GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 7 JULY 2016
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United marks new service to Auckland with green flight operated under ASPIRE initiative
Wed 6 July 2016 – United Airlines marked the opening of its new route from San Francisco to Auckland last weekend with a ‘green’ flight conducted under the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE). During the inaugural flight, operated with a Boeing 787-800, the carrier used ASPIRE best practices that included user preferred route and dynamic airborne re-route procedures to follow a flexible fuel efficient flight path that could be changed at various stages to take advantage of favourable winds. Air traffic controllers on the ground at both ends of the journey managed the flight’s arrival and departure to ensure optimal efficiency. Data and metrics from the flight will now be assessed. Launched in 2008, ASPIRE is a partnership of air navigation service providers and airlines from the Pacific region to develop gate-to-gate flight procedures and standards that limit fuel burn and carbon emissions.
“United is one of the founding airline partners of ASPIRE and it is really pleasing the airline has chosen to make its inaugural service to Auckland an ASPIRE demonstration flight,” said Tim Boyle, ASPIRE Chair and Airways New Zealand’s Head of Auckland Operations.
“Due to technological advances and aircraft improvements, United’s CO2 emissions per passenger on flights to Auckland will be reduced by more than 20% versus when United previously flew to the country in 2003. During that same time period, air traffic organisations have modernised their capabilities to allow airlines to gain maximum advantage from their modern fleets.”
Noting the unprecedented levels of air traffic growth in the region, with movements expected to double by 2030, Boyle said it was a significant challenge for the aviation industry as a whole to manage the environmental outcomes and ensure the sustainability of air travel.
United's inaugural service to Auckland also marks the official start of the airline’s joint venture agreement with Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand. United’s EVP and Chief Revenue Officer, Jim Compton said: “We understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, even as we expand our global network. Working with ASPIRE is just one way we’re demonstrating our environmental leadership within the industry.”
Since its formation, ASPIRE has developed more than 20 daily city pair ‘green routes’ based on best practices.
ASPIRE , Airways New Zealand , United Airlines – Eco-Skies
Six airlines singled out in latest NRDC survey as leaders in development of sustainably-sourced aviation biofuels
Fri 1 July 2016 – US environmental NGO Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its third annual Aviation Biofuel Sustainability Scorecard, which surveyed and ranked 29 airlines on sourcing sustainably produced biofuels. Just 19 of those airlines responded to NRDC’s questionnaire, although this was an improvement of two over the previous year. For the 2016 Scorecard, NRDC grouped airlines into four categories – Leading, Advancing, Basic and Nonresponsive – that were based on commitments to sustainable fuel supply chain development, sustainable fuel use, and monitoring and disclosure. If airlines are going to meet carbon emissions targets, new low-carbon fuel sourcing is essential, says NRDC, but these fuels must demonstrate reduced emissions across their entire life-cycles and address other sustainability concerns.
Airlines are largely taking these concerns seriously, acknowledges the author of the Scorecard report, Debbie Hammel, including the 28 members of the industry’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, which has adopted a set of environmental, economic and social sustainability criteria. Airlines, she added, should make public commitments to source only aviation biofuels that have been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), and communicate this to fuel and feedstock producers. Certification standards, particularly those of the RSB, provide assurance of sustainable performance, said Hammel.
“Since the aviation industry is leading the development of advanced biofuels, airlines’ market signals can play a critical role in driving adoption of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain,” she said. “With 11% of global transportation fuel use and a 6% share of global oil consumption, aviation has market leverage that can drive development and adoption of comprehensively sustainable biofuels throughout the transportation sector.
“In turn, biofuel operators are making long-term design, employment and operational decisions to optimise production for their marketplace, and many are now focusing on aviation as a key market. Sending clear signals that production must comply with independently audited sustainability standards, such as the RSB, will incentivise producers to proactively include this in their planning and operations.”
In its previous survey in 2015, NRDC ranked airlines individually but this has been dropped in favour of categorisation after respondents expressed concerns that individual rankings could be unfair because of narrow gaps between the scores.
Six airlines were included in the ‘Leading’ category: Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways and United Airlines. Those in the ‘Advancing’ category were Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, Etihad, GOL, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Thomson, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. Among those airlines that did not respond were American, FedEx, Lufthansa and Southwest.
Airlines were asked for the first time about their public policy engagements and all bar one reported advocating for policies and supports for alternative fuels in their communications with government. The survey also found airlines were not in favour of the use of alternative fuels made from natural gas or coal, a commitment welcomed by NRDC. Airlines were also more optimistic about the future of biofuels production in their own home regions than across the globe.
