GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 29 JANUARY 2016
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ICAO’s CAEP meets to agree new aircraft international CO2 standard and decide stringency level
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 (see table below). 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.
Oslo becomes the first airport to supply sustainable jet fuel to airlines through existing supply system
Fri 22 Jan 2016 – Oslo Airport has become the first in the world to make available to all airlines refuelling at the airport sustainable jet biofuel through its existing fuel farm and hydrant dispenser system. In an initiative involving Avinor, the airport’s operator, and Air BP, along with members of the EU-funded ITAKA project, sustainable jet fuel produced from camelina grown in Spain will be purchased initially by airlines Lufthansa Group, SAS and KLM. The fuel is being supplied by Air BP after processing of the camelina at Neste’s Porvoo refinery in Finland, using its NEXBTL technology. The fuel will enter directly into Oslo’s fuel hydrant system without having to rely on a segregated infrastructure, which the partners say is a breakthrough for the emerging aviation biofuels market. So far, Air BP has agreed to deliver 1.25 million litres to the airport.
David Gilmour, CEO of Air BP, said delivering the jet biofuel through the normal supply mechanism reduces logistics costs significantly. “We want to demonstrate that airports can readily access biofuel with relative ease, utilising existing physical infrastructure,” he said. “We anticipate this will increase interest and demand, as well as contributing to a sustainable biofuel future for the aviation sector.”
The fuel will be initially used by Lufthansa Group, which was the first to confirm its participation in the initiative, followed by SAS and KLM, and the goal is to gradually increase the volume of deliveries in the coming years and establish a regular supply to the airport. Air BP says it has ambitions to becoming “a pioneer in delivering biofuel to the aviation sector.”
The three airlines, indicated Avinor, had indicated their willingness to pay a price premium for the biofuel, although exact details are not being disclosed. Avinor adds that prices are likely to fall as demand rises and the airlines taking part and using the biofuel can benefit from lower carbon taxes on Norwegian domestic flights and exemptions under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
The state-owned airport operator has also allocated up to NOK 100 million ($11.4m) over the ten-year period 2013-2022 for initiatives that can contribute to the realisation of Norwegian biofuel production. It is exploring opportunities with local aviation interests to establish large-scale production based on biomass from Norwegian forests during the 2020-2025 timeframe.
“We are extremely pleased that we can offer jet biofuel at Oslo Airport. This is in line with climate objectives set by both Avinor and the aviation sector,” said Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen. “We hope this will inspire other airports to follow suit, so that we can all work towards a common goal of climate-neutral aviation.”
Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment said the country was committed to the transition to a low-emission society. “I am pleased the aviation sector wants to participate in this adjustment,” he said. “Biofuel is one of the few alternatives we have at our disposal today that can help achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, provided the biofuel is produced in a sustainable manner.”
The first delivery of Neste’s jet biofuel to Air BP came through Amsterdam-based SkyNRG, whose Sustainability Board approved the RSB-certified fuel. The feedstock was grown by Camelina Company España, an ITAKA partner.
“The fact that we’re able to supply sustainable jet fuel through the existing fuel infrastructure demonstrates the industry is now ready to take the next step in the development of this market,” said SkyNRG CEO Maarten van Dijk. “We see the Nordic countries, and especially with Avinor’s airport incentive, have the basis and momentum to quickly move forward.”
SkyNRG last week welcomed ABN-AMRO bank into the KLM Corporate BioFuel Programme with which it is associated.
The ITAKA project, which is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme and includes SkyNRG and Neste as partners, is aimed at demonstrating the entire value chain in Europe, from sustainable feedstock production to the use of jet biofuel using normal supply mechanisms.
“We are very proud to take part in this pioneering initiative, bringing together several airlines and stakeholders that are united with a common objective: to support the implementation of sustainable fuels for the aviation industry, bringing the economic viability of biojet fuel a step closer to reality,” said Dr Inmaculada Gómez of SENASA and ITAKA Project Coordinator.
