GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 30 NOVEMBER 2018
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Aviation industry says it’s on track and committed to start reporting carbon emissions from January
Fri 30 Nov 2018 – With just a month to go before airlines and business aircraft operators with international flights must start monitoring and reporting their CO2 emissions under the CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme, the sector says it is firmly on track to meet its commitments. “We’re really encouraged by the readiness of the operators and there has been an outstanding response to the capacity-building efforts the industry has put in place, with positive engagement from both airlines and governments,” Michael Gill, Executive Director of the industry coalition Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), told the recent Aviation Carbon 2018 conference in London. He and other industry leaders called for early resolution of outstanding issues at ICAO on criteria around emissions units and alternative fuels. They also expressed concerns over a potential global patchwork of overlapping or contradictory measures and regimes.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) commits the sector to carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and the initial monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) process starting on January 1 aims to establish an emissions baseline over the 2019-20 period. MRV rules were published as Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) by ICAO in June, and the industry has had to move quickly to prepare aircraft operators for their implementation.
Gill said ATAG had been working with IATA, IBAC (representing business aircraft operators) and regional airline associations on a series of workshops held around the world. He reported over 640 delegates had attended one or more workshops, with nearly 250 aircraft operators and 42 governments represented. Through its website, IATA has also published a detailed CORSIA handbook for airlines and made available sample emissions reporting plans. It is also currently holding webinars for other operators that have not attended a workshop.
“This is the first time a global scheme like this has been put into place so, of course, there are detailed questions arising in the course of the work we have done with the airlines but I really do believe the industry is on track to meet the 1st of January deadline,” he said.
IATA has also developed the FRED+ tool that is specifically tailored to aiding operators, governments and designated verifiers with the CORSIA MRV rules.
Gill said work at ICAO on establishing emissions units, or offsets, eligible for use by airlines under CORSIA and the adoption of the remaining sustainability criteria for alternative fuels that can be used by airlines against their offsetting obligations were key areas that needed decisions.
“We are continuing to urge progress in the ICAO Council – they are both crucial parts of the overall picture,” he said. “We need early resolution so that airlines and the carbon markets can make the necessary preparations.”
However, he said, ICAO had come a long way with CORSIA since its adoption by the ICAO Assembly two years ago. “The processes can be very cumbersome and lengthy, so what it has achieved is pretty remarkable. We should all recognise the extremely positive work that has taken place at ICAO and the speed at which they have managed to move through this not entirely simple process.”
Gill said the industry would have preferred a universal scheme that had applied to all countries from the start in 2021. “Of course, the initial six-year voluntary phases goes against this but we understand the political process in ICAO. We do see a positive landscape, with 75 States who have now volunteered for the initial phases of CORSIA and we are continuing to encourage all States to step up and show climate leadership by volunteering.
“As far as MRV implementation is concerned, we should congratulate States like Canada, India, Vietnam, Turkey, Kuwait, Mexico and others who have already passed or drafted the necessary legislation. We notice other States such as South Africa and China are close to finalising their regulations.
“Many of the 75 volunteers are developing countries and we thank ICAO and those developed countries contributing to the ACT initiative for helping them get ready for CORSIA.”
Andrew Herdman, Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said the political and geographic diversity of Asia, with around 40 different jurisdictions, made CORSIA MRV implementation in the region challenging, particularly for smaller countries.
“It came as a surprise to a number of States that they didn’t have a choice about CORSIA,” he told delegates. “There was so much talk initially about the voluntary phases and whether States were in or out but they didn’t understand that the reporting was for everyone. The industry is fully committed though and I am confident reporting will be put in place.”
The initial MRV phase to establish a baseline is just about reporting fuel and emissions in a comprehensive way but it will require more comprehensive legislation when offsetting obligations come later, he said.
“Now there is a big question about the countries not on the voluntary list,” he added. “In our part of the world, some big developing States with large and rapidly growing aviation sectors – notably China and India – have so far not volunteered. I think China has an open mind about it and India has expressed concerns about the extent to which CORSIA will impede the growth of aviation.
“This is something of a concern. We see the industry continuing to grow in a sustainable way and CORSIA is one of the key pillars of our climate strategy. The scheme has been structured to allow for the growth of the industry and it ensures that at least during the first nine years, when the calculation of offset obligations is on a sectoral basis, there is no discrimination in terms of individual growth rates by country or by operator. So the scheme is carefully designed to share the burden equally across the industry and not be biased against faster-growing regions.”
Gill added that Chinese airlines were well prepared to implement the necessary monitoring and reporting processes and wanted to contribute to the successful implementation of CORSIA.
“Although China itself hasn’t fully decided and is continuing to watch the discussions, I wouldn’t bet against them making a decision to join in the next couple of years before CORSIA kicks in. There’s a lot of politics in play here that go beyond CORSIA. It’s certainly not something we’ve given up on and we’ll continue the dialogue as we move ahead.”