As a result of the survey, NRDC makes eight recommendations in all. Those airlines that haven’t already made a public commitment to using RSB-certified biofuels should do so, it says, specifying volume, percentage and timeline. Airlines should also limit their use of forest-derived biomass feedstocks to those that demonstrably reduce carbon emissions in the near term compared with fossil fuels and do not threaten natural forest ecosystems. Any biofuel credits under ICAO’s proposed market-based measure scheme should be based on validated life-cycle carbon performance, with credits accounting for ILUC and include sustainability requirements consistent with the RSB standard.
“Airlines deserve credit for their efforts to develop more sustainable fuels,” said Hammel. “By fortifying sustainability measures throughout their supply chains, airlines can help ensure the aviation biofuel sector grows in the most sustainable way possible, and that GHG emissions decline as the airline and advanced aviation biofuel industries expand.”
NRDC – Aviation Biofuel Sustainability Scorecard 2016 (pdf)
New generation Boeing Dreamliners resulting in improved noise performance at airport, says Heathrow
Thu 30 Jun 2016 – The introduction of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is credited with an overall improvement in noise performance at London’s Heathrow Airport, according to the latest Fly Quiet league table published by the airport. Singled out for praise is Virgin Atlantic, which is in the process of replacing its old 747-400s with new Dreamliners, although other airlines such as Air Canada, Air India, British Airways and Qatar Airways have also significantly increased the use of the new-generation aircraft on Heathrow routes. The airport says it is on track to become the first large European airport to be completely free of the oldest and noisiest Chapter 3 classification aircraft, which attract high landing fees. On average, airlines pay 10 times more to fly Chapter 3 planes to Heathrow compared to the quietest aircraft such as the Dreamliner.
Virgin Atlantic rose five places in the latest league table that covers the period January to March this year and now has 13 787-9 aircraft in service at the airport.
“We’re delighted to see our huge investment in quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft paying off for the local communities around Heathrow, as well as for our customers,” commented the carrier’s SVP External Affairs, Meigan Terry. “We expect to have 17 of these aircraft operating by 2018, creating one of the youngest and quietest long-haul fleets in the world.”
The number of Dreamliners now operating at Heathrow contributed to an overall 6% improvement in the latest league table score tracking the use of quieter aircraft, reports the airport. The operator says there has also been some track-keeping improvement in airlines adhering to the noise preferential routes around the airport, as set by government. Air France and Aegean moved up seven places because of their track keeping, while SN Brussels improved its track keeping score from amber to green under the Fly Quiet’s traffic light rating system.
The quarterly Fly Quiet table – the latest is the eleventh to be published – rates the top 50 airlines operating at Heathrow according to six noise related criteria. The airlines receive a red/amber/green rating for each criterion, as well as an overall score that allows them to understand how they are performing in relation to other airlines. The aim is to drive noise efficiency and performance of aircraft using Heathrow and encourage procedures such as Continuous Descent Approaches on arrival and track keeping on departure. Night-time operations are also monitored under the programme.
“It’s encouraging to see the positive results of our engagement with airlines in these latest Fly Quiet results. Replacing aircraft with newer, quieter types is one of the best ways to reduce noise and that is why the progress shown in the latest league standings is so important,” said Heathrow Director of Sustainability and Environment Matt Gorman.
“The results are part of a wider trend seen at Heathrow, as airlines continue to use their newest planes not only because of our fees and their responsibilities to our local neighbours, but also because our routes are so sought after and they want to offer passengers the best and quietest aircraft experience available.”
Heathrow Airport – Noise
Groundbreaking aviation biofuel supply initiative wins Oslo Airport industry environment award
Mon 27 June 2016 – Oslo Airport is the recipient of this year’s Eco-Innovation Award from the independent advisory board of the industry’s carbon management programme, Airport Carbon Accreditation. Presented during ACI Europe’s annual congress in Athens, the judges in particular praised the airport for its ground-breaking project in setting up earlier this year a regular supply of jet biofuel through its existing fuel farm and hydrant dispenser system to all airlines serving the airport. Based on a collaboration with airlines, fuel companies and biofuel producers, the judges said it should be an example to be followed by other airports aiming to reduce their environmental footprint. During its congress, ACI Europe released annual results that show 107 airports across Europe are now part of the carbon programme, with 22 airports, including Oslo, at the highest carbon neutrality level.
The sustainable biofuel initiative at Oslo involves the airport’s operator Avinor, Air BP and the EU-funded Itaka project, with Lufthansa Group, SAS and KLM being the first airline customers to purchase the fuel (see article). The fuel enters directly into the airport’s fuel hydrant system without having to rely on a segregated infrastructure, the first time this has become possible at an airport. Air BP has initially agreed to deliver 1.25 million litres of blended fuel.