Avinor , Air BP , Neste , SkyNRG , ITAKA
COP21 President says growing emissions from aviation and shipping sectors must be tackled this year
Fri 22 Jan 2016 – The President of the COP21 negotiations in Paris, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, told the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday that in the year ahead it would be necessary to work with UNFCCC Member States on international greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and maritime transport. He said the two “very important” sectors had been left out of the Paris Agreement “for many reasons” but their emissions were growing and it was “a real problem”. He reiterated the message during a debate in the European Parliament on the COP21 outcome in which German MEP Peter Liese, the Parliament’s rapporteur on the Aviation EU ETS, said he hoped credible EU legislation would be put in place if ICAO failed to agree to reduce emissions. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has announced aviation would be included in its national emissions trading scheme due to start in 2017.
The comments by Fabius, whose widely respected presidency extends until the next COP in November, were made in a panel discussion on climate and sustainable development in which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a keynote address. Ban said all 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations last year must go hand in hand with climate change. “The Paris Agreement will reinforce climate action and make an important contribution to realising the SDGs,” he said.
Fabius said there was much work to be done during 2016 on securing and clarifying aspects of the Paris Agreement, which will require ratification by enough States responsible for at least 55% of global emissions to enter into international law. A high-level UN climate summit is to take place in April in which world leaders have been invited to sign the agreement.
He told MEPs during the Parliament debate the preceding day that action and progress were needed at ICAO. “There will be difficult negotiations,” he said “but the Paris success story and the sense of urgency will give us momentum, so I hope we will get a result in this important area as well.”
Liese, from the centre-right EPP group, said a great deal had to be done on aviation and maritime, and the EU, particularly the Parliament, had wanted clear rules on the two sectors to emerge from Paris. He warned if ICAO did not come up with a way to achieve reductions in – not just stabilise – greenhouse gas emissions then intercontinental flights could be brought back into EU legislation, referring to the temporary reduction in scope of the Aviation EU ETS to just intra-European flights that expires at the end of this year.
“And this time we have to be credible,” he said. “It cannot be that many sectors have to implement drastic objectives when others are not covered.”
Social democrat Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt said the combined emissions from aviation and shipping could be compared to those of both South Korea and Germany, and could rise by 270% by 2050. “We have to admit that we failed by not including them in the Agreement,” she said.
Meanwhile, China’s economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), has confirmed that aviation – to include civil air passenger and cargo transport, as well as airports – is to be one of eight industries to be included in the national emissions trading system (ETS) due to start in 2017. The NDRC has asked the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), industry associations and local authorities to report by the end of February which airlines and organisations should join the scheme.
World Economic Forum – video recording of climate and sustainable development session (Fabius reference to aviation and shipping at 13:50) , European Parliament extracts of debate with Laurent Fabius , China’s National Development and Reform Commission
Virent says Rolls-Royce testing shows its renewable jet fuel cuts harmful particulates by over half
Thu 21 Jan 2016 – US-based Virent says testing of its blended jet biofuel product shows a greater than 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel, so providing both health and environmental benefits. Testing was carried out by Rolls-Royce and supported by the FAA under the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) programme. The emissions data and other successfully completed test results have been summarised and published in a report by Rolls-Royce, British Airways and the FAA. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has ordered 1,000 gallons of alternative alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel from Gevo for use in commercial flights sometime this year and Japan Airlines is to build a demo facility near Tokyo to produce jet biofuels from waste.
As with Gevo, Virent’s BioForm Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel is still undergoing testing by external industry parties as part of the ASTM certification process. Gevo announced last month that following a data revision based on feedback from the ASTM ATJ-SPK Taskforce, a ballot by ASTM committee members on the revised specification for ATJ fuel would take place during January.
Virent’s patented technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based materials into a range of fuels and chemicals, including drop-in renewable jet fuels.
Virent was initially chosen to participate in a laboratory test programme run by Rolls-Royce in collaboration with British Airways before selection for more advanced rig testing. Having met all the test requirements, says Virent, the report concluded the fuel “… offers the potential to be [a] drop-in fuel and hence achieve approval for use for the aviation industry.”
The company says the fuel produced at its pilot demonstration plant in Wisconsin contains aromatics that are cleaner burning than conventional jet fuels and the Rolls-Royce testing showed it to have a capability for a 50% to 80% reduction in particulates, depending on engine operating conditions.
