’s renewable alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel, the first commercial flights to use the fuel since it was approved by fuel standards body ASTM International in April. Around 1,500 gallons of renewable fuel was used on the flights and was derived from sustainable non-edible field corn grown in South Dakota. Alaska estimates the blend used for the two flights reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. The use of such fuels is part of a long-term commitment to its sustainability strategy, says the airline, and in November 2011 became the first US carrier to fly multiple commercial passenger flights – 75 in all – using biofuel from used cooking oil.
Gevo’s ATJ fuel is the first biofuel produced from a new feedstock to be certified and approved by ASTM since 2011. The company’s production process converts bio-based isobutanol into what is technically termed an alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) fuel and is certified for blends up to 30%.
“Flying a commercial flight with our ATJ made from renewable resources has been a vision of ours for many years, and it has taken many years of work to get this far,” said Gevo CEO Pat Gruber. “We believe our technology has the potential to be the lowest cost, renewable carbon-based jet fuel, given the efficacy of our technology. We look forward to moving forward with Alaska, and others in the airline industry, to make renewable jet fuel widely successful as a product that substitutes for fossil fuels, and ultimately helps to reduce carbon emissions.”
Alaska said the fuel for the flights was made from corn grown and harvested by farmers who incorporate sustainable best practices from seed to harvest, including David Kolsrud of The Funding Farm. Using advanced farming techniques to maximise corn production and minimise the use of water, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, Kolsrud began low-carbon farming in Brandon, South Dakota in 2010.
“I grow non-edible field corn and sell it to Gevo, which separates the nutritional protein portion of the corn for animal feed and then converts the starch from the kernel to isobutanol, which is then converted to jet fuel,” explained Kolsrud. “This practice is a game-changer for traditional farmers like me, as this allows us to extend the use of our crop and create jobs that frankly didn’t exist six years ago.”
Gevo says one acre of corn can produce 300 gallons of jet fuel and two tons of high-value, high-protein animal feed. The company produced the isobutanol at its bioprocessing facility in Luverne, MN, which was then shipped by rail to a facility in Silsbee, TX, where it was converted to renewable jet fuel.
A San Francisco-based news site reports that Alaska paid around $27 per gallon for the Gevo fuel, which compares to $1.50 per gallon for conventional jet fuel. However, Gevo believes it can bring the price down to about $3 per gallon once full production of its fuel is reached and could be below the conventional fuel price by the early 2020s.
Alaska is also collaborating with the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) to advance the production of alternative jet fuels from forest residuals that remain after forest harvesting. The airline is expecting further demonstration sustainable biofuel flights to take place over the coming months using 1,000 gallons of Gevo’s ATJ being produced by the NARA team and its many partners.
Alaska aims to be using sustainable aviation biofuel on all flights at one or more of its primary airports by 2020 and to this end is working with Boeing and the Port of Seattle on a Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that is assessing costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver significant quantities of a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft serving the airport. If it was able to replace 20% of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac with sustainable biofuels, the airline estimates it would reduce CO2 emissions by around 142,000 tonnes.
“Alaska is committed to doing its part to reduce its carbon emissions. Advancing the use of alternative jet fuels is a key part of our emission reduction strategy,” said Joseph Sprague, the airline’s SVP Communications and External Relations. “Gevo’s jet fuel product is a significant step forward in that it has the potential to be scalable and cost-effective, without sacrificing performance.”
Alaska Airlines blog: ‘Isobuta-what? Alaska partners with Gevo to bring biofuel to commercial flights’ , Alaska Airlines – Sustainability , Gevo
Persuading governments to adopt global carbon scheme would be one of IATA’s greatest achievements, says Walsh
Thu 9 June 2016 – The new Chairman of IATA’s Board of Directors and CEO of International Airlines Group, Willie Walsh, told the media at the conclusion of last week’s AGM in Dublin that he was of “the firm belief” ICAO states will agree at their forthcoming Assembly a scheme to address international aviation’s carbon emissions. If so, he said, to have influenced governments to adopt the measure would be one of IATA’s greatest achievements. Outgoing IATA Director General Tony Tyler said the decision was in the hands of governments but airlines and the wider air transport community had played an important role in helping to focus their thinking. A resolution passed at the AGM was intended to send ICAO states during their ongoing negotiations a strong signal that industry wanted them to adopt the measure, added IATA Senior Vice President Paul Steele.