Accepting the Eco-Innovation Award, the second time Avinor has won it, CEO Dag Falk-Petersen said: “We are thrilled and proud to get this recognition for our important environmental efforts. Delivering aviation biofuel at Oslo Airport is an important step towards carbon neutral air travel. When we started offering aviation biofuel in January, the intent was to show that it’s actually feasible. Being an inspiration for airports worldwide is certainly a desired effect of our pioneering efforts.”
The judges also recognised other environmental efforts at the airport, including a revolutionary snow cooling facility, a project concerning second-generation synthetic biofuel for use in large airport vehicles and the achievement of having the highest percentage (70%) of passengers arriving by public transport at a European airport.
The ACI carbon programme certifies airports at four different levels of accreditation, covering Mapping, Reduction, Optimisation and Neutrality, and is independently administered by international consultancy WSP Parsons Brinksdorf. The advisory board includes representatives from ICAO, UNEP, UNFCCC, the European Commission, ECAC, Eurocontrol and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General, reported airports certified during the past year achieved a combined reduction of 146,118 tonnes of CO2. The full results for year seven of the programme, along with those from the other ACI regions, will be released during the ACI World & North America annual assemblies in Montreal at the end of September.
“The programme is now entering its eighth year here in Europe and it is reassuring to see the continued level of engagement by airports as they continue to seek out new efficiencies and invest in cleaner technology to identify new ways to lower their CO2,” commented Jankovec.
Added Dr Grant Kirkman of the UNFCCC: “It’s always good to see an industry being proactive of its own accord, but it’s even more impressive when those involved express and show real ambition in their activities. Through their commitment to carbon neutrality and concrete climate action, airports demonstrate their contribution towards the achievement of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC recognises Airport Carbon Accreditation as a robust framework for this contribution.”
Avinor – Environmental goals , Airport Carbon Accreditation , ACI Europe
Behavioural economics can nudge pilots into boosting fuel and carbon efficiency, finds Virgin Atlantic study
Fri 24 June 2016 – Behavioural economics could be one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving fuel and carbon efficiency savings from airlines, finds an academic study involving Virgin Atlantic captains. Working with research economists from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, the airline’s fuel efficiency and sustainability teams developed a process that increased the awareness of Virgin’s 335 captains of the measures they could take to improve fuel efficiency through three sets of behaviours: take-off, in the air and upon arrival. As part of the eight-month study, captains were randomised into one of four groups, including one ‘business as usual’ control group and three active intervention groups. Data from more than 42,000 flights was independently analysed, and the result was fuel savings of £3.3 million ($4.5m) at 2014 prices and CO2 emissions reductions of 21,500 tonnes.
“When the university team approached us about doing an evidence-based employee engagement study on sustainability, we saw it as a fantastic opportunity to work more effectively with our pilots on fuel and carbon efficiency,” said the airline’s Head of Sustainability, Dr Emma Harvey, herself a former academic in this area.
Improving fuel and carbon efficiency has been its top environmental policy, says Virgin Atlantic, since establishing the ‘Change is in the Air’ sustainability programme in 2007 and this has included having standard operational procedure (SOP) information for fuel efficiency in pilot manuals. The airline also uses a fuel monitoring system provided by Rolls-Royce Controls and Data Services, which has enabled it to more accurately calculate the savings from more efficient A330 and B787 aircraft coming into the fleet. Optimising the way aircraft are flown can also increase efficiencies and pilots routinely receive information on efficient operational techniques. However, the airline says it has been exploring for some time on how to engage with pilots on making best use of the opportunities available.
“Every airline is looking for ways to improve fuel efficiency and working with the university team was an opportunity for us to use our data differently and engage with our captains in a way we hadn’t before,” said Claire Lambert, Fuel Efficiency Manager for Virgin.
In the study, the ‘business as usual’ control group (Group 1) continued receiving standard fuel efficiency information in the usual way. The other three groups (Groups 2, 3 and 4) were sent information on the three sets of behaviours once a month by post, along with personalised feedback about their fuel efficiency practices. However, Group 3 was additionally given targets to aim for and Group 4 was given targets but also with the promise of being able to donate a sum to a charity of their choice if the targets were met.
Analysis found that just by being involved in the study, significant changes were observed across all three behaviours in all four groups. This is a well-documented social phenomenon known as the Hawthorne effect where people change their behaviours as a function of being observed. The study concludes that just raising awareness among pilots is enough to drive changes and an anonymised post-study satisfaction survey showed 81% of those captains responding indicated they would like more fuel efficiency information in the future.
Tailored information with targets and feedback was the most cost-effective intervention, improving fuelling precision, in-flight efficiency measures and efficient taxiing practices by 9% to 20%. Contrary to expectations based on prior studies, charitable contributions for meeting targets did not induce greater effort than personalised targets, but captains in this group reported 6.5% higher job satisfaction than captains in the other groups.
