GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 26 NOVEMBER 2019
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Qantas pledges net-zero carbon by 2050, CNG from 2020 on all emissions and heavy investment in SAF
Mon 25 Nov 2019 – Following the move last month by IAG, Australia’s Qantas has become the second airline group to commit to a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. With immediate effect, Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar Airways will also match every dollar spent by customers opting to offset the carbon footprint of their flights, which the group expects will encourage more travellers to offset their emissions. In addition, the group, which also includes QantasLink and Qantas Freight, will offset the growth in emissions from all domestic and international operations from 2020, going beyond its obligations under CORSIA. Qantas said it will invest A$50 million ($33m) over the next 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry. Last week, Qantas blamed climate change for an increase in the number of flight delays and cancellations at Sydney Airport.
“We recognise that airlines have a responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change,” commented Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce on the net-zero announcement. “We’ve already made some good progress, especially by investing in newer aircraft that have a much smaller carbon footprint.”
Qantas is replacing its six Boeing 747 aircraft by the end of 2020 with more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and has 109 Airbus A320neo family aircraft on order. Jetstar’s A321neo LR variant will begin arriving next year and is expected to use 15% less fuel than the aircraft they are replacing. The group is also stepping up more efficient operations such as single-engine taxiing and smarter flight planning to reduce fuel burn.
However, said Joyce: “We want to do more, and faster. We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting programme from now and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral.
“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the programme will keep growing.”
Qantas claims to currently operate the largest carbon offset programme in the aviation industry, with around a 10% passenger uptake. The programme offset 150,000 tonnes of CO2 in the last financial year. The additional investment will be used by Qantas Future Planet – already the largest private sector buyer of Australian carbon credits, said the airline group – to support more conservation and environmental projects in Australia and around the world. Existing projects include protecting the Great Barrier Reef, working with indigenous communities to reduce wildfires in Western Australia and securing over 7,000 hectares of native Tasmanian forest.
The 2020 carbon-neutral growth commitment also includes offsetting all net emissions from Project Sunrise, a plan by Qantas to operate non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, should it proceed. It will also include domestic flights, which are not covered by the ICAO CORSIA global offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions that gets underway in 2021.
“These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious, but achievable,” said Joyce.
“Innovation is going to be key. We’re investing A$50 million to hopefully kickstart a sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. We know from our own trials that the technology works but we need to get to a scale of production where it’s a practical substitute.”
The airline said it would work with governments and private sector partners to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia and overseas to make it more viable and increase demand throughout the industry.
“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy,” stated Joyce. “The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable.
“We’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing to do but hopefully it will also encourage more people to choose Qantas and Jetstar because of the action we’re taking.”
Meanwhile, according to government data, above average wind strengths in recent months have contributed to a small decline in flights departing and arriving on time at Sydney with 3.3% of Qantas flights cancelled, well above the 2.2% average.
On-time performance for all carriers had been falling for the past three years, said Qantas Domestic Chief Executive Andrew David, who blamed climate change as a main factor. “We have seen wind velocities 34% higher than the average of the past 30 years and it’s a prevailing westerly rather than the south-south-westerly we’ve seen in the past,” he told The Australian newspaper. “That’s led to runway closures, meaning aircraft movements are slowed.”
SAS signs SAF deal with Gevo, unveils new sustainable onboard food packaging and tops Heathrow noise and emissions league
Fri 22 Nov 2019 – US renewable fuels manufacturer Gevo has signed a sales agreement with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to produce and supply sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to the carrier for use and distribution in low-carbon regions of the United States. Details of the contract have not been released but Gevo said it will supply the SAF to SAS from its expanded Luverne, Minnesota plant, which is expected to be constructed over the next several years. SAS has also announced it is relaunching its onboard food packaging and cutlery with a new design and more sustainable materials that will save up to 51 tons of plastics per year. The airline has also been ranked as the best airline based on noise and emissions performance at Heathrow Airport over the last quarter as a result of the introduction of Airbus A320neo aircraft and better track-keeping and continuous descent approach operations.
Gevo is currently producing limited quantities of alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel through isobutanol to hydrocarbons conversion technology at its demonstration-size plant in Silsbee, Texas. In 2016, the technology was used to convert cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into isobutanol before further conversion into renewable jet fuel supplied to Alaska Airlines. This followed ASTM approval for ATJ synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) in blends up to a maximum of 30%. In 2018, Gevo took part in a trial with Virgin Australia to supply aircraft with blended SAF through Brisbane Airport’s general fuel supply system. Last month, Gevo provided global fuel supplier Avfuel with SAF to fuel business aircraft operators headed for an aviation trade show in Las Vegas.