Nancy Young, Vice President Environment at Airlines for America, said MRV legislation or regulation was not yet in place in the United States. “It isn’t possible to have it ready in time,” she said. “Our regulatory process takes at least a year, even two years. So our industry is working with government to implement the SARPs as seamlessly as possible under a special set of agreements before January 2019.”
The situation closer to home was more worrying, said Gill. “There is still a lack of clarity in the EU on how the CORSIA MRV rules are supposed to be implemented. Even more worrying from my perspective is to see the European Parliament calling on EU Member States not to fully implement CORSIA and, indeed, file differences to the agreement reached in ICAO. It’s really quite disappointing that having had leading EU experts contribute so positively and so successfully to the drafting of the CORSIA rules, we’re now seeing the EU on a wider level dragging its heels. This is an area where we really need to see the EU continuing to lead by example.”
He said one of the main drivers behind industry support for CORSIA was to avoid the so-called patchwork of overlapping or contradictory regulatory regimes. “Just remember, the 2016 ICAO Assembly resolution specifically provided that States committed CORSIA would be the sole measure applicable to emissions from international aviation. There have been no reservations at ICAO to that specific provision and I do think States need to continue to honour that commitment in the year up the next Assembly in 2019 and, indeed, well beyond.”
Young said the United States remained committed to CORSIA. “Our support for it is based on that flying internationally requires a single global measure and to avoid a patchwork. Some of you will recall my organisation’s opposition to the extra-territorial application of the EU’s Emissions Trading System. You will also recall the US government – including at the time Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama – also opposing this and signed legislation to that effect.
“But a key part of that legislation also said the US should work towards a global agreement to address GHG emissions from aviation. Some said we wouldn’t take this seriously but we meant it and remain committed to that. I am proud that we are implementing the positive rather than the negative part of that legislation.”
Herdman also expressed a fear over national differences emerging at ICAO over emissions unit eligibility. “When we eventually get to the stage of buying carbon offsets, there are some fundamental principles involved of making sure airlines have access to a wide range of offsets and that all airlines have access to the same types of offsets and at the same price points, or we’ll get distortions. We are concerned that in the process of establishing emissions unit criteria (EUC), there is a danger we won’t get a harmonised and uniform approach.”
Added Gill: “We have to avoid a patchwork of how EUC is implemented and how MRV is adopted. Anything that disintegrates the uniform application of CORSIA is a concern to us as it creates competitive distortions, different standards and varying levels of robustness.”
Summing up the panel session, Young said: “We as industry just urge States to keep working towards implementation in positive ways and not make industry the pawns in that process.”
Gill said a further series of industry workshops were planned in 2019 focusing on emissions reporting and verification, with further workshops in 2020 covering emissions units and carbon markets.
IATA – CORSIA , ATAG – CORSIA
As ICAO deadline approaches, Europe wrestles with differences over CORSIA
Wed 28 Nov 2018 – The EU Council has agreed a common position on a response to ICAO over the “filing of differences” by EU States with CORSIA regulations adopted by the ICAO governing Council in June. ICAO Member States are required before the end of this week (Dec 1) to notify the UN body if their national regulations or practices do not conform with the CORSIA Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). Although the filing is essentially a legal process concerning MRV regulations, influential members of the European Parliament and environmental groups are pressing EU States to protect the future of the Aviation EU ETS in their filings. The airline industry and third countries such as the United States, on the other hand, are calling for the full replacement of the EU ETS with the ICAO global carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation.
Under Article 38 of the Chicago Convention that governs international civil aviation, States must notify ICAO if they do not comply with a Standard in all respects; do not bring its regulations or practices into full accord with any Standard; or adopt regulations or practices differing in any particular respect from the Standard. Such a notification is called a “filing of differences”.
In a State Letter sent out with the SARPs in July, governments were asked to inform ICAO before October 22, the date on which the SARPs became effective, if they disapproved of any part of the SARPs. It is believed no State registered a disapproval. The second deadline requires States to inform ICAO before December 1 of any differences that will exist on 1 January 2019 – when CORSIA monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) requirements related to CO2 emissions from international flights come into effect – between their national regulations or practices and the SARPs, and also the dates by which the State will have complied with the SARPs’ provisions.
Because the EU has in place legislation (Directive 2003/87/EC and subsequent amendments) that underpins the inclusion of aviation within the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), there are incompatibilities and differences with the CORSIA SARPs in respect of MRV and offsetting requirements. Article 15(3) of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement also stipulates that ICAO Standards shall be followed except where differences have been notified.
According to a European Commission official, the notification of differences can maintain the legality of existing law without expressing any disapproval with the SARPs.