“This has been a fantastic example of how the industry can get on the front foot and influence the outcome in a positive way,” Walsh described the efforts. “The work that has gone on behind the scenes at IATA over the past five years has been phenomenal and Tony, Paul and the team deserve great credit for the leadership they have shown. The board has debated the issue at length and airlines have helped one another through very constructive debate.”
Tyler will be succeeded from September by current Air France-KLM CEO Alexandre de Juniac. Walsh, who represents British Airways on the board, starts a one-year term as Chairman. “I’m honoured to serve in this important role at such a critical time,” he commented. “Our top priority is getting governments’ agreement on a global market-based measure (MBM) to manage aviation’s carbon emissions at ICAO’s 39th Assembly later this year. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity which is vital if our industry is to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.”
Although the IATA resolution was passed “overwhelmingly”, support was absent from state-owned Chinese airlines, whose government has criticised the scheme’s proposals for not giving sufficient recognition to the position of developing countries, and Russia’s Aeroflot.
However, said Walsh: “Even where there have been reservations by some members over the resolutions we have passed, they haven’t been about the industry’s need to address climate change.”
Steele told a media briefing the ICAO negotiations were in a difficult phase in which individual states were coming up with their own positions.
“Over the summer there will be a large number of behind-the-scenes bilateral discussions to try and broker an agreement,” he said. “At this point in time, it is really important the industry sends a very strong signal that we want a global MBM. We are doing a huge amount of outreach ourselves, actively advocating for an agreement at ICAO. The cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) is helping to amplify our message through collaboration with airports, air navigation service providers, business aviation and manufacturing. We have also held eight workshops around the world to help our members understand the issues and build knowledge.”
Despite the differences among ICAO member states on some key issues, Steele shares Walsh’s optimism that an agreement can be reached.
“Whereas at the last Assembly three years ago, a number of states were questioning why a global MBM was even needed, that isn’t the case now,” he said. “There is a much greater convergence of views and it’s down to arguing over the details such as how, for example, we can implement the question of differentiation and discussing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the scheme might work.”
On the failure of Chinese airlines to support the IATA resolution, Steele said it was important to recognise states were still formulating and reserving their positions. “China is symbolic of a group of countries that want to see how the differentiation issue is going to be resolved before they sign up to anything. Along with how offsetting obligations are distributed, it is one of the two fundamental challenges that will be taken up over the summer.”
One proposal that has so far largely escaped argument is that responsibility for international aviation emissions excluded from the scheme in order to take into account differentiation would not be passed on to those airlines that do take part. That would leave a gap of at least 20% – depending on the eventual metric agreed – of emissions left uncovered during the first phase of the scheme (2021-2025), with a smaller gap thereafter as airlines from other states join the second phase. This would leave the sector short of its full carbon-neutral growth goal, which Steele does not believe can made up by technological, operational or infrastructure advances.
However, Steele said airlines would be “radically opposed” to any attempt to divide up and reassign exempted emissions.
“In an ideal world, we would like 100% coverage but if governments decide otherwise then they shouldn’t hold the industry responsible,” he argued. “We are keen the amount of emissions excluded is as small as possible and we will do what we can to advance other measures, but we would love governments to help close the gap, for example through supporting the development of sustainable alternative fuels.”
One measure alone would not get the industry to its long-term goal of a 50% reduction in net emissions by 2050, he said, but a well-designed, single global MBM would be a final building block in the overall strategy.
On the carbon offsets that industry would purchase under the global scheme, Steele said IATA had been working with ICAO and the NGO community to ensure the right quality criteria was set. “We have to be very careful about the types of offsets that are used and there has been a huge amount of work undertaken on this looking at from one end of the scale UN-approved CDM credits to, quite frankly, credits that aren’t worth the paper they are written on.”
He revealed some analysis had been carried out at IATA into the potential costs of offsetting. On a flight from London to Beijing using an Airbus A380, for example, the cost of fuel would be in the region of $45,000 and the cost of offsetting the carbon emissions for the flight would be roughly 10% of that, therefore $4,500, at current fuel and offset prices.