Created from corn starch, for every gallon of concentrated SAF produced, around 10 pounds (4.5kgs) of animal feed and protein is sold into the food chain and can sequester up to 2 pounds of CO2 as carbon into the soil, says Gevo.
The Colorado-based company claims this makes it one of the only renewable jet producers to produce both food and fuel, while sequestering CO2 and lowering GHG emissions as compared to traditional fossil-based jet fuel. It adds it will be more transparent with its sustainability practices by utilising blockchain technology to track its sustainable agriculture efforts.
The Luverne facility currently produces around 1.5 million gallons of isobutanol per year. When the expansion is completed, it is expected to produce up to 18 million gallons of isobutanol and 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually.
“SAS is a pioneer in the use of SAF, such as launching a new ancillary product that gives travellers the option to reduce their climate impact through the purchase of biofuel when booking a ticket, or at any time before departure. This agreement is another step in that innovative approach to sustainability,” commented Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber. “SAS is a leader in their commitment to SAF and we are happy to partner with them as we continue our crusade to lower the carbon intensity of aviation fuels.”
The new packaging of the SAS cube food concept is another step towards a goal of having 100% sustainable materials in its customer offering by no later than 2030, says the airline.
Some form of plastic is often necessary due to food safety requirements and so SAS suppliers have come up with a solution that replaces the inside plastic container of the cube with a paper one. It is made of FSC-approved paper with a plastic coating made from organic plant-based plastic instead of oil-based plastic.
The cutlery kit in the cube has also been changed and is now adapted to each meal in order to minimise use of resources, so that each piece of cutlery is offered only if needed. The plant-based plastic used in the cutlery is made from vegetable oil, which is processed by natural fermentation and micro-organisms into a raw material that is compostable. SAS claims it is the first to present this solution for single-use cutlery and is the only one compliant with the EU Single-Use Plastics directive. The kit will be launched gradually starting next month and is expected to be found in every cube by May 2020.
“The New Nordic by SAS food concept served in the cube is an excellent example of how we align our onboard services with our sustainability goals,” said Karl Sandlund, SAS EVP & Chief Commercial Officer. “It is one of many steps towards a more sustainable aviation sector – the most significant actions being the renewal of our fleet, increasing biofuel use and supporting the development of electric aircraft.”
Heathrow’s latest quarterly ‘Fly Quiet and Green’ league table shows SAS has taken the top spot for the second time this year by introducing more A320neo aircraft, with the type now accounting for 80% of all of the airline’s movements at the airport. They are 15% more fuel efficient than today’s comparable models and less noisy – the 85 decibel maximum noise-level contour of a starting A320neo is around 50% lower than that of the current A320.
SAS has also improved its track-keeping – sticking to designated flight paths more closely to give communities more predictable respite – and its pilots are using quieter approaching techniques when descending into the UK’s hub airport.
“SAS wants to be at the forefront of the journey towards sustainable aviation and it is encouraging that we are recognised as the most environmentally-friendly airline out of Heathrow,” said Lars Andersen Resare, Head of Sustainability at SAS. “SAS is committed to reducing its emissions by 25% by 2030 and is continuously developing more sustainable products and services across the business. By introducing new Airbus neos to our fleet, we have been able to reduce emissions and noise levels further than ever before.”
SAS – Sustainability
Belly freight is the most influential driver of airline fuel efficiency in the US-Latin America market, finds ICCT
Thu 21 Nov 2019 – A new study from ICCT finds Azul, Frontier and Volaris operated the most fuel-efficient direct flights between the United States and Latin America in 2018. Brazilian airline Azul, closely followed by LATAM, performed best on routes between the US and South America (SA), with Frontier and Mexican carrier Volaris tied as the most fuel-efficient airlines on non-stop flights in 2018 between the US and Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (MCC). On South American routes, the least fuel-efficient carrier, Ecuador’s TAME, burned 52% more fuel per passenger kilometre than Azul. ICCT found the belly freight share of total mass carried was the most influential driver of airline fuel efficiency in the fast-growing US-Latin America market, explaining nearly half of the quantifiable variance between the best and worst performers. At 42% of all flights, this is the largest international market for the US.
ICCT measured Azul’s average fuel efficiency during 2018 as 44 passenger-kilometres per litre of fuel (pax-km/L) on US-South American routes, 19% better than the average of 10 carriers surveyed, with LATAM at 43 pax-km/L. Low-cost Azul, which operates between Florida and Brazil, had the highest passenger load factor (89%) and largest freight share of total tonne-km (35%) of the 10 carriers. The fuel efficiency of Azul’s fleet is likely to further improve in the near future with more Airbus A320neo and A330neo on order, predicts ICCT.