“States have to take certain actions of notification which have been expressly requested by the State letter and doing so will prevent any legal risk to EU law,” he told GreenAir. “At the same time, in parallel, the amendments to the EU monitoring rules for the ICAO scheme are well underway, the first two acts are published and the third one is also about to be published. There’s then going to be a legislative process at some point in the future involving the European Parliament and Council, and the terms of this review are set out in the 2017 aviation EU ETS amendment in Article 28b.”
The third element he is referring to is a so-called ‘delegated act’ that the Commission is planning to have in place by early 2019. This is secondary legislation allowed for in the primary legislation (i.e. the EU ETS Directive) and provides for a four-week public information period and allows the Council and Parliament two months to come up with any objections. If they do not, the delegated act enters into force.
The act, published today, sets out additional verified emissions information that airlines should report for mandatory compliance under CORSIA SARPs MRV rules. It will also impose an obligation on the Commission to transmit relevant verified emissions data to the ICAO Secretariat.
Differences of another kind emerged at an ‘exchange of views’ meeting last week between MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) and the EU Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, on CORSIA developments at ICAO. This was the first meeting since the Parliament adopted a climate resolution in October that “Expresses concern about the level of ambition of ICAO’s CORSIA, given the ongoing work on the SARPs meant to implement the scheme from 2019; strongly opposes the efforts to impose CORSIA on flights within Europe, overriding EU laws and independence in decision-making; stresses that further dilution of the draft CORSIA SARPs is unacceptable; [and] calls on the Commission and the Member States to do their utmost in strengthening CORSIA’s provisions and hence its future impact.”
The resolution also called on EU States to submit a formal reservation with respect to the SARPs, “stating that the implementation of CORSIA and participation in its voluntary phases require the prior agreement of the Council and the European Parliament.”
Bulc told the ENVI MEPs that the global consensus on CORSIA remained fragile. “In June I took part in discussions in ICAO and I can assure you that many countries remain reluctant to commit to a measure they perceive as a threat to their sovereignty and a hurdle to the development of their aviation industry,” she said. “The EU must continue to signal its intention to participate in CORSIA to generate momentum for implementation. Any reservation about CORSIA could jeopardise the whole multilateral process and progress made so far. That is why we are leading by example and already implementing the CORSIA MRV [regulations] this year.
“Discussions are still ongoing with respect to eligible offsets and the sustainability criteria for eligible fuels. What influence would the EU have if it withdrew its support for CORSIA? The best way to improve CORSIA is to continue influencing its design within ICAO.
“The Commission’s proposal for the Union position to be taken by Member States in reply to the CORSIA State Letter is fully in line with the provisions of the EU ETS Directive. It is a fact that certain differences currently exist between CORSIA and the ETS – we don’t hide that. That is why that when all the CORSIA’s instruments are adopted by ICAO, the Commission will carry out an assessment of the scheme and present a report to co-legislators. The EU will decide on the basis of that report how to implement CORSIA and what rules should apply on flights within the EEA.”
However, Bulc’s assurances failed to mollify the MEPs, who fear the lack of a strong EU response to the State Letter risks losing the right to continue with the EU ETS once CORSIA starts and having to accept as yet undetermined criteria on emissions units and alternative fuels. They also criticised the Commission for not consulting with Parliament over the response to the State Letter.
“That isn’t good enough,” admonished a former Parliament rapporteur on the Aviation EU ETS, Peter Liese. “We in Parliament believe CORSIA is very weak and only about 20% of it is aligned with what we want. We’re in favour of it as a beginning and an initial step but it’s not acceptable if our rights as EU legislators for the EU ETS are limited.
“I would urge you to tell EU Member States that we need more measures on CORSIA if we are to deliver on our Paris commitments. If EU States are able to decide whatever they want on the EU ETS then we have an EU institutional crisis on our hands. You can’t just ignore the Parliament and that has to be understood.”
Bulc responded: “I am personally convinced that we can find ways to combine CORSIA and the EU ETS in a way that is consistent with EU commitments under the Paris Agreement, and does not jeopardise ICAO’s efforts in favour of a global solution.”
Another former EU ETS rapporteur, Julie Girling, told the Commissioner: “Our Paris commitments cannot be delivered by CORSIA. I am confused where you think CORSIA is actually going to take us. I don’t understand how we can be in a position where you could recommend that we don’t file a reservation by December 1, when by not doing so binds us in to accepting CORSIA’s environmental measures and not allowing us to do anything further.
“We recently had a trip to China and they laughed at us when we mentioned CORSIA and they said ‘we’re not doing anything’. At an event I was at in London recently, airlines made it absolutely clear it was their intention to make sure the EU changes its position over the EU ETS. It is essential we do not do so.”
Bulc warned against such statements on China and hoped it will still join the first volunteer phase in 2021 and was optimistic India might still participate from the start. “I am in favour of dialogue and persuasion with countries that are growing their aviation activities fast, such as China and India,” she added.