Virent is actually developing two jet fuel products: Hydrodeoxygenated Synthesized Kerosene (SK), which consists of C9-C16 paraffins and naphthenes, and Hydrodeoxygenated Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK), which consists of C9-C11 aromatics. The BioForm process then blends the two products to produce the required chemical properties for jet fuel. Virent says the resulting fuel meets or exceeds key requirements for petroleum-derived jet fuel, with good energy density and superior performance at cold temperatures. It adds that these properties are achieved without an isomerisation/hydrocracking step, which usually results in a yield loss in other technologies.
“We believe Virent’s bio-derived SAK fuel has the potential to provide the aviation industry with a cost-effective solution to reduce jet engine particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions without impacting engine performance,” said CEO Lee Edwards.
In 2011, Virent received a federal award of $13.4 million from the US Department of Energy to develop its catalytic process to convert corn stover to jet fuel. The technology development is currently being supported by strategic partners Cargill, Coca-Cola, Honda and Shell.
Meanwhile, it is reported from Japan that Japan Airlines (JAL), in collaboration with other organisations that include the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is planning to build a demonstration plant east of Tokyo that would supply the airline with biofuel converted from hydrogen and carbon monoxide from waste using a catalytic process. It is expected to be in operation by 2020, the year that the Olympic Games will be held in the city. The Nikkei report says JAL plans to market the technology through a foreign company.
Virent , Gevo
Etihad and Masdar develop new energy efficient cool cargo system as aviation biofuel facility nears completion
Thu 21 Jan 2016 – In collaboration with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Etihad Cargo, the cargo division of Etihad Airways, has launched a new design for a smart, temperature-controlled, sustainable and energy-efficient air cargo container ‘cool dolly’ system. Most airports and ground handlers use diesel-powered dollies with energy-intensive and expensive-to-operate cooling units to transport temperature-sensitive cargo such as pharmaceuticals, livestock and perishable products between the aircraft and cargo warehouse storage compartments. Etihad and its Abu Dhabi International Airport believe the cool dollies will provide them with a competitive advantage. Masdar and Etihad are also collaborating on developing an aquaculture-based aviation biofuel project and a new 2-hectare research farm in Masdar City is due to be completed in March.
The new hybrid cool dolly incorporates the use of innovative thermoelectric module technologies, modified compressor units and a custom-made power bank that can be attached to solar panels for sustainable recharging. Etihad says the design will ensure the temperature can be regulated to meet the needs of temperature-sensitive cargo while minimising power consumption.
A team of Masdar Institute researchers, including students, is handling the technical design and testing of the cool dolly with input from Etihad Cargo to develop a design that meets the airline’s technical requirements and operational constraints.
“We are committed to providing our customers with innovative and sustainably-designed cargo solutions, and working with Masdar Institute has helped enormously in developing a specialised temperature-controlled dolly that protects sensitive products from the heat and harsh weather conditions we sometimes face here in the UAE,” said David Kerr, VP Etihad Cargo.
The Etihad Cargo Innovation Department is also collaborating with Masdar Institute on other related research activities, including adapting advanced shock protection material for cargo boxes and testing advanced thermal reduction coatings for Etihad Cargo’s Sky Stables equine transportation service.
“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Etihad Airways in undertaking these research projects aimed at supporting their operations with novel solutions,” said Dr Steve Griffiths, VP Research, Masdar Institute. “Our research platform integrates energy and system engineering in a manner that we believe can make a meaningful contribution in transport and logistics operations in the UAE and overseas.”
Meanwhile, the two-hectare farm and research facility nearing completion at Masdar City will experiment using seawater and organic waste to help grow native halophytes (Salicornia) for generating aviation biofuel for Etihad Airways, as well producing fish and shrimps for food. The farm will consist of eight fields where Salicornia plants will be grown on nutrient-rich discharge water from aquaculture ponds.
The Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) pilot project by the Sustainable Biofuel Research Consortium – which is supported by Masdar, Etihad, Boeing, GE and Safran – is expected to last for three to five years with the aim of scaling up to 200 hectares in size for commercial production. Last month, the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water announced it would collaborate on the project and supply feedstock in the form of fish fingerlings and mangrove seedlings, as well as technical expertise.