Low-cost Frontier Airlines was the most fuel-efficient carrier in US domestic operations in 2017 and 2018. Dense seating configurations on routes between 10 US airports and five destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean in 2018 significantly contributed to its high fuel efficiency of 37 pax-km/L. If Frontier were to deploy more of the Airbus A320neo aircraft it operates, and has ordered, on US-MCC routes, its fuel efficiency could improve still further, suggests ICCT.
Volaris deployed aircraft with exceptionally low fuel burn, such as Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft, on non-stop services between 31 US airports and 20 Mexican destinations. The switch from A320 to A320neo aircraft in 2018 increased the fuel efficiency of the carrier by 3 pax-km/L, the largest improvement from 2017 among ranked carriers in the two markets.
Overall, the average fuel efficiency of the US-MCC market improved by 0.5 pax-km/L from 2017 to 2018, mainly as a result in investment by carriers in newer, narrowbody aircraft. The average fuel efficiency of the US-SA market was 3 pax-km/L higher than that of the transatlantic market and 6 pax-km/L higher than that of the transpacific market, mainly as a result of denser seating configurations and a more fuel-efficient fleet.
Across the US-Latin America market as a whole, the most important drivers of fuel efficiency were freight share (49%), aircraft fuel burn (19%), seating density (17%) and passenger load factor (15%). Freight share of total payload, followed by aircraft fuel burn and seating density accounted for more than 80% of the variation in airline fuel efficiency in 2018, found ICCT.
One major difference between the US-MCC and US-SA markets concerns the amount of belly freight carried. Carriers in the former carry almost no belly freight but for carriers in the latter market, on average 22% of the payload is freight. The variation in operational parameters among carriers helps explain the size of the fuel-efficiency gaps observed within the US-MCC and US-SA markets, says ICCT. The smaller gap of 32% in the US-MCC market can be attributed to almost no variation in belly freight among ranked US-MCC carriers and modest variation in seating density, compared to the US-SA market.
“This study shows that operational strategies such as carrying more belly freight can really boost an airline’s fuel efficiency,” commented Sola Zheng, the paper’s lead author.
The introduction of more fuel-efficient widebody aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787, can help further improve the efficiency of the US-Latin America market, advises ICCT, and as the demand for air travel in the market increases, more new aircraft will be purchased. All other things being equal, airlines operating aircraft with lower fuel burn tend to be more fuel efficient, but operational parameters such as belly freight are also important and should be tracked, it concludes.
The study is the first analysis of this market and ICCT is calling for cooperation from ranked airlines so its methodology can be shifted from a modelling approach to one which primary fuel burn data from all carriers can be analysed to encompass the full range of operational measures that affect airline fuel efficiency.
“Consumers still don’t know that which airline you fly makes a big difference in terms of carbon emissions,” said Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s Aviation Program Director and co-author of the study. “Airlines should disclose more emissions data to help travellers reduce their environmental footprints.”
Shell Aviation to support SkyNRG's Dutch SAF production facility development and secures fuel purchase option
Wed 20 Nov 2019 – Shell Aviation has expanded its interests in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) development through an agreement to support SkyNRG’s DSL-01 SAF production plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, that is due to be commissioned in 2022. The facility is expected to become Europe’s first to be dedicated to SAF production, a year or two ahead of the Velocys/British Airways Altalto project on the north-east coast of England that Shell is also supporting. Shell said it will bring its technical and commercial expertise to the Dutch project’s development and will also secure an option purchase SAF from the facility, which is expected to produce 100,000 tonnes annually from waste and residue streams. Earlier this year, KLM committed to purchasing 75,000 tonnes annually from DSL-01 for 10 years. Last month, SkyNRG launched its Board Now programme in which companies can offset their business travel emissions through contributing to the purchase and use of SAF from the facility.
The waste and residue feedstocks used for SAF production at DSL-01, such as used cooking oil, will be sourced predominantly from regional industries, says SkyNRG, and the facility will run on sustainable hydrogen produced local to the site in the Groningen Seaport, along with the use of low-carbon energy to power production. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) has estimated the combined benefits will result in lifecycle carbon emissions around 85% lower than conventional jet fuels. The annual production of 100,000 tonnes of SAF will therefore correspond to a reduction in lifecycle CO2e emissions of approximately 270,000 tonnes. As by-products, the plant will also produce naphtha and 15,000 tonnes of bioLPG annually.
“When it comes to carbon emissions, the aviation industry needs collaboration amongst industry players, it needs support to drive technical innovation and investments, and last but not least it needs a multiple set of solutions that help drive a faster transition to a net zero emissions world,” said Anna Mascolo, Vice President, Shell Aviation. “At Shell we have started the journey, although we recognise there is a lot more to do to avoid, reduce and offset carbon emissions.”