“We will not commit [to CORSIA] at any price but if there is a hope we can get a solid agreement on a global scale then this will contribute to climate change action by far more than just the EU ETS on its own.
“I will be very straightforward: I am against filing a reservation. I am for stating the differences at the ICAO level and making sure they understand under which conditions we are entering this deal. But if the EU shows weakness and is not leading the way, then it is quite likely this will not happen.”
Wrapping up the debate with the MEPs, Bulc said: “Because of the possibility of legal challenges we focused on differences rather than reservations, and to point out these differences and to bring together the EU ETS and CORSIA. Whatever we agree won’t come into force before 2021. That gives us enough time to do a thorough impact assessment and analysis of the full CORSIA scheme, which, of course, we don’t yet exactly know what it is going to be. But we will continue to negotiate and hopefully in March we will know. Once this is adopted then we can do the analysis and then report back to the Parliament and Council.
“We need to have an ambitious deal in order to deliver concrete results, but let’s give the global deal a chance. That’s what I am asking you for.”
Whether all EU States will follow the Council’s template if and when notifying ICAO of differences in their regulations and practices is not yet clear.
In a letter to Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment in October, the UK’s Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, said the UK would not be filing a “general difference” against the CORSIA SARPs. “The EU filing a general difference against the CORSIA SARP could jeopardise the implementation of CORSIA and threaten the progress made over the last few years,” she said. The letter did not explicitly rule out the UK following the EU common position in notifying ICAO of differences over MRV regulations covering the EU ETS and the new CORSIA SARPs.
The MEPs’ call for EU States to file a “reservation” also does not apply in the context of ICAO SARPs as reservations are generally filed by States when notifying ICAO of disagreements with elements of an adopted Assembly resolution.
However, Annie Petsonk, International Counsel with the Environmental Defense Fund, points out in a GreenAir Commentary article published this week, that the situation with the CORSIA SARPs is unusual in that States are being asked to implement them where blank spaces exist around the all-important eligibility rules on emissions units and alternative fuels.
The State Letter asks States to notify ICAO of any differences with the whole of the SARPs, she writes. “What can governments do when the ‘whole’ doesn’t exist?” she asks. “Some might just not respond. Others might say they’ll enforce the CORSIA’s emissions reporting, but won’t regulate emissions units and fuels until the blanks are filled in. And some, like EU Member States, may have to wait until the ‘whole’ is complete, as legislation obligates the European Commission and Parliament to assess the whole before enacting new regulations.”
SAS and Norwegian join collaborative initiatives to reduce emissions and drive sustainability
Fri 16 Nov 2018 – Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) CEO Rickard Gustafson has joined other Nordic-based company leaders in announcing an initiative to align their business strategies with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and explore opportunities for collaboration. They say there is a need for new business models to drive the transition to a modern economy aligned with ethical, social and environmental priorities. Referencing SDGs 9, 12 and 13, Gustafson said SAS will reduce its emissions by 25% by 2030 and use advanced biofuels equivalent to all SAS domestic air traffic. Meanwhile, low-cost carrier Norwegian has said it will expand an initiative undertaken with Sweden’s Avtech on new weather technology that can help optimise flight paths for improving fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
The group of Nordic CEOs pledging alignment with the SDGs represent companies such as Equinor, Islandsbanki, Nokia, Swedbank, Vestas and five other large organisations based in the region. They presented their initiative to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who is also a co-chair of the UN’s Global SDG Advocate group, during the recent Nordic Council session in Oslo. The CEOs said it would also create a platform for Nordic prime ministers to engage directly with them on how to move from sustainability as a compliance exercise to “purpose-driven companies”. A key objective, they say, is to explore ways to deliver more impact through collaboration and responsible business practices.
“SAS is taking ambitious steps to reduce the negative impact from aviation through innovation, smart solutions and major investments in the latest technology, without compromising the important role of aircraft in our society – enabling people to meet and create value and growth,” commented Gustafson.
A report by the Swedish Energy Agency, which partly funded the Norwegian test project with Avtech, found that results from a total of 29,000 flights that took place in November and December 2017 showed a reduction of 640 tons of fuel on Norwegian’s flights during this period. This corresponds to an annual fuel reduction of 5,000 tons, thus saving 16,000 tons of CO2 emissions as well as fuel costs.
The new technology, Aventus Air weather service, provides Norwegian’s pilots with highly accurate wind and temperature information in accordance with the flight plan. Data is transferred to the aircraft’s systems, which makes it possible to optimise the flight path for improved fuel efficiency.