“This game-changing research places Abu Dhabi at the centre of a global movement to advance technologies to produce sustainable, commercially-viable bioenergy,” said Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute. “Considering 97% of the world’s water is salt water and about 20% of the world’s land desert, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity on its head. Already, this research is attracting significant interest from other water and arable land constrained countries.”
Etihad Airways – Corporate Responsibility , Etihad Cargo , Masdar Institute of Science and Technology
Government must do more to protect the public from aircraft noise health impacts, says AEF report
Wed 20 Jan 2016 – UK government policy is lagging behind growing evidence that aircraft noise is a pervasive public health problem and it should draw up long-term noise targets and review all noise policies, recommends a report by campaign group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF). The report identifies the health risks potentially impacting over one million people in the UK alone who live in areas where aircraft noise over a 24-hour period is above recommended health levels. Aircraft noise is associated with increased risk of heart and circulatory problems including increased blood pressure and higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Health is also detrimentally affected by sleep disturbance and annoyance, and can affect the memory and learning ability of school children, says AEF. With key aviation policy decisions due in 2016 on runway expansion, flightpath change principles and night flight regulations, it says the government must update noise policies accordingly.
Noise from transport and industrial sources is second only to particulate air pollution as the largest environmental risk to public health in Western Europe but, unlike for air quality, there are no legally binding health-based national or European limits for noise. Current EU policy requires only that Member States introduce noise action plans with the aim of reducing noise, without providing any clear targets.
In addition, there is evidence that public attitudes to aircraft noise are changing, despite today’s aircraft being individually less noisy than previous generations. A survey by Defra, the UK government’s environment ministry, in 2012 showed that nearly one third (31%) of those interviewed from a sample across the UK were annoyed, disturbed or disrupted by aircraft noise levels where they lived, with 4% of them saying they were severely disrupted. These findings were significantly higher than those in the previous survey carried out in 2000.
The AEF report recommends the government should continue to monitor changes in annoyance responses to aircraft noise and it notes the findings of an attitudes study commissioned by the Department for Transport are expected to be published in 2016.
Many of the people affected by harmful levels of aircraft noise live around Heathrow Airport, with three times as many living within its 55 dBA Lden (24-hour) noise contour than Frankfurt Airport, which has the second highest number of people exposed at this level in Europe. A 2013 study, says the report, found people around Heathrow exposed to high levels of aircraft noise (above 63 dBA Leq 16-hour average daytime noise) had a 24% higher chance of having a stroke, 21% higher chance of heart disease and 14% higher chance of cardiovascular diseases, compared to people exposed to less than 51 dBA. Another study in 2008 found that people had 14% higher blood pressure per 10dB increase in aircraft noise at night. The AEF report says 460 schools around Heathrow are exposed to aircraft noise above 54 dBA Leq, which it claims is higher than the onset threshold of the effect on children’s memory and learning.
With the government due to make an already delayed decision on a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick this summer, AEF says it needs to clearly demonstrate it has a plan to ensure that any new runway would be compatible with health-based noise targets before proceeding.
The government is also consulting during the coming year on night-time regulations for the period beyond 2017 at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. “The next regulations for night flights at the designated airports should act on the growing body of evidence identifying that the long-term health implications of night noise are particularly severe, and aim to reduce night noise as soon as possible,” says the report.
It adds it should be a requirement of any flightpath change proposals that they be assessed based on whether the aim of the changes is to reduce noise towards health-based levels.
“For too long aircraft noise has been seen as only an inconvenience,” commented AEF’s James Lees, author of the report. “Failure to address this problem could make aircraft noise the next public health crisis waiting to happen. Government should end its inaction and start putting the health of its citizens first.”
The report was commissioned by campaign group HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and the Aviation Environment Trust.
AEF report – ‘Aircraft noise and public health: the evidence is loud and clear’
COMMENTARY: Mitigation of international aviation emissions: The flightpath from Paris to Montreal
Tue 12 Jan 2016 – The COP21 climate summit last month produced a remarkable global consensus on the mitigation of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to their residual impact. Specific text addressing international aviation and shipping emissions was cut from the Paris Agreement during the meeting – seemingly with cursory consultation at most – and proved too difficult to reintroduce in the pressures of the final hours. But the Agreement embodies several features, notably increased ambition, which will serve to guide continuing work on mitigation of aviation emissions through ICAO. Of particular relevance is the development by ICAO of a global market-based measure (MBM) for consideration by the 39th Session of its Assembly later this year and intended implementation from 2020. Chris Lyle reviews some implications of the Paris Agreement for ICAO’s undertaking.