SkyNRG Managing Director Maarten van Dijk said Shell was a natural partner to help accelerate progress of the plant. “The shared ambitions and collaborative approach of the companies involved sends a strong signal to the rest of our industry of the actions required to deliver a sustainable future for aviation.”
To help bridge the price gap between the SAF produced at DSL-01 and conventional jet fuel, SkyNRG’s new Board Now programme will ensure a substantial purchase of SAF, believes the company. It says the programme is the world’s first that enables companies to contribute directly to the development of the SAF industry and will help pave the way for aviation’s energy transition.
Early partners joining the venture include RSB, the ClimateWorks Foundation, South Pole, Vertis Environmental Finance and the Climate Neutral Group. The last three organisations develop projects to enable companies to compensate their own CO2 emissions. SkyNRG said the partners would help further the growth of the programme by providing access to knowledge and networks and by creating marketing opportunities.
“By facilitating organisations with tools to reduce their footprint, Board Now is a potential game-changer,” said Rolf Hogan, Executive Director at RSB. “As a proud partner, RSB is ready to give wings to accelerate the development of sustainable aviation fuel and to contribute to the battle against climate change.”
PwC and Skyscanner are the launch members for the programme. “PwC is doing everything in its power to reduce its own business air travel emissions substantially,” said Renate de Lange, member of the Board of Directors of PwC Netherlands. “The purchasing of sustainable aviation fuel contributes to this. With our commitment to SkyNRG, we strengthen our strategy for sustainable business travel and we believe that this is a very important step towards sustainable flying.”
Added SkyNRG Managing Director, Theye Veen: “We are proud that these organisations have boarded our programme as launching members or partners. Their commitment and support are crucial in order to scale up this industry and take the development of sustainable fuel worldwide to the next level. We are looking forward to inspiring other international organisations to follow in their footsteps.”
EasyJet becomes first major net-zero carbon emissions airline and joins Airbus in electric aircraft research
Tue 19 Nov 2019 – From today, European low-cost carrier easyJet will offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of its flights. The move will cost an estimated £25 million ($32m) a year that will not be passed on to customers, says the airline. In a partnership with advisory company Climate Focus, only carbon offset programmes which meet either the Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) accreditation have been selected. The airline has also formed partnerships with project developers EcoAct and First Climate. Selected projects include forest conservation in South America and Africa, a large solar installation in India and clean water in Uganda and Eritrea. Carbon offsetting is only an interim measure while new technologies emerge to decarbonise aviation, says easyJet, and it has also announced an MoU with Airbus on a hybrid and electric aircraft research project.
“Climate change is an issue for all of us,” commented the airline’s CEO Johan Lundgren. “At easyJet, we are tackling this challenge head on by choosing to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all our flights, starting today. In doing so, we are committing to operating net-zero flights across our network – a world first by a major airline.”
EasyJet says it has undertaken “a rigorous process” in selecting its carbon offset programmes to ensure carbon reductions would not have happened without that project or that by reducing carbon emissions in one place they do not inadvertently increase them elsewhere. The airline said it is specifying that its projects should include regular monitoring, auditing and reporting, and in many cases also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including no poverty, good health and wellbeing, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation. Each project has been chosen to provide a different method of removing carbon from the atmosphere or reducing carbon emissions, and split into nature-based, renewable energy and community projects.
Headquartered in Amsterdam, Climate Focus has helped easyJet on selecting projects and partners, and develop its offset project portfolio. It is also advising the airline on its ongoing offset management process and how it will set up its own bespoke offsetting projects in the future.
“This is an exciting development from easyJet, which is obviously taking the issue of climate change very seriously,” commented Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future. “But as is now widely understood, carbon offsetting can only be a bridge to future technological developments, and it will be important to seek out each and every way of reducing carbon emissions. Beyond that, the whole industry needs to come together more effectively to decarbonise this critical sector just as quickly as possible.”
While we acknowledge offsetting is only an interim measure, we want to take action on carbon now, said Lundgren.
“I am therefore delighted that we have also announced today a new electric plane partnership with Airbus,” he said. “We will be working together to identify the detailed technical challenges and requirements for electric and electric hybrid planes when deployed for short-haul flying around Europe. We hope this will be an important step towards making electric planes a reality.”
The two companies will cooperate on three work packages to define the impacts and the requirements necessary for the large-scale introduction of next-generation aircraft on infrastructure and everyday commercial aircraft operations.
“Environmental performance is a top-level priority for Airbus, and we are proud to have easyJet on board as a partner for our hybrid and electric aircraft research,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO. “Airbus is committed to meeting aviation’s decarbonisation objectives. By focusing our research efforts on hybrid and electric propulsion technologies, we are doing just that – playing a leading role, alongside our customers, in the development of clean and safe technologies for the sustainable future of our industry.”
The airline said the collaboration would support and continue alongside its ongoing work with US start-up Wright Electric, which is aiming to build an all-electric 180-seater commercial passenger jet capable of flying passengers across easyJet’s UK and European network within a decade.
Wright Electric has commenced work on an electric engine that will power a nine-seater aircraft and its partner Axter Aerospace already has a two-seater aircraft flying. The larger aircraft is expected to start flying in the coming weeks, reports easyJet, with a prototype propulsion system four times more powerful than that installed on the two-seater.
The airline said it is also talking to Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Safran about new technological developments to radically reduce the carbon footprint of flying.
“We also want to champion new carbon capture technologies like direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) and sustainable aviation fuels by looking to use them as they become available and commercially available, which they are not today,” it added.
Lundgren called on governments to support aviation decarbonisation efforts. “In particular, they must reform aviation taxes to incentivise efficient behaviour, fund research and development in new technology and ensure early movers such as easyJet are not penalised,” he said.
EasyJet has just ordered 12 more Airbus A320neo aircraft, which takes the carrier’s total order for the A320neo Family to 159 aircraft and is the largest customer in Europe for the type. Out of a total fleet of 333 A320 Family aircraft, there are currently 39 A320neos. Airbus says they are 20% more fuel efficient compared to previous generation A320s and emit 50% less noise.
The airline said it was continuing to look to increase the fuel efficiency of its current fleet and reduce onboard weight. With taxiing averaging 20 minutes per flight – the equivalent of around four million miles a year – single-engine taxiing is deployed wherever possible, it said. EasyJet’s Recaro seats are 26% lighter than previous seats and cockpit laptops and printed navigational charts had been replaced by Panasonic Toughpads, leading to a reduction of over 2,000 tonnes of carbon emissions for the airline each year. The airline is to introduce electric towbarless aircraft tugs to its entire operation at London Gatwick to perform pushbacks on its fleet of 60 aircraft at the airport.
Since 2000, easyJet said it had reduced its carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by 33.67% to 78.46 grams.
“EasyJet has a long tradition of efficient flying – the aircraft we fly and the way we fly them means easyJet is already more efficient than many airlines,” said Lundgren. “However, our priority is to continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint in the short term, coupled with long-term work to support the development of new technology, including electric planes, which aspire to radically reduce the carbon footprint of aviation.
“People have a choice in how they travel and people are now thinking about the potential carbon impact of different types of transport. But many people still want to fly and if people choose to fly, we want to be one of the best choices they can make.”
Data consultancy Refinitiv estimates easyJet’s carbon emissions for 2018 amounted to about 7 million tonnes, around 10% of total European aviation emissions.
“EasyJet and other airlines operating within Europe are already exposed through the EU ETS to a carbon price (EUA) for part of their emissions,” commented Hæge Fjellheim, Head of Carbon Research. “The estimated cost of £25 million by easyJet translates into a price of £3.50 (€4.00) per tonne CO2. In comparison, the EUA price is currently at €23 per tonne.
“Today’s move will need more airlines to follow suit if we are to see some meaningful impact. While European power and industry emissions are in decline, aviation sector emissions have increased and are expected to grow in the years ahead. In 2018, aviation emissions covered by the EU ETS increased by nearly 6%.”
Nine countries call on European Commission to find a common approach on EU-wide air passenger taxation
Mon 18 Nov 2019 – Nine EU countries are calling on the new European Commission to come up with a proposal for a coordinated EU-wide approach to air passenger taxes. In a statement presented to the Commission’s incoming Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans, who will be in charge of EU climate policy, the nine finance ministers said the pricing of carbon emissions from flights was insufficient. The lack of a common policy led to unfair competition between States, they argued. European airline associations responded that such taxes do not achieve the aim of reducing aviation emissions, which were already subject to carbon pricing through the EU ETS. Meanwhile, trade association Airlines for America (A4A) has warned German taxation plans violate the US-EU air transport agreement and risk undermining the global CORSIA scheme.
The Netherlands is taking the lead on a harmonised EU approach to taxing air passengers and has pledged to introduce a national flight tax if an agreement is not forthcoming before 2021. In June its finance ministry hosted a two-day conference in The Hague to discuss with other States carbon pricing and taxes on passenger tickets and jet kerosene (see article).
“It is not only the Netherlands but also a large group of other European countries that believe it is not good that flying – unlike the car, bus or train – is not taxed. By working together now, we hope that this important topic can continue to fly in Europe,” said the State Secretary for Finance, Menno Snel. The statement was also signed by ministers from Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Bulgaria.