“Our ambition is to continue to reduce emissions per passenger with fuel-efficient aircraft and with innovative technology,” said Tomas Hesthammer, Norwegian’s Director of Flight Operations. “The Avtech project demonstrates that fuel consumption can be further reduced by using advanced weather data. We are looking forward to establishing a permanent partnership that benefits both the environment and Norwegian’s costs.”
In September, Norwegian was named as the most fuel-efficient carrier on transatlantic routes in a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation, which showed it to be 33% more efficient on a per passenger basis than the industry average (see article).
SAS – Sustainability , Nordic CEOs For a Sustainable Future , Norwegian – Environment , Avtech
Dutch aviation sector presents government with action plan to reduce gross emissions by 35 per cent by 2030
Thu 15 Nov 2018 – The Dutch civil aviation sector has pledged to reduce its gross carbon emissions originating in the Netherlands by 35 per cent by 2030. This is in addition to airline commitments required under the EU Emissions Trading System and the global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme. To achieve the target, the industry has presented the Dutch government with its ‘Smart and Sustainable’ action plan covering seven areas, including ground operations, where it believes emission reductions can be made. It adds the plan aims to make the Dutch airline industry “the smartest and most sustainable sector in the world,” with research consultancy CE Delft assessing its objectives as ambitious yet achievable.
The seven action areas are:
- Optimising flight routes and procedures – Using more direct routes and improved take-off and landing procedures can reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Current routes in Dutch and European airspace are overloaded and sometimes inefficient, says the sector.
- Encouraging cleaner aircraft by levying airport fees – Schiphol Airport says it intends to differentiate its charges between 2019 and 2022 partly based on climate impact so that airlines will pay less to use quieter and cleaner aircraft, and those with noisier and more polluting aircraft will pay more.
- Introducing sustainable fuel – the industry says using sustainable fuel is one of the most effective ways of reducing CO2 emissions in the relatively short term.
- Radical fleet renewal – As well as continuing to renew their fleets with more efficient aircraft over the next decade, the Dutch aviation industry, along with knowledge institutions, are looking to play an important role in helping develop new aerodynamic aircraft models, stronger and lighter materials, and electric-hybrid propulsion that will be necessary to further reduce aviation emissions.
- Deploying international train services and other sustainable means of transport over short distances – On some routes, trains are a good alternative to air travel up to a distance of 700 kilometres, says the aviation sector. To make train travel even more attractive, it will require faster trains, better connections to Schiphol, further development of Schiphol as a multi-modal hub and easy-to-buy integrated air-rail tickets, it advises.
- Emissions-free airports – Royal Schiphol Group says it will ensure its airport terminals, offices and ground operations will be climate neutral from 2030. Schiphol already runs entirely on electricity generated by Dutch wind and is making efforts to increase energy efficiency, phase out the use of gas and limit commuting.
- Fast and efficient journeys to and from the airport – Other solutions are required for journeys, such as electric rental cars and faster public transport, says the sector, along with more options for getting cargo and baggage from door to door. Efficiency improvements are also needed in air cargo transport to improve lead times and loading rates.
International network of activists mount campaign to halt growth of the aviation sector
Wed 17 Oct 2018 – A two-week campaign has ended by an international network of around 130 civil society organisations and activist groups to protest against unrestrained expansion of the aviation sector and its impact on the climate and local residents. The Stay Grounded network, which includes Friends of the Earth International, reports it carried out 27 “actions” in 11 countries to raise awareness of what it describes as “the ongoing massive wave of airport infrastructure expansion and the need for alternatives”. The countries included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and the UK. The network says its campaign is also directed against the ICAO CORSIA scheme and the use of carbon offsetting. It has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for transitioning towards a transport system “that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable”.
“The actions are directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading to noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands,” said Mira Kapfinger from the Vienna-based Stay Grounded, which has produced a map of airports around the world it says have produced local conflicts.
Its argument against CORSIA is based on what it sees as “cheap and ineffective carbon credits with a record of fuelling land-grabbing and human rights violations in the Global South” being bought by the aviation industry to achieve its carbon neutral growth goal after 2020.
“Instead of assuming responsibility for the harmful impact of its reckless growth path, the industry is trying to buy its way out at the expense of vulnerable populations who are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to these offsetting projects,” said Kapfinger.
Referring to opposition by the European aviation industry to passenger taxes and to staying in the EU Emissions Trading System because of the introduction of CORSIA, Stay Grounded’s co-coordinator Magdalena Heuwieser added: “CORSIA is not only a greenwashed cloth attempting to polish aviation, it is also being used as a diversion tactic to block any effective regulation of the sector.”
The 13 steps the network recommends “to transform transport, society and the economy to be just and environmentally sound” include a move towards “a transport system that is democratically regulated and planned, promotes and supports the common good, and that is integrated and ecological.” It calls for a moratorium on new airports and airport expansion; a loss of subsidies and tax breaks for the aviation sector; an end to marketing incentives such as frequent flyer programmes; an end to carbon offsetting; and a halt to using “destructive” biofuels. Stay Grounded says research should continue for long-term technological improvements but believes such “fixes” are an illusion and divert the focus away from the immediate emission cuts needed.