Prior to the study, pilot managers, union representatives and a specialist group of experienced captains were consulted and involved in tailoring its design. “It’s clear captains are happy to be involved in fuel efficiency if it’s approached in the right way,” says the airline. “Now the study analysis is complete, we will be exploring with pilots ways to build on these exciting results.”
At the time of the study, captains received monthly feedback by post but with recent upgrades to the Rolls-Royce CDS system and the introduction of iPads to all pilots, information can now be made in a more timely and targeted way. It is also likely, reports Virgin, the approach will be rolled out to all pilots and across a wider range of SOPs that have an influence on fuel and carbon savings, as well as other areas of the business.
The research speaks to many fields within economics, say the authors of the study. “It demonstrates the potentially large effects behavioural research can have in providing crucially important win-win solutions for the economy and environment, by improving existing efficiency opportunities in the workplace,” said Dr Robert Metcalfe, economics research scholar at the Becker Friedman Institute, University of Chicago.
“This inexpensive and scalable strategy represents a feasible and cost-effective way to help airline captains use standard fuel efficiency information in a more effective way.”
Virgin Atlantic – Details of study , National Bureau of Economic Research – Academic paper , The Undercover Economist – ‘How to fuel a rewarding culture’
EU emissions from international flights rise 1.6% in 2014 to overtake those from shipping for the first time
Tue 21 June 2016 – EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 from international aviation overtook those from international shipping for the first time as they increased by 95% between 1990 and 2014 compared to shipping’s rise of 24% during the same period. Together, the two sectors accounted for around 6% of total EU GHG emissions in 2014. Compared to 2013, EU GHG emissions from international aviation rose by 1.6% in 2014 while emissions from domestic aviation fell by 0.8%. Overall GHG emissions for the 28 EU member states plus Iceland in 2014 were 24.4% below 1990 levels and decreased by 4.1% between 2013 and 2014. GHG emissions decreased in the majority of sectors, reports the European Environment Agency (EEA) in its latest annual EU GHG inventory report, with the notable exceptions of road transport – responsible for the largest increase – and international aviation and shipping.
According to data supplied by Eurocontrol to the EEA, CO2 emissions from jet kerosene used in international aviation – defined as flights that depart from one country and arrive in another – for the 28 EU states and Iceland (EU-28 + ISL) increased from 69.3 Mt in 1990 to 136.4 Mt in 2014. The UK had the biggest share of 2014 emissions (24%), followed by Germany (18%), France (12%) and Spain (10%), with the four countries contributing more than 60% to the total.
CO2 emissions from international shipping fell by 0.2% in 2014 compared to the previous year.
The increase in CO2 emissions from international aviation since 1990 has not been linear as there were falls post-9/11 and again following the economic downturn after 2008, when emissions peaked.
By contrast, emissions from civil domestic passenger and freight traffic that departs and arrives in the same country has risen by only 5% in the EU-28 + ISL since 1990 and have been on a continuous downward trajectory since 2008. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK account for around 85% of the emissions from this source, with France’s domestic aviation emissions in 2014 (4.4 Mt) far outstripping emissions from the next highest, Spain (2.6 Mt).
Confirmation that GHG emissions from the transport sector have grown for the first time since 2007 to 1.15 Mt in 2014 comes as the European Commission prepares to release next month a strategy to decarbonise the sector, points out Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).
“These numbers serve as a wake-up call to those who thought that Europe was turning the corner on its transport emissions,” said T&E Executive Director Jos Dings. “Transport is now without question Europe’s biggest climate problem.”
T&E’s Aviation & Shipping Director, Bill Hemmings, said the trends showed effective measures were urgently needed at a European level to control aviation and shipping emissions.
“For Europe simply to outsource climate policy on aviation and shipping to two UN agencies with poor track records would be a clear betrayal of the EU’s Paris commitments,” he said. “International transport needs to contribute to the EU’s 2030 climate target as all the other sectors of the economy do.”
(Note: tables and graphs in online article)
EEA Annual GHG Inventory Report
COMMENTARY: Is success in sight for a global agreement on an effective economic measure to address international aviation emissions?
Thu 30 June 2016 – In the 18 years since being given a mandate under the Kyoto Protocol for reduction or limitation of greenhouse gas emissions from international civil aviation, ICAO has pursued a ‘basket of measures’ for mitigation, with significant effectiveness on the technical and operational side, but the UN agency has made limited progress on a vital global market-based measure (MBM). Following an intense period of activity, with the added stimulus of last December’s UNFCCC Paris Agreement, ICAO’s governing Council has now developed a framework for a Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), to be submitted to the ICAO Assembly in September. Chris Lyle reviews the substance of the proposal, the issues yet to be resolved, the prospects for adoption by the Assembly and subsequent implementation, and the adequacy of the likely contribution to global GHG emissions mitigation, suggesting possible means of achieving greater ambition.