“As an industry, of course we hate costs but we believe it needs to be built into the system,” he said. “It’s the right way to go.”
IATA AGM 2016 , IATA AGM Environment Media Briefing slides
Airline industry comes together to urge governments to adopt global carbon offset mechanism
Thu 2 June 2016 – The biggest item on our agenda this year is the environment, announced Director General Tony Tyler to journalists at the start of IATA’s Annual General Meeting of the world’s airlines in Dublin today. One of the earliest resolutions to be passed – overwhelmingly, according to IATA – was a resolution urging governments to adopt a single global carbon offset mechanism to address carbon emissions from international aviation at the ICAO Assembly this autumn. To achieve the industry’s goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, we need a mandatory global carbon offset scheme in addition to other measures, said Tyler. In a keynote address, however, Ireland’s Transport Minister, Shane Ross, warned even with rapid developments in technology, aviation would struggle along with other industries to reconcile its rapid growth with its environmental footprint.
The IATA resolution “endorses current industry measures to manage its carbon footprint as part of global efforts to address climate change and safeguard sustainable development” and calls on governments to:
- Consider 11 recommended design elements for the mechanism that would ensure environmental integrity and simplify implementation while avoiding market distortions; and
- Ensure that existing economic measures (including taxes) on a national and regional basis to manage the industry’s climate change impact become redundant and that no new measures are introduced.
The theme of this year’s conference, said Tyler, the last under his leadership, was that aviation was a force for good. “But our message to governments is that we could do even more good if the tax burden and constraints were removed,” he added.
The IATA resolution also urges “a strong commitment from all stakeholders, including governments and non-governmental organisations, working together on all elements of the global aviation community’s four pillar strategy to address CO2 emissions from international aviation, through technology improvements, including sustainable alternative fuels, operational improvements, infrastructure measures and a global market-based measure (GMBM) to fill any remaining emissions gap.”
The details of the carbon offset scheme are still being worked out, he explained to airline delegates, but the industry had a clear focus on what was needed.
“We want a cost-effective measure that leads to real and permanent carbon reductions,” he stated. “That mechanism should be simple, mandatory and applied on a global basis, avoiding the cost and complexity that a patchwork of uncoordinated measures would create. It must not lead to competitive or market distortions. And we can accept some flexibility in implementation, including the phasing-in of countries over time, if that is needed by governments to recognise the different levels of maturity of aviation markets.”
In an opening address, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu praised the contribution of IATA and its prominent role in the carbon offset scheme discussions, and said he was of the firm belief that the political will existed to realise a solution. He reported consultations with states would continue over the summer in order to seek greater consensus and ensure the adoption of the GMBM resolution by the Assembly.
“In addition to agreeing to the proposed Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), the Assembly is also expected to agree on the work to be done by ICAO, states and industry following the Assembly in order for the scheme to be fully operational by 2020. This includes the establishment of registries, the determination of the monitoring review and verification (MRV) requirements, and emissions unit criteria (EUC).
“As always, our sector has relied on its historic strengths – cooperation and consensus – to reach this point. And we will need to preserve our highest respect for those values in the months ahead if we are to avoid an acrimonious and inefficient patchwork of emissions regimes.
“IATA has been a great ally in ICAO’s efforts to ensure that the decisions of our member states are forward-looking, and in line with the current and future needs of the industry.”
Ireland’s Transport Minister responded that it was vitally important the proposed new offset scheme observed the principles of transparency and non-discrimination. “So too is simplicity of operation,” he added. “We must not end up with a system that it is so complex that it becomes impossible to implement effectively and efficiently.”
He cautioned: “While aviation brings about significant economic and social benefits, it is also contributing negatively to climate change, noise and local air quality, with consequential impacts on the health and quality of life of citizens globally, particularly those in close proximity to airports. The significant upward shift in demand for air travel has of course led to increased overall pressures on the environment and this trend will continue.
“The aviation sector also needs to prepare for and develop resilience to potential future environmental impacts. Actions have been initiated at European, national and organisational levels to help to counteract these effects.”
IATA AGM news and speeches , IATA AGM resolution on the development of a global market-based measure for international aviation