“For decades, the aviation industry has enjoyed many privileges,” said Kapfinger. “For example, flight tickets and kerosene still remain untaxed, in contrast to car fuel or train tickets. Now is the time to wake up. Rather than fuelling further expansion, air traffic urgently needs to be controlled and reduced, before we get locked into their unaffordable emissions. This process needs to be socially just.”
Heathrow offers landing charge incentive to first electric-powered commercial flight
Wed 17 Oct 2018 – As part of efforts to encourage airlines to invest in electric technology and speed up the arrival of zero-emissions flights, Heathrow Airport has announced it will offer free landing charges for a year to the first electric or electric-hybrid commercial flight into the airport and then entering regular service. Heathrow estimates at current price levels, the prize would be worth nearly £1 million ($1.3m) to the operator. As the likelihood of a passenger electric-hybrid aircraft entering service is over a decade away, the incentive is largely symbolic for now but the airport hopes the gesture will encourage innovators. It estimates more than 100 electric aircraft projects are underway across the world. With global air passenger traffic expected to double by 2035, the prospect of much quieter, cleaner and more efficient electric aircraft can play a critical role in driving a sustainable future for the aviation sector, it adds.
“Heathrow has long been a leader in sustainable aviation. We championed carbon neutral growth in global aviation, which will come into effect in 2020. The next frontier is zero carbon flying, and I hope this prize will help make it a reality at Heathrow by 2030,” said the airport’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye. He added the incentive would be open to all airlines operating at Heathrow both now and in the future.
Last year, low-cost carrier easyJet announced a collaboration with US start-up electric aircraft manufacturer Wright Electric, which is developing an all-electric passenger aircraft with a range of 540 kilometres (see article). According to the airline, this would cover 20% of its routes, such as London to Paris, Amsterdam or Belfast. A prototype unveiled by Wright includes a distributed electric propulsion system, swappable battery packs and high aspect ratio wings for energy efficient flight. The company believes it will be able to utilise new energy storage chemistries that are substantially lighter than today’s commercial batteries.
Commenting on the Heathrow announcement, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said: “It is clear Heathrow shares easyJet’s ambition for a more sustainable aviation industry. We support airports who are encouraging airlines to operate the most sustainable aircraft and welcome this initiative. We firmly believe it is not if but when electric commercial aircraft become a reality.”
Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce are working together on the E-Fan X, a demonstrator version of a hybrid-electric passenger plane based on a 100-seat Bae146, which is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2020. The partners plan to replace one of the test aircraft’s four jet turbines with a 2MW electric propulsion system.
Commending the Heathrow initiative, Airbus Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini said: “With air traffic projected to double every 15 years, it is our duty as an industry to find solutions that ensure sustainable growth with minimal environmental impact. At Airbus, this is our driving force for developing electric and hybrid-electric propulsion technologies.”
Another hybrid-electric passenger aircraft venture by US-based Zunum Aero is backed by Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures (see article). It is developing a 12-seat commercial aircraft capable of flying 700 miles that it hopes to have operational by 2022, with a larger 50-seater version with a 1,000-mile range available by the end of the next decade. Last week, the company announced it had selected Safran Helicopter Engines to provide a new-generation engine turbine to power Zunum’s ZA10 electrical generator. Ground and flight testing of the aircraft is scheduled for 2019.
Rather than serving large airports, Zunum says the potential for its smaller aircraft lies in revolutionising the regional airline market and bringing cheaper, faster and more environmentally-friendly passenger transport to small, regional airports.
COMMENTARY: Setting European aviation on a pathway to decarbonisation by 2050
Thu 22 Nov 2018 – A new study, one of the first, examines whether a credible pathway to zero or near zero emissions exists for European aviation. The report, published by Transport & Environment (T&E), looks at flights within and departing Europe thus matching the scope of aviation’s inclusion in the EU’s 2030 target. It takes broadly accepted passenger and emissions growth forecasts out to 2050 and considers the role that various policies can play in reducing fuel demand from the sector, writes T&E’s Bill Hemmings. The report then proposes how the remaining fuel demand can be decarbonised by applying a low/zero carbon fuel blending mandate across EU aviation fuel suppliers. The mandate would be directed at advanced sustainable biofuels with the bulk of decarbonisation being achieved through the uptake of electrofuels.
Challenges are identified, including the failure of European policies intended to sustainably reduce the carbon intensity of road transport fuels, the need to agree and enforce strict sustainability fuel criteria for aviation, the heavy demand on renewables that electrofuel production imposes and the fact that aviation non-CO2 also needs addressing since its effects are largely being ignored.