At its Assembly in 2010, ICAO adopted as a global aspirational goal an industry target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, or CNG2020. ICAO’s 2013 Assembly Session consequently decided that the Organization should develop an MBM scheme, now emerging as CORSIA.
CORSIA is a critical element in ICAO’s basket of emissions mitigation measures. While aircraft fuel efficiency has steadily improved over a long period of time, traffic growth continues to exceed the consequent per unit reductions in emissions by a sizeable margin. Even with continuing technical and operational improvements – including implementation of a just recommended CO2 Standard for aircraft and greater use of alternative fuels – aviation emissions are presently expected to continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future at a rate of around 3.5% a year, or doubling in 20 years.
UNFCCC and ICAO
While the Kyoto Protocol will now become moot, international aviation was not covered under the Paris Agreement and its associated decision text, which has led to industry and ICAO taking an essentially sectoral perspective to an MBM, seemingly independent of the context of broad-spectrum tourism and trade with their concomitant socio-economic benefits and costs.
The treatment of international aviation emissions mitigation by ICAO separately from the UNFCCC process has meant moving from a structure in which States make individual voluntary commitments (Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), for which implementation is entirely within their own sovereign responsibility, to a global sectoral configuration requiring accord amongst all 191 ICAO Member States. The application of CORSIA is to States rather than directly to air carriers, understandable given sovereignty considerations but adding a layer of international administration. This has made the CORSIA proposal extraordinarily complicated – and difficult for the unitiated to comprehend.
The stumbling block in Paris of the treatment of the UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) has been exacerbated in ICAO, with some States insisting ICAO and the UNFCCC are independent institutions and that ICAO action is only subject to the equal application principles underpinning the Chicago Convention. The greater ambition from Paris regarding climate change is contrasting with a ‘least common denominator’ consequence in ICAO.
In order to progress development of a global MBM, the ICAO Council has since early 2014 convened 15 meetings of an Environment Advisory Group; two regional series of Global Aviation Dialogues; two meetings of a High-level Group; and in May this year a High-level Meeting attended by 65 States and 17 international organisations; and with technical support provided by the Council’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). All this activity has finally led to apparent acceptance in principle of a large part of a draft ICAO Assembly Resolution to set up CORSIA.
But the current CORSIA framework is fragile, with contentious elements pending ongoing bilateral and regional negotiations, and subject to further consideration by the ICAO Council in late August before submission to the Assembly. The framework is also incomplete, with some key aspects only to be taken up during ICAO’s 2017-2019 cycle prior to implementation of CORSIA from 2020.
The CORSIA draft includes two implementation phases, the first applying from 2021 to States with a larger share of international aviation activities (23 countries, representing about 80% of international revenue tonne kilometres, or RTKs), with the second applying from 2026 to some further 15 to 35 countries, with 90-95% of international RTKs then represented. A question of whether an economic development criterion as well as share of air traffic should apply to the phase-in is still open, but if applied could change the coverage a little.
The draft also gives specified exemptions for new airline entrants, which, while not large, seems contrary to the very concept of emissions reduction. Still possibly under consideration are adjustments in favour of ‘early movers’ and ‘fast growers’. The emissions excluded from any phasing-in or exemptions would not be re-allocated to other States and hence ICAO’s goal of CNG2020 would not be achieved, and by a significant margin.
CORSIA application has a route-based classification of phase-in and exemption differentiation, which both meets the Chicago Convention’s principle of equal application to all aircraft and reduces potential impact on tourism destination developing countries. This does mean, however, that traffic of States included in CORSIA would be exempted from offsetting requirements as far as routes from these States to non-exempted States or between exempted States are concerned. The effect would be to reduce the international traffic coverage in the first implementation phase from 80% to as little as around 60%.
The exemption classification, while still under negotiation, is currently not based on socio-economic impact but rather solely on aviation operations and, within those, aviation activity of a State’s operators rather than traffic to and from the country concerned. The contribution that aviation makes to a national economy varies significantly from State to State and some States have limited or even no international aviation activity by national airlines yet are heavily dependent on air transport; at least there is some recognition of this in that Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) have a specific element of exemption from CORSIA.
The ICAO Council has decided that the key issues of Emissions Unit Criteria (EUC) and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV), along with the establishment of Registries, would only be determined in the 2017-2019 cycle, raising uncertainty at this stage as to the quality and price of offsets and the makeup, administration and cost of the Registries – which would be separate from the UNFCCC process and potentially duplicative. There is no indication yet as to how the administrative costs would be covered and who would be paying for them, both in individual States and in ICAO.