The move was welcomed by Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment. “It’s deeply unfair that everybody has to pay tax to fill up their cars but airlines don’t pay a single cent in fuel excise,” said Aviation Manager Andrew Murphy. “EU countries and the European Commission have the ability to move ahead with taxation measures that don’t require unanimity, such as national ticket taxes, bilateral agreements to tax kerosene or a radical reform of Europe’s carbon market for aviation.”
Trade group Airlines for Europe (A4E) countered that the statement by the nine countries was “full of flaws” and there were differences in the way taxes and charges applied to transport modes in Europe. Unlike the significant amount of government subsidies paid to road and rail transport, argues A4E, the aviation industry paid for the majority of its infrastructure, with airlines contributing almost €31 billion ($34bn) in 2017 towards the use of airport infrastructure in Europe.
In addition, it said, European aviation had been paying for its emissions in Europe since 2012 through the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), with the price of allowances tripling since 2018. “The EU ETS is, in fact, a coordinated economic instrument for aviation carbon pricing. This fact was noticeably absent from the Ministers’ statement,” said an A4E statement.
It said its member airlines were investing €169 billion ($187bn) over the next decade in new aircraft technologies and sustainable aviation fuels. “By contrast, aviation taxes are an ineffective way to pursue environmental objectives, especially if the revenues are not used to invest in cleaner aviation technology.”
Added A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert: “It is simply inaccurate to claim that aviation is not taxed at all or that it is insufficiently priced. In 2018 alone, European airlines paid more than €5 billion in ETS and environmental taxes. The maritime sector, for example, is also exempt from excise duties – and 21 EU Member States grant rail operators a VAT exemption for cross-border travel.”
A4E said people living on islands and in countries at the periphery of Europe had no real alternative to flying and taxes would undermine their competitiveness, a view supported by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), which represents smaller regional carriers.
Last week, ERA hosted a session on sustainable connectivity at the European Parliament that promoted the work of its member airlines and the wider industry in reducing their environmental footprint and covered activities on topics such as biofuels, decarbonisation and pioneering electric flight.
“Passengers value air transport and the benefits it brings on an economic, cultural and personal level. We are concerned about the current discussions around taxation to reduce air traffic demand,” said Montserrat Barriga, ERA’s Director General.
“Passengers not only want to continue travelling but they need to, and it can be done in a more sustainable way. The industry has a responsibility but the airlines alone cannot make decarbonisation happen, they need the support from manufacturers, governments and other stakeholders. To make sustainability goals and connectivity requirements compatible, we need public incentives to enable the technological breakthrough: making sustainable fuels widely available and commercial electric aircraft a reality. Flying is not a simple binary choice to fly or not fly, it is about sustainable flying.”
The incoming EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised increased climate ambition and Executive Vice President Timmermans is tasked with implementing her ‘European Green Deal’. This includes raising the EU’s emissions reduction target from 40% by 2030 to 50%, or even 55%, and become the first climate neutral continent by 2050. The policy proposal includes extending the EU ETS to cover the maritime sector and reduce over time the free allowances allocated to airlines.
“Transport is one of the most polluting sectors of our economy and we need to tackle this head on,” Timmermans told a special hearing in the European Parliament that brought together MEPs from the environment, transport and industry committees (ENVI, TRAN, ITRE). “We need to cut emissions from the aviation and maritime sectors in particular if we are to meet our climate goals. This requires a careful mix of tools. We need to invest, for example, in our railways. Why is it that people choose to spend more time sitting in an airport waiting for a flight rather than sitting in a train getting to their destination? In part because it’s cheaper and they’re not paying for the externalities. We’re running up a debt on Mother Earth’s credit card. She cannot afford to pay that debt.”
Meanwhile, A4A President Nicholas Calio has written to the Commission’s transport Director General, Henrik Holohei, to express the association’s concerns over German plans to increase taxes on international and domestic passenger tickets, partly as an environmental protection measure, but also to help fund a VAT reduction on train tickets from 19% to 7%. “The proposal is problematic,” says the letter, seen by GreenAir, which was also copied to the US Department of Transportation and the State Department.
The move would undermine the resolution passed at the recent ICAO Assembly that gives CORSIA global exclusivity on market-based measures to address emissions from international aviation, says Calio. The cross-subsidisation also violates the US-EU Air Transport Agreement, in which Article 12 provides that user charges must be cost-related, argues A4A.
“Burdening international aviation in such a way, to address aircraft emissions, is both unnecessary and counterproductive,” the letter adds. “The commercial aviation industry and European governments will achieve more if they are able to focus their energies on the promotion of CORSIA and work together to develop the technology, operations and infrastructure measures that will provide long-term solutions to ensure sustainable growth.”
The German federal government had originally planned for the new ticket tax to bring in €500 million per year ($550m) to cover the VAT reduction on train tickets but at a cabinet meeting last month, an even higher rate of aviation tax was agreed that is expected to raise €785 million ($870m). The German aviation industry says the levy on top of what it already pays under the EU ETS creates a double burden it has to bear for climate reasons.
“This drastic increase in the tax is completely the wrong way for climate protection,” said Matthias von Randow, Chief Executive of the German Air Transport Association (BDL). “The shared goal of reducing aviation CO2 emissions is made considerably more difficult. On the one hand, our companies are deprived of funds for more investment in low emission aircraft fleets and alternative fuels based on renewable energy. On the other, the aviation tax, especially at airports close to our border, leads to a passenger shift to foreign airports and airlines, which means even more CO2 emissions.”
Jakob Graichen, Senior Researcher at Berlin-based Öko-Institut, told the recent Aviation Carbon 2019 conference that at a rate of 19%, the VAT exemption on airline tickets within the European Union amounted to a subsidy of €30 billion a year. If VAT was to be applied at 20% on a one-way ticket from Frankfurt to Las Palmas, it would add €60 to the cost, and €20 to a single ticket between London and Paris, he estimates.
According to the industry’s Air Transport Action Group, nine European countries have in place green taxes on aviation, although some have been re-coded as general taxation.
IAG commits to net zero emissions by 2050 and BA to offset all carbon emissions on domestic UK flights from 2020
Thu 10 Oct 2019 – International Airlines Group (IAG) has become the first airline group to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with interim targets for a 10 per cent reduction in CO2 per passenger kilometre by 2025 and a 20 per cent reduction in net CO2 by 2030, both compared to 2020 levels. IAG says it is developing management incentives for employees to reduce carbon emissions across the group in line with the targets. IAG subsidiary British Airways (BA) has also announced that from 2020 it plans to offset CO2 emissions, estimated at around 400,000 tonnes per year, from all UK domestic flights. The airline is partnering with not-for-profit Pure Leapfrog on a new scheme to offer its passengers an offsetting option on international flights, with proceeds going to forestry REDD+ and cook stove projects in Cambodia, Peru and Sudan.
IAG says its pledge will contribute to both the UK government’s commitment to a net zero carbon economy by 2050 and the UN objective to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The goal, it believes, can be achieved through replacing older aircraft with new, more fuel-efficient models; replacing fossil-based kerosene with sustainable aviation fuels and addressing remaining emissions through carbon offsetting.
The airline group – which includes BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level – says it is the first time it has set a target to reduce net CO2 emissions, with the goal to cut emissions from around the 26 million tonnes (Mt) expected in 2020 to 22 Mt by 2030, an overall saving of 160 Mt over the 10-year period. This translates to producing 60% less net CO2 per passenger km than in 2005. IAG says it is already meeting a fuel efficiency target of 87.3 grammes of CO2 per passenger km by 2020 compared to 100.5 in 2012, and has added a new target of 80.0 by 2025.
As well as investing in new aircraft, IAG says as part of its ‘Flightpath net zero’ initiative it will focus on more weight and waste reductions on board aircraft, reducing energy use and moving to renewable electricity, and expanding its electric vehicle fleet. It has already committed $400 million over 20 years towards sustainable aviation fuel development and will be looking at investing in other future technologies such as hybrid/electric aircraft and carbon capture.
“We are under no illusions, the challenge is great,” admits IAG of the net zero target. “Aviation brings great benefits and 80% of emissions are for journeys over 1,500 kms where there are no reasonable alternatives to flying. As an industry, we are currently reliant on fossil fuels and the low carbon solutions for aviation are more complex than for many other sectors. But we believe our ambitious goal is achievable.”
Added IAG CEO Willie Walsh: “We’re investing in new aircraft and innovative technology to reduce our carbon footprint in an industry where there’s no current alternative to jet fuel. In addition to our own initiatives, there must be a global solution and we’re participating in the new UN aviation offsetting scheme [CORSIA], which allows our industry to invest in carbon reduction in other sectors.
“Aviation’s dependency on fossil fuels means it’s essential that governments support its efforts to decarbonise by providing incentives to accelerate investment in new technologies. Global warming needs a global solution and all these initiatives will help limit the world’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.”
British Airways says it is the first UK airline to offset the emissions from all its flights within the UK. It operates 75 flights a day between London and 10 UK cities. Passengers on international flights have the option of using a carbon offsetting tool to calculate their emissions and then choosing and paying for one of the Verified Carbon Standard projects or a combination of all three. The cost to offset a return London to Madrid flight in economy class (0.11 tonnes of CO2) costs £1.00 ($1.20) while a one-way business class flight from London to Hong Kong (2.21 tonnes of CO2) would cost between £11.53 and £13.21 at current prices, depending on the project chosen, or £12.65 if a mix of all three.