In its biannual report to the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA), which convened during COP21, ICAO noted it had formulated a ‘basket of measures’ to reduce emissions from international aviation, including air traffic management modernisation, acceleration of the use of fuel-efficient aircraft technologies, and the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation. Significant efforts were ongoing to fulfil the request of the 38th Assembly in 2013 for the Organization to develop a global MBM scheme for international aviation. The coming Assembly Session will consider a recommendation on the scheme that addresses key design elements and the implementation mechanisms from 2020.
Technological and operational improvements have produced significant achievements in aviation fuel efficiency over the past decades. A global CO2 certification standard is due to be adopted this year – although this will very likely be based on existing technology, apply only to new aircraft and exclude new versions of existing aircraft. Substantial progress has also been made on the use of sustainable alternative fuels, but their availability and price, along with full life-cycle assessment of biofuels, limits the prospect of their extensive contribution to aviation emissions mitigation at least until the long term. Overall, air traffic growth continues to outstrip appreciably the per unit reductions in emissions. The ICAO MBM scheme will therefore be crucial if international aviation is to play a requisite part in global emissions mitigation.
There were four key aspects of COP21 that are of direct relevance for the ICAO process of mitigation of international aviation emissions: ambition, differentiation, financing and the constitutional arrangements.
Ambition: The negotiations in Paris markedly demonstrated increased emissions mitigation ambition by countries worldwide, notably to hold global warming well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This will require ratcheting up the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC for COP21 by 187 countries, which the UNFCCC estimates would, if fully implemented, limit the temperature increase to 2.7°C. The first global review of this ratcheting up will be undertaken by the UNFCCC in 2018.
International aviation emissions are not part of INDCs but, unlike the vast majority of the INDCs, are predicted to show significantly continued growth to, and even beyond, 2030 rather than any peaking or reduction. The UNFCCC, using ICAO data, forecasts that by 2020, international aviation will emit 750 MT of CO2 emissions alone, that is 79% above the 419 MT in the 2005 base year and 21% above the current ICAO aspirational goal of 620 MT for 2020 (derived from ICAO forecast traffic growth and annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2% from 2010).
For 2020 onwards, ICAO decided at its Assembly in 2010 to adopt an aspirational goal – taken from an earlier aviation industry target – of Carbon Neutral Growth (CNG2020). This was to be based on actual 2020 emissions rather than those predicted at the time. Absolute international aviation emissions are expected to increase by some 40% from 2020 through 2030 – and to continue to grow beyond that. Carbon neutrality would be achieved through an MBM, most likely some form of carbon offsetting.
On offsetting, it should be noted, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres has pointed out that it “is not a silver bullet, nor an alternative to the deep and decisive emission reductions that economies and communities have to make now and into the future.”
When the concept of an MBM was initially proposed for international aviation, it was anticipated as being only a short to medium term measure, until technology and sustainable alternative fuels kicked in, not only to achieve CNG but indeed to move progressively below it. There is now realisation that the ‘wedge gap’ to be filled merely to achieve CNG will get larger and larger for the foreseeable future. The possible contribution of alternative fuels to fill the wedge gap is presently uncertain but optimistic estimates are for the MBM contribution in 2030 to be reduced by about 25%.
As highlighted in a recent study carried out for the European Parliament (see article) international aviation’s emissions of global CO2 are likely to rise substantially both absolutely and in terms of global share if the sector does not step up its commitment. Clearly, given the high ambition of the Paris Agreement, the goal of CNG2020 and associated offsetting needs to be revisited.
International aviation is sometimes considered a “special case” because of its catalytic effect. On two of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic and social – its contribution is on balance positive, which should weigh against its patently negative contribution to the third pillar, environmental. Thus reductions in international aviation emissions to the extent of the INDCs, especially when they are ratcheted up to reflect higher ambition, while desirable, may not be practicable.