The report starts by considering expected technology and operations improvements as well as stricter fuel efficiency standards and incentives to speed up fleet renewal. However, it finds they will not mitigate the expected fuel demand and emissions growth, particularly given incremental efficiency improvements from current aircraft designs are becoming ever more costly and difficult. Further operational improvements remain possible but they also do not achieve decarbonisation and require the right policies to be in place.
Carbon pricing is seen as needing to play a central role in achieving further reductions in fuel demand and various options from fuel taxation and strengthening the EU ETS, to applying VAT and ticket and per flight taxes are considered, as is modal shift. After estimating all feasible emissions reduction measures, including applying an effective carbon price of €150/tonne, the report finds fuel demand could be cut by some 12 Mtoe, or 16.9%, in 2050 compared to the business as usual scenario.
The report then examines two decarbonisation pathways – deploying sustainable advanced biofuels and renewable fuels of nonbiological origin (RFNBO), or electrofuels. While the use of such fuels can put aviation on a pathway to decarbonisation, the report finds that getting to zero emissions, the generally accepted term for decarbonisation, will be difficult because producing alternative fuels that on a life cycle basis are 100% carbon free will be very challenging. Advanced biofuels could play a role in substituting fossil fuel demand in aviation but the forecast was limited to only those advanced biofuels from wastes and residues which deliver real and sustainable reductions. Such feedstocks are incidental to other processes, and so will be limited in availability.
Strict sustainability safeguards will be needed to ensure genuine emission savings and these safeguards are not yet in place. Fuels with poor environmental and climate credentials would need to be excluded. The report finds that sustainable advanced biofuels could play a role – meeting up to 11.4% (7,500 ktoe) of the remaining 2050 fuel demand in the scenario. Supply will be further limited because non-transport sectors will also have a claim to biomass feedstocks.
To succeed in putting aviation on a pathway to decarbonisation, new types of alternative fuels will need to be brought forward and the report focuses on synthetic fuels, namely electrofuels, to close the gap. Electrofuels are produced through combining hydrogen from electrolysis with CO2. With the hydrogen production using additional renewable electricity and with the correct source of CO2 (direct air capture), such fuels can be close to near zero emissions and carbon circular. Strict safeguards will again be needed to ensure the synthetic kerosene is only produced from zero emission electricity and the CO2 from air capture.
If produced at scale, electrofuels are likely to cost between three and six times more than untaxed kerosene, and electrofuel uptake could increase airline ticket prices by 59%, resulting in a 28% reduction in projected passenger demand compared to a business-as-usual scenario. However, compared to ticket prices with an equivalent CO2 price of €150 per tonne, the ticket price increase would only be 23%. The report finds that introducing a progressively more stringent low carbon fuel standard (GHG target) on aviation fuel suppliers will leave all operators flying within or from Europe needing to purchase such fuels. These rising fuel costs will increase operating costs which will inevitably be passed onto consumers, causing a fall in demand for jet fuel compared to forecasts and reducing the volume of alternative fuels that will be required to replace kerosene.
Importantly for policy makers, the report highlights the enormous demand on renewable electricity if fuel demand remains high and electrofuels are the only way to decarbonise. Using electrofuels to meet the expected remaining fuel demand for aviation in 2050 would require 95% of the electricity currently generated using renewables in Europe. It is also important to keep in mind that other sectors will also need additional renewable electricity to decarbonise.
This report does not rule out the role that radical new aircraft designs could play in significantly reducing aviation emissions, for example hydrogen or electric aircraft. However, such aircraft are not expected to be in operation in significant numbers until the 2040s, and it will be especially challenging to replace conventional aircraft for long-haul flights. Should hydrogen aircraft technology develop more rapidly, this would not be at odds with significant investment in synthetic fuels as hydrogen is a key input for electrofuels. Decarbonising such fuel will require significant investment, and this requires certainty so there is a clear role for governments.
Aviation’s non-CO2 effects at altitude are considerable and a challenge that is barely being touched. While the report discusses these effects and identifies possible mitigation approaches, there remains a lack of policy focus and investment in scientific research preventing the report putting forward a suite of mitigation measures or estimating their effects.
T&E stresses that the European Commission must meet its obligations under the EU ETS Directive to foster further research and resulting from that, come forward with proposals on measures to address non-CO2 impacts by the start of 2020.
T&E report: ‘Roadmap for decarbonising European aviation’
Bill Hemmings is Director, Aviation and Shipping, at Brussels-based Transport & Environment
COMMENTARY: CORSIA standards: What difference does “filing a difference” make?