IATA presented to the ICAO High-level Meeting some selective examples of the estimated cost per flight in 2030 under CORSIA (presumably at current prices) according to an earlier analysis by CAEP and concluded that on this basis the costs would be “manageable”. These estimates seem to be somewhat on the low side. The highest per passenger cost example, for a Santiago-Miami flight by a B787-800 (3578 nm) shows a cost range from a low of $3.52 to a high of $9.16, and the lowest cost example, for a Singapore-Denpasar flight by an A320 (901 nm) ranging from $0.57 to $1.49 (even excluding any offset attribution to freight for these flights). The carbon offset costs for the same flights currently shown by the non-profit provider used by this author for his travel, applying a Gold Standard in conjunction with the UN Clean Development Mechanism, are $34 and $8 respectively for economy class. These costs, of course, relate to full offset rather than just reduction to CNG.
The issue of governance is critical. The legal basis for CORSIA in relation to the Chicago Convention and to air services agreements has yet to be fully assessed. For example:
• A flight by an airline whose State is not included in CORSIA using fifth freedom traffic rights between two States included in CORSIA would in fact be subject to CORSIA.
• A ‘route’ has yet to be defined, whether in terms of origin/destination or sector, intermediate points (for either technical or traffic right stops), or other economic regulatory factors such as beyond points, code-sharing, etc.
• The interaction between domestic and international flights (not just the different treatment but, for example, application of CORSIA to a domestic leg of an international service).
• The treatment of non-scheduled flights.
• The fact that CORSIA would have mandatory application, and the proposed use of annual emissions based on increases of the international aviation sector as a whole rather than an individual operator, raises sovereignty and non-compliance issues. As with the Paris Agreement, any hint of mandating in any element of CORSIA or in subsidising ‘third party’ operations would in the US, for example, require approval by Congress, which is unlikely – in the case of the Kyoto Protocol this concern meant it was never submitted to Congress and thus was not ratified by the US.
• There is a question over the basis of the adoption and implementation of CORSIA via ICAO Assembly Resolutions rather than a legal convention. ICAO Resolutions are not in themselves binding and become less suasive if reservations are placed on them – as has been the case in the past three Assembly Resolutions on climate change. It is worth noting that no reservations may be made on the Paris Agreement.
• The use of ICAO Standards for EUC and MRV is a long reach from the usual and fundamental application of Standards to safety, security and air navigation matters. A State may ‘file a difference’ to any ICAO Standard and this is either simply accepted or, in the case of serious concerns, another State may take action (for example, even to limit the access by the filing State’s aircraft to its territory). In the case of EUC or MRV, the impact of a difference filing might be ignored, especially if a small traffic State files that “I haven’t the resources right now” or “I can’t afford to apply this”.
The draft Resolution has included language to the effect that CORSIA should be an exclusive market-based measure applied to international aviation. This is possibly aimed in particular at barring application of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) to international air transport, even for flights within Europe for which the EU ETS continues in effect and which the European Commission claims has already saved 60 Mt of CO2. However, ICAO has no authority over sovereign States except through the Chicago and other aviation legal conventions. It is the sovereign right of all States to decide if they wish to apply CORSIA exclusively – or at all – and European States will no doubt be comparing the environmental effectiveness of CORSIA vis-à-vis the EU ETS for flights within Europe in particular.
Will CORSIA do enough?
Many of the above issues are being treated intensively in the run up to the ICAO Assembly and others will no doubt be taken up in the next ICAO three-year cycle. There will very likely be an agreement at the coming Assembly. There is some feeling that it is more important not to worry too much about the content right now in order to get an agreement which could be built on at a later stage, through the next triennium and a later ‘ratcheting-up’ review process. But history has shown that an initial premise can become ‘cast in stone’, the 1944 Chicago Convention itself being an example. There is also concern that ICAO lacks the breadth of expertise and the mandate to treat socio-economic matters and environmental issues beyond a narrow aviation construction, getting out of its comfort zone and in danger of drifting away from its fundamental safety and security focus. ICAO will need to synchronise with the UNFCCC rather than operate independently and simply report on its emissions mitigation activities.
While moving towards CNG would be a step in the right direction, there is a need to go well beyond CNG if the aviation industry target of 50% reduction in net emissions levels in 2050 over 2005 is to be more than a pipe dream. International aviation emissions are not part of NDCs but, unlike the vast majority of the NDCs, are predicted to show significantly continued growth to, and even beyond, 2030 rather than any peaking or reduction. ICAO’s CNG aspirational goal was established in 2010 – well before the Paris summit and its achievement of generally greater ambition – and with all the above caveats, ICAO has since actually lessened its own ambition quite significantly. Perhaps it is no surprise that IATA, which has been an active participant throughout the ICAO process and effectively a driver of it, claims that CORSIA “secures our licence to grow”.
The UNFCCC, using ICAO data, forecasts by 2020 international aviation will emit 750 Mt of CO2 emissions. Therefore, even with 100% successful offsetting to CNG, international aviation would still be adding 750 Mt of CO2 annually that would for many years be beyond the reach of ICAO’s basket of measures, and CO2 can last over 100 years in the atmosphere. And, of course, CORSIA relates only to CO2 emissions and not the other GHG emissions covered under the UNFCCC.
There is a danger the aviation industry and ICAO will be sending a deceptive message on the climate impact of flying. CORSIA may well have some influence on reducing voluntary offsetting and, perhaps more importantly, on the psyche that you now do not need to feel guilty when you fly or receive air freighted shipments. There are a large number of voluntary commercial offsetting schemes dealing with aviation emissions already in existence, if of varying price and quality. Offset brokers will presumably recognise and draw attention to the unchallenged 750 Mt and continue to offer offsets to cover at least the difference between CNG and 100%. ICAO itself may well take a more full offset approach to its own staff travel. It is working with other UN agencies under the Climate Neutral United Nations Initiative, which is now aiming at organisation-wide carbon neutrality by 2020.
A wider public educational programme would help but what is really needed is stronger government action, individually or preferably in co-operation. While the UNFCCC will continue to be a forum where such stronger action is likely to be propounded – and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows for Parties to pursue greater ambition – it seems unlikely at this stage the UN climate agency itself would revert to direct action on international aviation emissions.
Coalition of the more ambitious
One way forward would be for States to take additional aviation emissions mitigation action, preferably complementary to and not duplicative of CORSIA rather than as a substitute.
A simple way to do this would be for individual States to include selected emissions of their air carriers not covered by CORSIA in their national inventories and commitments. The advantages of such an approach were described in an earlier Commentary.
Amongst other options a ‘Coalition of the more ambitious’ States might be established to take additional mitigation measures. While carbon offsetting might not be an ideal mitigation mechanism, a single ‘higher level’ regime to build on CORSIA could be relatively simple and yet effective. Coalition members might apply additional carbon offsets for routes between their territories for the same flights as covered by CORSIA, so as to go below CNG for these routes. The logical initial contenders for participation in such a coalition would be developed countries but the convening agreement would be voluntary and could be plurilateral, open to any State that wished to join. The projects offset would be optional for each individual airline, for example limited to its home territory or the destinations which it serves.
There might be progressive levels of achievement of additional offsets, leading eventually to the 50% reduction goal for 2050 as may be required should technical and operational improvements not achieve this, although in the later stages the availability and price of offsets may dictate use of another form of action. The procedures used would parallel those of CORSIA for ease of administration and with a view to eventual adoption of greater ambition through ICAO. Indeed the application would be similar to the present CORSIA phasing-in process but adding to the baseline rather than subtracting from it, and providing, for example, pilot project experience of a higher ambition level.
IATA is on record as opposing national and regional emissions mitigation policy measures as costly and complex. A single higher level regime would reduce this concern as well as those of airlines regarding potential imposition of taxation on air transport for the general exchequer – even if international air transport today remains largely exempt from both value added and fuel taxes.
Efficiency, at which the aviation industry in general excels, is not the same as sustainability. While aviation may have a positive balance in respect of the economic and social pillars of sustainability, for the time being it makes a patently negative contribution to the third pillar, environmental sustainability.
All other sectors, except international shipping, are covered by the Paris emissions mitigation targets and if international aviation is not covered then production abroad is implicitly subsidised via local production through low transport prices and induced higher GHG emissions. There is a need to get a carbon price on all aviation operations, in line with other sectors, otherwise they may ultimately require demand management by governments.
Chris Lyle, a former employee of British Airways and ICAO, is Chief Executive of Canadian-based Air Transport Economics. Over the past two decades he has been particularly engaged with the symbiosis between aviation and tourism, and their association with climate change. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A PDF version of this article can be downloaded here
COMMENTARY: An ICAO deal that falls well short of carbon-neutral growth target will have no credibility
Thu 7 July 2016 – ICAO’s triennial Assembly to agree on how to address the climate impact of international aviation is just two months away. States undertook in 2013 to develop a global measure that would cap annual aviation CO2 at 2020 levels. Largely reflecting industry concerns over cost, it was later agreed that this would be achieved by requiring airlines to purchase carbon offsets for all emissions above the 2020 baseline. Industry and the US argued strongly that a global deal was preferable to a so-called patchwork of measures, a reference to Europe’s first-of-its-kind emissions trading system (ETS). The EU was prevailed upon to drastically reduce the scope of the ETS to give ICAO and its parties time to sort out details of the global market-based measure (GMBM) before the forthcoming assembly. Regrettably, important details remain unresolved, potentially putting any credible and environmentally meaningful ICAO agreement at risk, argues Bill Hemmings.