But, as spelled out in the European Parliament study, international aviation and shipping “are industrial sectors similar to sectors such as electricity generation, steel or cement production. They are equally important to the global economy and to economic development as other economic sectors but not more or less important than, for example, electricity, chemicals or retail. Since all other sectors are likely to be extensively covered by the post-Paris global mitigation targets, international aviation and shipping need to be covered by similar requirements. Otherwise production abroad would be implicitly subsidised via local production through inappropriate low transport prices and thus again induce higher GHG emissions.”
That said, tourism is an economically important sector which is particularly effective in the transfer of wealth from rich to poor countries and more than half of international tourists arrive by air. In this respect, international aviation may be linked to several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Financing: International aviation remains exempt from fuel taxes and earlier draft negotiating texts for COP21 had seen a levy on international aviation as a source of financing for the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund. Lobbying by ICAO and the aviation industry had the relevant text removed. But offsetting can be considered as a form of financing and, despite her reservations, Christiana Figueres has noted that “offsetting has a part to play and in doing so can generate some of the funding needed for clean energy and adaptation projects in developing countries.”
Differentiation: The Paris Agreement clearly reaffirms the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR&RC), in the light of different national circumstances. This is critical for the ICAO process, which has been struggling with the issue for many years. COP21 faced considerable difficulties in achieving an acceptable balance between relative national economic strengths and national GHG emissions, past and present. Dealing with aviation in isolation adds a third dimension: the standing of countries according to the level of international air transport traffic generated by their carriers, as well as the additional constituent of dealing with differing national circumstances at either end of a route.
Constitutional arrangements: Consequent upon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, governments have been addressing international aviation emissions working through ICAO. The Paris Agreement renders large parts of the Protocol moot, at least after 2020. The UNFCCC is still well short of necessary ratifications regarding the second commitment period (2012-2020) and some additional countries are already considering withdrawal from the Protocol. So while the Protocol may continue de jure, in practice it has been relegated to history.
ICAO’s involvement with climate change issues actually predates the Kyoto Protocol. In 1996, at ICAO’s request, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agreed to undertake a special report on Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, which was published in 1999 and formed a basis for the Organization’s work on the subject. The report, incidentally, is currently being considered for updating. Therefore ICAO expects – and is expected – to proceed under its own mandate, with continuing reports to SBSTA, although this does not preclude modification as well as clarification of the process for dealing with international aviation emissions when the UNFCCC develops mechanisms for implementation of the Paris Agreement.
There are two fundamental governance differences between the Paris Agreement and ICAO. First, a major change between the failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 and the success in Paris was that the process moved from ‘top down’ globally to ‘bottom up’ by individual States. ICAO, a global standard-setting body, has no precedent for a bottom-up process. Second, the actual commitments (INDCs) under the Paris Agreement are voluntary, a concept which is difficult to conceive for an air route with different Parties at either end – indeed ICAO’s initial consideration of offsetting has been that it should be mandatory.
One elemental weakness of the continuing treatment of international aviation emissions through ICAO is that there is no directly identifiable national commitment – only a global ‘sector determined’ contribution – and so the contribution of international aviation emissions does not have a high profile nationally. Not only is potential action diluted, international aviation is treated in a silo and not in the context of differing national circumstances and the relative contribution of aviation to the economy – notably for cases where tourism is critical. And, while membership of the UNFCCC and ICAO is essentially the same, the UNFCCC’s mandate is to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, while the primary focus of ICAO is to protect and promote international aviation.
ICAO’s MBM programme
Carbon pricing is widely recognised as a market-based measure which is both simple and effective, moving industry and consumers to greener fuel sources. But in the case of aviation there is no effective alternative to the widespread use of fossil-based fuel for the foreseeable future and carbon pricing has been shown to have a minimal effect on traffic and hence emissions. Thus the ICAO Council initially considered three other MBMs: emissions trading, carbon offsets with revenue generation and carbon offsets without revenue generation, but it has focused only on the latter. Emissions trading can be more effective than offsetting and there is already experience of it for air travel within Europe but it is more complex. Both emissions trading and offsetting incur significant management costs and inefficiencies.