The two rainforest protection projects are in Cardamom, Cambodia and the Cordillera Azul National Park, Peru. The third project provides low-smoke cook stoves for communities in the Darfur region of Sudan, the first registered carbon credit project in the country and the first to be developed in a conflict zone.
“British Airways is determined to play its part in reducing aviation’s CO2 emissions,” commented its Chief Executive, Alex Cruz. “To solve such a multi-faceted issue requires a multi-faceted response and this initiative further demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable future. It also follows our announcement to partner with renewable fuels company Velocys to build a facility which converts household and commercial waste into renewable sustainable jet fuel to power our fleet.”
BA is currently operating 44 more efficient 787s, A350s and A320neos and has a further 73 on order. The airline says since its inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading System in 2012, emissions on European flights have been reduce by more than 8 million tonnes, or around 40% on every European flight.
Italian candidate Salvatore Sciacchitano becomes first European President of the ICAO Council
Tue 26 Nov 2019 – Italy’s Salvatore Sciacchitano has been elected by the 36-member governing ICAO Council as its President for a three-year term beginning 1 January 2020. He succeeds Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu of Nigeria who has served as President for two terms since 2014. Sciacchitano’s candidacy had been endorsed by the 44 Member States of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). During a 39-year career in aviation, Sciacchitano has served as General Director of the Italian Airworthiness Authority (RAI), as Deputy General Director of the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and Executive Secretary of ECAC between 2010 and 2018. He has also participated in several ICAO Assemblies as Chief or Alternate Chief of the Italian Delegation to ICAO, as well as the Chief Delegate of ECAC. He had also recently been appointed to the Italian Delegation to the ICAO Council.
In an ECAC candidacy statement published this summer, Sciacchitano said ICAO needed to strengthen its global leadership in implementing its strategic objectives and address “the pressing challenges of acute global traffic growth.”
He added: “I would steer the Council with leadership built on solid know-how and experience, neutrality and independence, aiming at consensus in order to take difficult but also long-lasting decisions.
“Leadership, neutrality and independence when dealing with sensitive and controversial issues or disputes will be essential, as well as putting in place all the necessary actions to prevent tension or disagreements from escalating.”
Sciacchitano’s first Session as Council President in March will consider the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Board on the first round of emission units to be considered eligible under the CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme, which starts in 2021.
NEW PUBLICATION: ICAO Environmental Report 2019: ‘Destination Green – The Next Chapter’
September 2019 – To coincide with the 40th Assembly, ICAO has published its triennial Environmental Report. The downloadable 376-page publication reports on ICAO’s international aviation environmental protection efforts and consolidates this progress in a single-reference source. It carries various articles and case studies that can best inform the public of the work conducted by the ICAO Secretariat, ICAO Member States, the aviation industry and the many other stakeholders involved. In her introduction to the report, ICAO’s Deputy Director, Environment, Jane Hupe says major steps have been taken since the 39th Assembly in 2013, including the adoption of CORSIA, a new CO2 emissions standard for aeroplanes and capacity building projects in ICAO Member States.
“With the implementation of all these activities, ICAO has consistently delivered on the ambition set by successive Assembly Resolutions on environmental protection, and is committed to maintaining its efforts by working together with Member States on the path towards a greener future,” she notes.
“Over the next triennium, ICAO and Member States, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will move forward by continuing the implementation of measures to address aviation noise, and emissions that affect local air quality and the global climate; as well as undertaking work on new emerging technologies and forms of energy, such as all-electric and hybrid aircraft, supersonic aircraft, green and resilient airports, and adaptation to climate change, just to mention a few. Aviation is in essence a technology-driven sector that has fulfilled humankind’s dreams of flying.
“The next chapter for aviation will be to fulfil the societal aspiration of an environmentally sustainable flying future. The fourth industrial revolution offers an enormous opportunity, and innovation is at the forefront of the breakthrough needed to deliver fully sustainable air transport.”
The report can be downloaded here.
Chapter 1: Aviation and Environment Outlook
Chapter 2: Aircraft Noise
Chapter 3: Local Air Quality
Chapter 4: Climate Change Mitigation: Technology and Operations
Chapter 5: Climate Change Mitigation: Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Chapter 6: Climate Change Mitigation: CORSIA
Chapter 7: Climate Change Adaptation
Chapter 8: Towards a Circular Economy
Chapter 9: States’ Action Plans and Capacity-building
Chapter 10: Cooperation