At the heart of the issue is the question of differentiation, a fundamental aspect of all international climate agreements. In the case of ICAO, differentiation means asking how the obligations of all carriers can reflect the fact that the vast bulk of historical emissions are due to legacy carriers headquartered chiefly in North America and Europe. Should developing country carriers have to share an equal burden? A Chinese proposal to have obligations related to the share of carriers’ emissions since 1990, when developing country aviation was largely in its infancy, was rejected on grounds that there was no data.
Initially, Europe, and later civil society, called for a route-based system where carriers on routes between geographic regions might bear varying carbon obligations depending on the density of traffic or country status – a rough indicator of where historical emissions lie. In the end, however, the ICAO Council President opted for a simple system for determining eligibility and obligations based on traffic generated by each country’s registered carriers, together with a GDP per capita formula that was later discarded.
Most African countries, which account for barely 2-3% of global emissions, were always going to be exempt. But the President’s proposal exempted a second tier of countries with a larger share of emissions – including Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and possibly even smaller EU countries. The emissions gap due to these exemptions is now some 40-50% and directly threatens the integrity of the commitment to carbon neutral growth from 2020. The position of countries like China and Russia in any agreement also remains unclear.
The only element of differentiation left in the deal – apart from the huge exemptions gap – is the formula for determining what percentage of emissions above the 2020 baseline carriers should have to offset each year. The ICAO proposal has all carriers together offsetting the average growth of the sector above 2020 levels. This introduces an important element of differentiation, as fast-growing carriers – more often than not from the emerging markets – will have to offset a lower percentage of their emissions above 2020 levels than if the obligation were to be based on individual carrier growth.
However, US carriers represented by A4A together with IATA are arguing for an approach based more on individual airline growth. And now it seems the US supports this position, calling for carriers over time to pay a percentage closer to their actual growth rate. The reason is not hard to find; according to the latest IEA statistics, US international outbound CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2013 declined on average 0.02% a year while Chinese international outbound emissions grew on average 8.02% a year in the same period.
If we assume national airline traffic/emissions growth is pretty closely related to growth in a country’s total outbound emissions, then we can roughly estimate a carrier’s annual growth in emissions. So if the US and Chinese trends above are any indication of the state of the industry post 2020, under the individual approach a carrier like United Airlines might well incur zero or near zero offset costs while an airline like China Southern might have to pay over 8%.
The table below from the most recent IEA data suggests airlines from Mexico, India, Brazil, Argentina and Nigeria might be in a similar position if the formula for determining offsetting obligations was based on individual carrier growth. Such a formula would represent a pretty good deal for US carriers like United. The more so given that unlike Europe where domestic emissions are covered by its ETS, US carriers are currently bound by no domestic climate measures, yet they generate within the US alone almost 20% of all aviation CO2 globally.
On top off this, at its recent AGM, IATA has stated bluntly that “emissions which are not covered by the scheme, as the result of phased implementation or exemptions, should not be re-distributed to those operators which are subject to the scheme.” Since it is only airlines that will have to offset their emissions, it is either the case that negotiations in the next few weeks prevail upon a wider group of countries to join the GMBM and their routes close the gap, or carriers on routes within the GMBM offset more in order to close the gap. The ideal solution is a mixture of minimising the gap through increased participation and then closing the gap through a higher offsetting obligation on carriers operating on developed country routes. Industry should be to the fore in calling for such an outcome.
However, rather than use its influence to help resolve this, IATA’s statement regrettably seems tantamount to industry washing its hands of the huge emissions gap problem. It removes any possibility of achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020, something industry claimed to support. Even worse, suggestions are now circulating that there should be no eligibility criteria for exemptions; states should be given the option at the Assembly of stating whether they would like their airlines to opt in or not. A patchwork of measures indeed.
Industry and the US need to think again. A deal which falls well short of the target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 goal will have no credibility. As it is, such a commitment is a very modest first step for the sector to deliver the level of reductions that the Paris agreement requires and would need to be strengthened and supplemented quickly. And if there is no deal, or a weak deal – possibly because the US, industry and others wind back on differentiation – then we are back to where we started, perhaps choosing between patchworks, but after three wasted years while the planet warms.
Bill Hemmings is Aviation Director of sustainable transport group Transport & Environment
(Note: table and graphic in online article)