Since 2014, an Environment Advisory Group (EAG), comprising 17 of ICAO’s 36 Council Representatives, has been discussing a global MBM on the basis of a ‘Strawman’ prepared by the ICAO Secretariat and covering CO2 emissions only. This distributes offsetting obligations to operators based on a mix of collective and individual share of emissions growth. Credits would be generated outside the international aviation sector to avoid double counting of emissions. Widely differing national and regional positions have led to the introduction of possible amendments, for example:
- Adjustments to give preferential treatment to ‘early movers’ (prior to 2020), ‘new entrants’, and ‘fast growers’ – the latter two seem to be in direct contradiction of emissions mitigation.
- Exemptions for routes to and from States that fall below a de minimis threshold of emissions generated by all international flights to and from the State.
- Differentiation of offset obligations by route.
- Phase-in of routes, i.e. temporary exemptions.
While the reports of the EAG are not public, some insight as to current alternatives proposed in pursuance of broader application of CBDR&RC may be seen in submissions to SBSTA last month (see article) and related releases during COP21:
- ‘Accumulative’ historical emissions – operators offsetting obligations to be based on historical emissions (going back to 1992).
- States, rather than operators, to be the ‘accountable entities’ of the scheme.
- A fixed levy on international flights.
This author has long propounded the route differentiation concept to bridge CBDR&RC and the equal application provisions of the Chicago Convention, but has based this on generic national circumstances rather than international aviation traffic. Exemptions or reductions for routes to and from least developed, small island and landlocked developing States is a concept which catches the tourism concern mentioned previously, is rational in terms of the importance of aviation to the economies concerned, and has pre-existing classification in the UN, with the latter two categories of States specifically identified in the Paris Agreement.
If the MBM scheme includes significant exemptions/phase-ins/reductions for certain routes or carriers then this could of course affect the worldwide goal of CNG2020. The EAG defines CNG as applying to emissions from international aviation “that are not otherwise exempted”, which could diminish the goal. The only logical alternative would be that the MBM contribution be higher for non-exempted routes and carriers to compensate for the exemptions but this would probably be politically unacceptable.
The ICAO Council has tasked its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) with analytical work and technical support on such issues as assessing the emissions from various alternative fuels, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (on which the UNFCCC has itself yet to develop a generic mechanism), and Emissions Unit Criteria (deciding which offsets should be eligible in the global MBM).
Clearly there are many questions outstanding. One particular concern remains how effective the offsetting would be. The UNFCCC, which originally established specific carbon market mechanisms pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol, is now actively promoting them, notably through the Clean Development Mechanism. There are also a number of national and subnational schemes, and many non-governmental, voluntary mechanisms. But some developing States are known to oppose the concept of offsetting. Also, in the current voluntary market, there are offsets of widely differing quality and prices. Some do meet a Gold Standard, and a recent analysis by Germany’s Oeko-Institut indicates that there would be a sufficient supply of quality carbon offsets to meet demand under a global MBM for international aviation (see article).
The MBM schedule
All these concerns have to addressed in the context of an extremely tight schedule. ICAO’s EAG is due to meet again briefly in January and February, with the major triennial CAEP meeting in between. These meetings will be followed by a second series of regional Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) in March/April and a High-level Meeting in May at which a draft Assembly Resolution is expected to be available for comment. A further draft is to be agreed by the Council in its session ending on 17 June, with the Assembly itself scheduled for 27 September to 7 October.
On the UNFCCC front, ICAO will present its biannual reports to SBSTA in June and during COP22 in Marrakech, 7-18 November.
One outcome of COP21 is that international aviation and shipping emissions are no longer under the radar but have become a mainstream concern. Should ICAO fail to reach a substantive agreement in October, the UNFCCC may consider more direct action on international aviation emissions. In addition, the EU may lift the suspension of application of its Emissions Trading System to intercontinental flights and there could develop a patchwork of regional and bilateral emissions regimes applying to international air transport.
The stakes are therefore high, but the difficulties of ICAO reaching a meaningful and robust agreement on a global MBM should not be underestimated. And, like the Paris Agreement itself, an ICAO Assembly Resolution (which is non-binding, but needs consensus) will remain a paper tiger until implementation elements are defined, acted upon and verified.
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