Mon 26 Nov 2018 – ICAO has set a deadline of 1 December 2018 for governments to “file differences” with ICAO’s new Standard and Recommended Practices (SARP) for its flagship CORSIA programme to cap the net carbon pollution from international flights. Under ICAO’s governing treaty, the Chicago Convention, technical committees comprised of experts and observers from some two dozen countries propose international flight standards on matters from safety and security to environment. ICAO’s 36-member governing Council adopts the proposed standards and circulates them to ICAO’s 192 Member States. In turn, Article 38 requires the governments of those States to file with ICAO a notice of any differences between the SARP and their country’s national regulations. ICAO has set thousands of such standards through this process. Typically, Member States know the details of SARPs in advance and file very few differences. But CORSIA is, well, different, writes Annie Petsonk.
ICAO’s Council has not yet agreed key elements of the CORSIA standard. Yet ICAO is asking its Member States to implement a SARP with blank spaces in it. Typically, were many governments to file differences, that could undercut a SARP’s legitimacy. But in the case of CORSIA, differences are understandable given the blank spaces. What matters is whether governments will move swiftly to fill in those blanks. Here’s why.
Demand for air travel is expected to skyrocket in coming decades as some 50,000 aircraft take flight. The resulting CO2 emission increases could make it much more difficult, maybe impossible, to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to less than 2° C and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5° C above preindustrial levels.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a first step. Under the 2016 ICAO Assembly Resolution establishing CORSIA, airlines must start reporting emissions of international flights on 1 January 2019 and cap those emissions from 1 January 2021. To meet the cap, airlines can reduce their own emissions or invest in verified carbon reductions elsewhere. The prospect of CORSIA’s emissions cap is already spurring new efficiency gains, research on lower-carbon fuels and testing of hybrid-electric aircraft.
As low- and zero-carbon long-haul flights are not on the near-term horizon, carbon pricing is a key tool for driving the sector to decarbonise. And with 25 months until CORSIA’s cap takes effect, airlines are on the hunt for carbon credits.
But disagreements among ICAO Council States over which carbon credits will be allowed, and how to account for those in ICAO and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have left important blanks in the CORSIA SARP. Filling them in is a high-stakes undertaking:
- If ICAO and UNFCCC both require solid environmental integrity and rigorous carbon accounting, CORSIA could spur broad low-carbon investment, not just in aviation but also in forest protection, solar and wind energy, and new approaches to store more carbon when farmers grow food crops.
- But weak rules could invite backroom deals on dubious carbon credits and bogus alternative fuels. CORSIA’s carbon market could be flooded with credits from the old Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), many of which are environmentally shaky at best.
- Loose rules could let airlines claim carbon credits in CORSIA even as those very same emission reductions are already counted by governments towards their national climate protection goals (‘double counting’). That kind of loophole could undo the climate benefit of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in the Paris Agreement, and set climate protection efforts back years.
What are the blanks in the CORSIA SARP?
Paragraph 4.2.1 of the SARP says: “The aeroplane operator shall meet its offsetting requirements … by cancelling CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units in a quantity equal to its total final offsetting requirements for a given compliance period.” And, “CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units” are those “which meet the CORSIA Emissions Unit Eligibility Criteria contained in the ICAO document entitled ‘CORSIA Emissions Unit Eligibility Criteria’.” And, “These ICAO documents are available on the ICAO CORSIA website.”
But these ICAO documents are simply not there. The ICAO Council hasn’t adopted the CORSIA Emissions Unit Eligibility Criteria yet. So, the Technical Advisory Body that ICAO is supposed to establish to evaluate which credits should be deemed ‘CORSIA Eligible Emissions Units’ doesn’t have criteria to work with. Other paragraphs of the SARP have similar blanks for CORSIA-eligible fuels.
What’s more, while the SARP says that the CORSIA Emissions Unit Eligibility Criteria ‘tak[e] into account relevant developments in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement,” the meeting to set carbon accounting rules under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement doesn’t even start until December 2nd – after ICAO’s December 1 deadline for filing differences.
ICAO’s July State Letter asks governments to file “any differences that will exist on 1 January 2019 between the national regulations or practices of your Government and the provisions of the whole” of the CORSIA SARP. What can governments do when the “whole” doesn’t exist?
Some might just not respond. Others might say they’ll enforce the CORSIA’s emissions reporting, but won’t regulate emissions units and fuels until the blanks are filled in. And some, like European Union member states, may have to wait until the “whole” is complete, as legislation obligates the European Commission and Parliament to assess the whole before enacting new regulations.
So what difference will the filing of these differences make? Had a majority of governments disagreed with the CORSIA SARP, then under ICAO rules they could have disapproved it in accordance with the State Letter’s October 22 deadline. They didn’t. Instead, the filing of any differences signals that countries are willing to negotiate and should put wings to efforts to finalise high integrity, transparent rules for CORSIA.
As the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its recent Special Report, cutting climate pollution is urgent. Aviation must do its part.
Annie Petsonk is International Counsel at US-based advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund